This blog tracks my journey through the British Isles this summer. I just completed my first year as a PhD student in English at the University of Mississippi, and am spending the summer studying over here. I will be participating in two programs: an NEH summer seminar, and the York palaeography summer institute.

It’s not at all that I just want to be Indiana Jones

The NEH summer seminar focuses on the Isle of Man Cultural Province. It seeks to expand our understanding of the British Isles as a multi-cultural center during the Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon literature did not define the early Middle Ages nor was Chaucer the only one writing after the conquest. To this end we will be reading one of the earliest Irish epic cycles – the Táin Bó Cúailnge, some of the earliest prose Welsh material – The Mabinogion,  one of the major Norse sagas – Njal’s Saga, an early Middle Eastern account of the Vikings – Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness, a non-Chaucer Middle English text – Gawain and the Green Knight and, of course, Beowulf. Additionally, we will be reading a variety of secondary sources and looking at the texts in context of the landscape (such as Navan Fort for the Táin). 

The York Archbishop’s Registers Revealed Summer Institute allows grad students the opportunity to gain first hand paleographical and diplomatic expertise. The York archbishops’ registers are records detailing the running of the archbishopric going to back to the 1200s. As part of a larger digitization and digital humanities project, graduate students will gain the opportunity to work first hand with these documents and receive the essential training on how to read and work with such things. Additionally, outside speakers will attend the institute and students (like me) will have the opportunity to work on an individual project.
All in all, I get to spend a fascinating summer learning from new experts and studying the Middle Ages from various angles in a vastly different context than normal. This blog will contain a record of that journey and occasional rants about the things I see.
-Helen Davies


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