Thursday, February 22, 2007

Anglo-Saxon Aloud

I'd like to introduce my latest project, Anglo-Saxon Aloud. I will be reading the entire Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records aloud and posting these readings as podcasts. If you go to that site, you can add this podcast to your iTunes, to various feeds, etc. (I thank Scott Hamlin for all his help with the technical matters).

I will be trying to read, record, edit and post between 50 and 100 lines every day (or at least every weekday), thus working through all 30,000 lines of Old English Poetry in something over a year. If I can work them up (and this depends on children, teaching, research, being department chair, etc.), I will try to give short, interpretive discussions about each poem as it is completed.

I hope that people will find these podcasts amusing and interesting. If you do, you may want to buy my Beowulf Aloud CD, which should be ready for sale (as should its site) within two weeks. Beowulf Aloud is a complete recording of all 3182 lines of the great Old English poem, and it comes with an introductory lecture on Beowulf, the exciting history of its manuscript, and its cultural background and significance. Beowulf Aloud was recorded in studio and edited by a professional recording editor (the genius, Matthew Cavnar, who directed all of my courses on CD for Recorded Books). I'll be selling it as a 3-CD set, with cover art and liner-design by my brilliant student, Jennifer A. Schuman.

The podcasts for Anglo-Saxon Aloud can be used to improve your own Old English, to help with your teaching or to put young children to sleep (I originally read the entire ASPR aloud as a way of getting my daughter to sleep each night). Feel free to use them for educational purposes, but please check with me before adopting it for any other uses and, obviously, please don't sell my work without working out a deal with me first.

I've started this project for a number of reasons: I want to show that Old English is entertaining and a pleasure to listen to even if one doesn't know the language. I want to investigate how many of these particular poems can be recited or performed. And I want to use these readings as an opportunity for additional research: I just had a paper come out in Modern Philology, on Beowulf, whose genesis was my inability to get a particular line (1864) to scan fluidly when I was reading the poem aloud to my daughter. I think in reading the entire Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records from beginning to end I will find more things to think, talk and write about, and that will be fun.

So welcome, to Anglo-Saxon Aloud.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Kalamazoo Teaser:
Vainglory and Sanctacaris, The Order of the World and Naraoia, The Gifts of Men and Anomalocaris

My Kalamazoo paper will answer the pressing question:

What do the poems Vainglory, The Order of the World, The Gifts of Men, The Fortunes of Men, Precepts and Maxims I have in common with the fossilized animals Sanctacaris, Naraoia, Anomalocaris, Wiwaxia and Nectocaris?

All that remains is the writing and more research.

On another note, I will be Chair of the English department starting in July. Please light candles and make offerings at the appropriate shrines to propitiate Cthulhu or Nyarlhotep or whatever deities or demons are responsible for this.

[UPDATE (because I realize that this was an obnoxious tease, and because some people came close in the comments)]. In Wonderful Life, Stephen J. Gould talks about the 'weird wonders' of the Burgess Shale and how, at that stage of evolution, it seems as if features that were later restricted to one particular lineage could be recruited in various other lineages. He gives the analogy of the grab-bag" of anatomical features from which the "great token-stringer" could pull out different pieces at random and put together and working animal. Later on, there are separate grab-bags labeled "arthropod body plan," "angiosperm body plan," "vertebrate body plan," etc. But at this early stage there's more variability.
I think with the "wisdom poems" and other Exeter Book poems (particularly in codicological booklet II) we see poets' abilities to recruit various features (catenulate passages, envelope patterns with homlies on each side, and other bits that I'll be identifying) across genres because those genres haven't fully hardened in place. I think we can find "Vainglory" and "The Order of the World" to be closer to each other than to other poems, just as "Gifts of Men" and "Fortunes of Men" are closer to each other than to other poems, and closer to "Vainglory" and "The Order of the World" than they are to "The Seafarer," and with "Widsith" having similarities in one way (catenulate structure) but not in others (content). Likewise the "wisdom" passage in Christ is very close to passages in Gifts and Fortunes, but the poem as a whole is not.
The analogy to the Burgess Shale (in Gould's interpretation; not all of which I agree with) is this: at an early stage of development, structural stereotypy is less rigid than it will later become. With such a fragmentary record for Old English short poems, I'm not sure I can do as much as I'd like (and, sadly, its not as if one can go dig up new poems the way one can excavate new fossils from a quarry or a museum drawer), but we'll see.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Most Exciting Topic Ever!!!!

Tolkien Studies volume 4 is just about ready to go to the printer. It is perhaps our best issue, and includes a reprint of Tolkien's "The Name Nodens," a text which is oftentimes very hard to get. There are also a number of fine articles (and an article by me, also). But now it's already time to start thinking about TS 5 and 6, and Verlyn Flieger, Doug Anderson and I have been doing just that. One thing we want to have in volume 6 is a comprehensive index of the first five volumes (it would be nice to have each individual volume indexed, but, given the production schedule, it simply isn't feasible at this time). I had also thought of publishing an index in each subsequent volume (i.e., index for volume 1 in volume 2), but that rapidly gets confusing. So instead the plan is to index 1-5 and publish that index in 6.

So, in order to do this, I am getting my Wheaton Research Partners students ready to start indexing, and, as I was drawing up the guidelines for them, I realized that this little hack that I've put together might be useful for others who have to do indexing and a) can't afford professional indexing and b) don't want to develop a note-card (electronic or physical system). So here is:

Drout's Quick and Dirty Indexing System (TM).

Step 1: Make a Word file that contains your entire book. You may have to use Word's "Master Document" system to do this. That system, like most things about Word, is truly annoying, but generally it works. Hint: Do not do this until all the editing on your book is done. Otherwise you will have a data fork from hell.

Step 2: Put hidden indexing characters into your book. In Word you can do this by using the Insert menu to insert an Index and then Mark an entry (i.e., highlight the entry, then click Insert, then click Index, etc.). But there is an easier way (at least for Macintosh): highlight the word or phrase you want to index and then hit Shift+Option+Command+X. You'll get a dialogue box with the entry and you can add further customization (say you've highlighted "tradition," you can then add "in animal communication" in a subhead. You can also do cross references, etc. )

2A: Advice: There is a global command to mark all entries. Use this sparingly, as you may end up with hundreds of entries for innocuous things. The global marking command is good for proper names (generally) and other real technical terms. Otherwise you want to go more slowly and read and mark at the same time, thinking about what you are really referencing.

Step 3: Wait for the pdf of your book to come back from the printer. When it arrives, you are in the home stretch.

Step 4: The most difficult part: Make the page numbers in your word document match those of your book. You will probably have to do some messing around with section breaks and re-starting page numbers. But this is the key point, and the one that will save you lots of work. I put in manual page breaks at every real page break (tedious, but takes only about an hour for a 300-page book). Then I shrink the font down to 6 points or smaller so that every page fits completely inside my manual break. Then it's test and fiddle. But once the page numbers of the word document match the pdf from your publisher, you are set.

Step 5: Have Word compile the index. It should be perfectly keyed to the page numbers of your book (though you'll want to do some sample collation).

Step 6: Proof the Index. Invariably you will have been inconsistent about things (Dennett, Daniel vs. Dennet, Daniel C., etc). You can easily fix these manually if you read the index carefully.

Step 7: Rejoice! You're done. Send it back to the publisher and commence waiting. The Index has taken less than a week, is comprehensive and was not that terrible to do. Your publisher thinks you are a genius. Your readers thank you.

(You did remember to put your dissertation director's name in the index, didn't you? Also Norman Mailer's--he apparently always checks the index for his name).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia Patches

[UPDATE: New version of the Corrigenda as of 2/15/2007]

As readers of this site know in excruciating detail, I was very frustrated in the way that the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia was rushed into print without adequate final editing (even after I had done a lot of the editing; the marked-up pages still sit in my attic). I don't think I mentioned that I never saw the index before it was published, and I was given 48 hours to proof all of the final front matter (hey, at least they incorporated most of those corrections). But, as others have noted, the volume is less useful without a good table of contents that includes a list of authors and entries.

Well, my internet friends have solved that problem. Here, courtesy of Lara Sookoo, are links to a thematic list of entries and a list of contributors with their contributions, all with page numbers. These are pdf documents, so you can print then and put them with the Encyclopedia.

Thematic List

Contributors and Articles

And here, courtesy of Merlin deTardo, are links to a Word document of corrections and an Excel spreadsheet that lists articles and authors.


Articles and Authors

As I've written before, I'd like to set up some kind of wiki-like entity for corrections and additions, and perhaps it will be possible, as some commenters have noted, for me to purchase the rights to the Encyclopedia from Taylor and Francis, finish editing it properly, and republish it, perhaps even with the illustrations that I spent weeks finding and soliciting. But that's in the future, as is my Beowulf Aloud CD (at the studio being duplicated) and upcoming daily podcast intended to cover the entire Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records over the course of a year or so. In the meanwhile, I want to thank Lara, Merlin and the on-line communities of Tolkien enthusiasts who have so effectively helped me.