Thursday, November 26, 2009

Summer of research, ridin' and relaxin'

Spring has come late to these parts, and today was one of the first days there was real heat in the sun. I sat on the front porch reading, enveloped in the scents from the jasmine and climbing roses that are running riot around the balcony, watching the fat, furry bumbler bees (as my nephew calls them) slip dozily from bloom to bloom. My coursework is done for the year, so I now have the summer ahead of me to mull over the research project that will occupy a lot of my time over the coming year.

I’ve got some broad ideas about what I want to tackle and how, but I haven’t refined the research question(s) so narrowly yet as to require really intensive reading (or to get alternately obsessed and fed up with the subject). I’m interested in taking up Joan Scott’s challenge to examine the ways that ‘gender constructs politics and politics constructs gender’, so I’m thinking I may do something around competing constructions of misrule and the gendering of dissent during the troubled reign of Richard II of England. That leads to lots of related threads - starting with that classic late medieval triangle of heresy, sodomy and treason - that could also prove rich avenues for investigation.

I love this stage of the process, where I can dip in and out of lots of different books and articles, following up any little obscure angle that intrigues me. It suits my magpie brain. I have a nice big stack of background reading, theory, and secondary sources on the period to work through over the next couple of months, and I’ll also be making a start on tracking down primary sources I may want to use. There is a huge amount of this material for Richard’s reign and its post-deposition aftermath, including a bunch of French and English chronicles and extensive judicial and administrative records. (Bonus - thanks to the prompt from Dame Eleanor Hull, I also discovered my university library has an edition of the Calendar of Patent Rolls for Richard II’s reign stashed in offsite storage, so I won’t need to interloan.)

As this project takes shape over the coming months, I will probably torture you periodically with oblique accounts of my discoveries. But for now, I’m going to go and pour myself a glass of cider, so I’ll leave you with my thoughts on other good things about summer:
  • Monteiths Crushed Apple Cider served over ice in a big goblet
  • Hitting the single track at Makara Peak
  • Eating fish and chips on the beach, and washing away the salty, greasy goodness with a glass of crispy sauvignon blanc
  • Swimming twilight laps around Oriental Bay fountain
  • Breaking out the fairy lights and turning our patio into a Greek-taverna-by-proxy
To those of you facing down winter in unkindly climes, I send my commiserations.

* The image is of a 14th century music manuscript of the English round Sumer is i-cumen in.


Anonymous said...

Oh, it all sounds so lovely. I'm pretending to be in the summer now...doing all of those fun activities too. :) Enjoy!

Steve Muhlberger said...

That does sound good. I can't complain too much -- I am spending the winter on sabbatical in one of the least cold parts of Canada.
Where exactly are you?

RPS77 said...

Ah - I'd almost forgotten about the whole southern hemisphere thing. I figure this time of year must be for you like Memorial Day (end of May) in the USA.

Today is Thanksgiving here - a holiday with a lot of history of its own, though most people don't know a lot of it.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Thank you for the commiserations. How I hate winter.

Hm: captcha = splene. As in splenetive, no doubt.

Bavardess said...

Steve, I'm in New Zealand. I didn't think there were any parts of Canada that were generally above freezing in the winter.

RPS77 - I always find Thanksgiving one of the more problematic holidays, because of it's history. Some of the more lurid commercial depictions of the pilgrims with the happy Indians seem just a wee bit hypocritical, considering what came next for many of the native nations.

Dame Eleanor - I hope the weather isn't too harsh where you are. I probably shouldn't be gloating - it's just asking for a big southerly storm to come through!

Digger said...

Yum, fish and chips! :D

Bardiac said...

Oh, I'm green with envy! Can we come visit during the worst of the winter?

Do you mountain bike, then?

RPS77 said...

Re: The history as it is taught to kids in the US is definitely problematic - I posted about some of the actual context Thursday. Still, I guess it doesn't bother me as much as it probably should because I don't think that most people in the USA who celebrate the holiday actually think much about its historical context. Thanksgiving for most people is a day to get together with family, count your blessings, and eat a lot. None of these things are as problematic as the history.

ZACL said...

Sounds like being in the Antipodes is where to be. Enjoy your deserved break, you will benefit from it.

I hope you have lots of room for all those book loans, the mental recall for the squirrelling away of titbits of information and their sources.

Being fanciful here, Ancient history, historians (see how careful I was not to suggest you might be ancient ;) )could really make the most of a time machine, something styled like a roving underwater capsule that would keep you quietly safe, from which to make your objective observations.

Bavardess said...

Bardiac - I used to do more road biking but I got sick of dueling with cars! Now, I mainly stay off-road.

magistra said...

If you're thinking about gender in the time of Richard II, have you read Chris Fletcher's article and book about manliness and Richard II? The article is: "Manhood and Politics in the Reign of Richard II", Past and Present 189 (2005), 3-39 and the book is Richard II: manhood, youth and politics 1377-1399 (OUP 2008). This is all at the opposite end of the social spectrum to your rebels, but it might be useful background for how ideals of dominant masculinity could be created and attacked.

Bavardess said...

Thanks for the reference Magistra. I have read Chris Fletcher's article (it was one of the things that got me thinking along these lines in the first place, in fact), but I wasn't aware his book had come out so I'll have to hunt that down. I wonder if I can convince my university library to buy a copy...