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York: Updates and Pics 10.23

My first true and official week as an MA student is over. It's about 9.50p here, cloud covered but mellow outside. I am tired, feeling icky, and wide awake in the way I have been all week; it's nice to finally have a moment to mull over all that has been. The first section is fairly long and meandering; the second is much more condensed and it's the one with pictures! I tried to separate them into two separate cuts, but for some reason it doesn't want to work, and frankly I don't want to fight with it. SO, if you just want to see the pictures, I'm afraid you have to scroll down to the bottom yourself. Sorry, hate to make you work :)

In regards to classes, this week marked the first full week in the sense that I actually had all of my classes this week (unlike last which was just a few introductions). My schedule, and it's nuances, goes a little something like this:

* Monday: Palaeography - the study of the written word, quite literally. Palaeography looks at writing, how scribes wrote, letters and scripts, and how (and sometimes why) it changed over time. My advisor, a lovely woman named Nicola, joked with me that there was no point in my studying palaeography since I want to work in the early period and everyone wrote fairly nicely then. She certainly has a point, but I still feel it is important that I have an idea of this field, since it will eventually relate very closely to what I want to do. I also found out this week that an area that I need to look at even more is codeology: the study of the book as an artifact (i.e. how was the book made, what with, why, etc.) This class seems like it will be very interesting, but definitely work intensive as the year moves forward.

* Tuesday: Beginners Latin - I am still torn about this. For those who didn't get to hear my whining: I have taken up to 202 Latin, straight translations of Catalus. Last week, on Monday, we were given an "informal" Latin test to help the head teacher sort us into the classes she felt best matched our skills. And, yup, I was sorted into Beginners. I was very upset by this at first: "What? Why? Is it because I didn't translate enough?" (I am a very slow translator...) "Or was the translation just that bad? What happened!!!" With what info I have now I think it was the small amount of the text that I translated that got me placed in beginners. I was fairly cranky about the whole thing, but upon talking with the teacher on Friday's introduction to the class, she suggested that I come to Beginners, but try out Beginners + (designed for people who have done Latin but need a refresher) as well. So, that I what I did. Beginners is easy and moves slowly, but it has brought to my attention how uncertain I am with the very basics. No wonder I've always had such problems! More on this later...
England in Europe - My optional seminar class. It focuses on Anglo-Saxon literature and the way it affected and was affected by Continental writing. A really fun class that I definitely enjoyed. I had a brief moment of panic at the beginning of this week's seminar; somehow I ended up being the only person in the class who had not gotten the reading list, so was basically unprepared. Luckily we were discussing Bede and some of the historical/literary questions that surround his work. I am very familiar with Bede thanks to Dr. Graham, so I had no problem contributing to the discussion. Not only did I enjoy the class, it is taught by a woman that Nicola my advisor highly recommended I talk to regarding US PhD programs. The instructor, Elizabeth, and I have an appointment scheduled for next week to chat :)

* Wednesday: The day for my "Core Course" i.e. the interdisciplinary intro course everyone in the MA program is required to take. Since I felt I knew the least about it, I signed up for the Introduction to Art History module. There are only a total of four people in the class, and the discussion we had was therefore nicely balanced. I had forgotten how much fun I have with Art History, and it was very nice to get down and dirty with stylistic analysis again!

* Thursday: Beginners + Latin - Following my Latin instructors advice I went to the first day of Beginners + to check it out and see what I think of the whole thing. It was much more intense than I had been expecting, and I felt like I struggled through the hour and a half. It was awkward and made me unhappy. Am I really this bad at Latin? I fretted and at the end of it all the instructor, the epitome of an older English woman in my eyes, asked me how I felt. "I think I'll have to stick with Beginners," I admitted sullenly. "Oh," was her only response, issued in a very non-committal voice. I sighed, then launched into an explanation that, while I felt Beginners was too slow for me, I also was worried Beginners + would be far too fast. "Well, then, I recommend you keep coming to both until we can get you sorted," she said. Well, okay then. After class two of the other girls I am getting to know reassured me that I had done as well/badly as everyone else in the room had, so I should stick with it. We'll see. I am going to go to both classes again next week and just see what happens.

* Friday: Anglo Saxon - What better way to wrap up the week than with another language (have I mentioned how bad I am with languages?) Ah well, at least it's not another romance, I think that would send me over the edge. Anglo Saxon seems like it will be challenging but very fun. It's got as many pronunciation quirks as Old Irish had, which is a pain but keeps you on your toes. We haven't even looked at grammar yet, but I already found myself trying to read through the texts I have for my England In Europe class. I have a feeling this is going to become one of my "I'm so into this!" classes :)

So, that's the basic layout of my classes. Lots of required reading, all of which I have absolutely no motivation to do at the moment. The trick is going to be balancing the reading and the translation exercises as the term moves forward. This first week the homework for the languages is totally minimal, but it will get more and more demanding as the term progresses. Time management has never been one of my strong suits, but I am just going to have to make sure it becomes one.

And, on the more personal side:
Spiritually I feel very stagnant at the moment. I am not sure if it is simply being away from my home that is doing it, but I find it hard to connect to the world around me in a more than physical way. This entire city is full of magic; you can feel it welling up from the street and bouncing and soaring off the old buildings. It really is amazing, but I have not been able to connect with it at all yet. It is there, though, just waiting for me to try to become familiar. The river is the most potent example: for whatever the reason, I find myself very strongly drawn to the river Ouse that runs through the heart of the city. I have heard multiple stories about the deaths that happen in the river every year: people walking home from a very full night at the pub deciding they would like to try and swim in the strong currant, or perhaps simply falling straight off the bridges and drowning. The reaction to these stories is always the same: why would someone do that, even when drunk? But I feel I can understand, can put myself in their shoes: the way that the deep, dark water churns quietly along is mesmerizing and exhilarating all at once, and I can just imagine someone with enough drink to numb their sense of danger heading down towards it, reaching out for it, wanting to connect and share that power, only to be swept outward and away by a force that keeps all of it's power underneath it's smoothly rolling surface. I have always felt very strongly drawn to rivers, perhaps because they hold that amazing place in the human landscape of an element of nature we build around instead of through. Whatever the reason, I am intrigued by the river, the trees, the air here that buzzes with power, and I am hoping sometime soon I can get my head and my heart present enough to get into it.

Socially I am doing much better than I expected to. I am socially awkward at the best of times, and I anticipated coming to York and becoming the quiet kid who kept to herself and her room, who never really interacting and who always managed to get weird looks when she tried. After all, this is what I am use to. However, I've discovered that I underestimated a few things. Firstly, there's my enjoyment of the university setting, in which I have always felt particularly comfortable. There is just something about being surrounded by people going about their day in the same weird head-space I am in, knowing that they understand the constant distraction and are probably distracted themselves. Secondly, I am once again in that setting full time (as opposed to being there only when I choose to go onto campus), but without the...hmmm, how shall I say this...bull-shitters who spend more of their time thinking about that night's party then the work in front of them. These are the types that drove me off campus my freshman year of undergraduate: the late night room-cruising, the general attitude of "why are you studying?", the constant search for what you are doing to fit in, all this drove me nuts when I last lived in student housing, not so much because of the attitude itself (which I usually simply avoid), but because I felt surrounded by it on a day-in day-out basis and was unable to participate in household events without finding a way to negotiate it. There doesn't really seem to be any of that here in Constantine House, sometime I attribute to the fact that the house is post-graduates only and therefore full of people way too worried about their work to give much of a damn about such things. It is a wonderful change from what I am use to on UNM's campus. Finally, and perhaps I am flattering myself here but what can you do: I feel like maybe my social skills have actually improved over the past few years. I give Erin, SWEFA and Animal Humane a lot of credit for this, because I feel like I finally figured out how to take my A-type energy (the very energy that makes it so hard to relate sometimes!) and channel it into socially acceptable arenas. Like in helping to plan the houses' Halloween party. Or in auditioning for and getting a part in the Lord's of Misrule's upcoming production of Beowulf. It is nice to have these part-time social outlets without feeling bound to them. I know I will not be the one going out to the pub after every house meeting or audition, and not only am I okay with that, I am comfortable in the knowledge that others in this environment will not find it strange at all.

Finally, after that nice lone ramble (sorry...) I thought I might include some of the pictures I got tonight. I haven't been feeling all that hot for the past few days, but despite that I could not resist this. At the end of October the City of York puts together a week and a half long public festival called Illuminating York. The week involves plays and performances, public discussions, special tours of the area museums, and special artistic light shows that use the actual historic buildings of York as back drop. The light art installations opened tonight, and glutton that I am for pretty moving images, I just had to go. The two "free to the public" displays both sounded especially cool. One was to be set up in my own King's Manor (the building that houses the Centre for Medieval Studies). The display, as described on the Illuminating York site: "Vespertine" is a digitally produced sound and video installation that exposes the magnificence and brutality of nocturnal wildlife." So, right up my alley! The pics I got are not the best, but I think they still give a fairly good idea of what the short show was like. At the very beginning it shows a far range shot of the earth, with a cluster of light that gradually transforms into a bat. Here you can just barely see the cluster above the earth:

The show focused on several different animals. After the nice aireal sequence with the bat, it came down to earth for a really entertaining sequence featuring foxes and hedgehogs. My favorite image from that is the one below, with a curled hedgehog protecting itself while surrounded by the eyes of the hunting foxes:

The show ends with a very pretty moon rising and sequence with a hunting barn owl before depicting the sunrise that ends it all.
The moon rise:

And the intro of the owl:

I wandered from King's Manor on out into the lane that leads into the museum gardens. Had to pause for a moment to take a pic of a wonderfully lit tree, shaded in greens and purples and looking awesome!

In the Museum Gardens they have a really fun interactive installation. Three artists stand in the booth that runs the whole show and basically doodle on the ancient medieval wall the surrounds the gardens. When I arrived they were just finishing up an interesting story that, to the best of my ability to comprehend, involved a giant rat, kids playing, geese, bats, and robots. Seemed like a good story:

They then quickly changed the scene to something else entirely: more artistic, more flowing. I'm still not sure exactly what it was, but the colors were definitely captivating:

It's fun to note that all the script was being writing on the screen that cast the illumination. It was not generated by a computer:

My final little side note to all this, just a general cultural observation: you'll notice there are kids out on the lawn right at the base of the wall, playing in the light. You can't see them too well in the pictures, but there were tons of them out screaming and hooting and having a blast out on the lawn while the parents stood back and watched the show. It was just one more example of an interesting cultural difference I've seen between America and Britain in regards to raising kids: while in America the kids will be kids and parents will be embarrassed, in Britain the kids will be kids and that is perfectly socially acceptable. It is hard for me to explain, but the attitude toward children running and yelling and generally being the disruptive little beasties they tend to be is much more relaxed. I find this very interesting and have seen and heard of both the positive and negative effects of it: one the positive end of things the kids seem relaxed and have a great time while learning from a young age that they have to be fairly respectful of other people, i.e. you can ride your bikes down the street being noisy, but don't run anyone down. On the negative end, I have heard from some of the longer-time American residents that discipline for destructive/abusive children is almost non-existant, and in the case of very horribly behaved children (like the one's one of my housemates came upon using a baby duck as a football) trying to get an adult to take control and punish/correct such behavior can be quite difficult. Anyway, it's an interesting little cultural difference that I come face to face with regularly and find very interesting, especially since I didn't tend to look at American parents as restrictive before "crossing the pond.".