Archive for the ‘rolandht’ Category

Happiness is.

Friday, December 1st, 2006

Do you know what I did today? I worked on Roland. It was bliss.

Partly it was bliss because I worked on Roland, which hadn’t happened (not reliably or for any significant length of time) for a couple of weeks. I did more dissertation work when I was traveling – in the interstices among those five trips in the space of two months, the last of them being in mid-November – than I did in the last two weeks.

At least, for once I wasn’t slacking. During that time I wrote something like 8000 words in different venues, most of which writing was “public” (like the final NEH report for the two-year Virtual Humanities Lab). I think, all things considered, things went pretty well with all the obligations. Only a few relatively minor balls dropped, unless someone isn’t telling me something big.

Then there was Thanksgiving! And it was grand! For the first time in a long time I wasn’t with my family. That wasn’t the part that was grand; the good part was that I got to meet my two, uh, half-brothers-in-law. Who are in their early to mid-20s, and both funky and interesting and smart and well-traveled. It was good to spend time with Ethan’s family again, those I’d met before and new acquaintances. Including the puppy, to whom I didn’t become allergic for hours. Hooray for modern medicine.

Then we came home, and this week we have a cold. Nasty cold, too: I took yesterday off from work completely… eeexcept for the totally-burning stuff.

And tonight, I started in on Roland again. I have to encode everything I’m going to encode for the thesis (which is not all of Roland’s corpus, that’ll take years more than I have) by the end of December, so thought I’d make a list of everything that still needs to be encoded. Oh boy, it’ll be a fun month! Good thing I’m lovin’ it. tm.

too much jetsetting

Monday, November 13th, 2006

I’m so tired of travel.

On Friday I came back from the latest – to Maryland on Tuesday, to give a talk at MITH; and then DC for the Reinvention Center conference. This was my fourth trip in just under two months: the other three were to Nebraska (digital humanities workshop), Fredericton (text-analysis conference) and Chester, Vermont (Readex Digital Institute, which got extensively blogged here). On Tuesday I leave for Chester again, to return on Wednesday after a meeting. This is the blessed last trip for the foreseeable future.

Don’t get me wrong: all the events I went to have been fabulous (see below), and I’m looking forward to going back to Readex. But – and I’ve known this from the start – this is too much travel right now.

The talk at MITH went well. I guess the crowd was a bit diminished compared to their usual; it was election day, and there was a Human-Computer Interaction event precisely coinciding with my talk. Nevertheless, it was a good group, and boy, they really mean it when they call these things “Digital Dialogues.” They jumped right in about five minutes into my talk, and the lively conversation didn’t stop for the next hour and a half or so. I showed the Virtual Humanities Lab and we talked about collaboration, its logistical issues and benefits-vs-drawbacks and ways in which VHL can be made a more friendly collaboration environment. It was great to receive feedback from people not only interested, but way more knowledgeable about the state of the field. It felt easy to be there; they’ve created a great atmosphere both for conversation and for work.

Wednesday I took advantage of MITH’s generous offer to use their “coffeehouse” space for work. That evening I found myself at the downtown Washington hotel where the Reinvention Center conference was to take place in the next two days.

I’ve a ton of notes from that conference. I only got to go because my dissertation director was leading one of the sessions, and asked me to be his session recorder; this way the Center gives a few grad students the opportunity to see what’s going on in research universities around the country, while at the same time getting young’uns to more or less write the proceedings. A more than fair price, I must say.

So I’d been reasonably interested in the conference, but had no idea how useful it would be and how much new information I would get that will be applicable in my near-future work. For one thing, I saw the largest concentration of high-level university administrators that I’ve ever seen before. Not sure what the ratio of administrators (and staff, like librarians) to faculty was, but it felt something like 2:1 or maybe even 3:1, and perhaps 300 people in attendance. (I may be wildly off here. It’s just an estimate.) I’ll have to go over my notes later and perhaps write it up here, if I get to it.

If I get to it. Friday I came back; and yesterday my adored husband took me out for a romantic evening out that stretched well into this morning. I had no idea what we were doing; turned out, we were going to an Ani DiFranco concert. Well, holy shit: I hadn’t been to a concert in a long, long time, and had only seen Ani in concert once. It was a treat. Not only does she rock the the house, but she is touring while quite pregnant, and her happiness with where she is and what she’s doing could be felt all the way at the back bar where we were standing. She had with her a stand-up-bassist and a percussionist with a xylophone and a steel drum and a bunch of other unusual rhythm instruments. Beautiful sound, mostly good crowd, amazing energy.

Then we reconnected over dinner and conversation and general dalliance. This past summer, going into early fall, was difficult for both of us. We both had to reduce and eventually stop taking anti-depressants: welcome to U.S. health care, which left us scrambling for two months (three in Ethan’s case). In the fall we both dove into new work, and have been trying to catch up with each other ever since. Last evening (orchestrated in part by a kind friend – many thanks!) was a badly needed one.

And now… now there’s more work. The final VHL report to the NEH is due at the end of the month. My write-up of our session at the Reinvention Center conference is due at the same time. I’ve got a job app to send out tomorrow, blessedly almost done but still on the to-do list. Tuesday-Wednesday there’s the trip, and my next task for the dissertation is the transcription and encoding of around 600 lines of poetry. Then there’s another fellowship app to get together.

And then there’s the social life, without which Vika gets to be a dull and sad girl. Tonight we were treated by our fabulous housemate to Marie Antoinette the movie, which had an unexpected soundtrack (Aphex Twin!) and was generally not half bad. Monday (tomorrow!) we have a friend visiting. Haven’t seen her in a long long time, so I’m really looking forward to it, and to the inevitable good food associated with the visit.

So what do I do? Instead of getting some sleep I write a long blog entry. Ah well, at least now I have a de facto to do list. There’s more to write about – details of the movie, Sean McMullen’s The Miocene Arrow which I’m enjoying these days, my relationship with the uncertainties of life after May, various anxieties about whether I’ll finish the dissertation in time. But all these can wait. Good night now.

Otuel and Roland, and Scandinavia.

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Work is getting easier – sitting down and actually working, that is, as opposed to dreading it and feeling guilty about not doing it. I’ve been on the same primary source since last Thursday, but it is big (over 2700 lines), so I have sixteen whole excerpts from it. Only the Song of Roland has more excerpts. Plus, this one (Otuel and Roland) is in Middle English. Instead of translating it – at which I’d do a miserable job – I’ve written a mini-guide on pronunciation that should take the reader pretty far, and am encoding translations for the particularly obscure words using the glossary at the end of the book. This is adding a lot of encoding time, but should be cool if I can figure out how to make the translations appear on mouseover. (If I can’t figure out, there’s always Ethan to beg for help, but if it can be done with XSLT/CSS, I shouldn’t need to.)

Right. To work.

[Psst… Livejournal readers – just a reminder that if you comment on the feed, I don’t get notified, and at the rate things are going, am unlikely to go back to past posts and check to see whether there are any comments. Instead of clicking on “leave comment,” click the URL for the post, and you’ll be magically transported to a comment interface on Words’ End.]

Technological wonders and peripheral lucidity.

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Ethan’s taken geeky anti-vandal measures. Plus, we now have a set of functioning motion-sensor floodlights. Come back, kid. I want you to show your face.

This repeated-senseless-violence thing has been… distracting; I had been unsuccessfully trying to work for two days and instead somehow getting sucked into the WaiterRant archives again and again. But lo, as soon as I sit down to read/annotate some primary sources (instead of writing the second chapter, which is due – oh – at the end of the month), work gets interesting again. Go figure.

Reading and annotating, in this case, is a lot of pattern-searching. All afternoon and evening my peripheral vision has been crazy-sensitive. I wonder if the two are related.

Sunday, rainy Sunday.

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

As I just wrote on IM, “You know you’re an academic when, case #254: you’re STUCK IN YOUR OFFICE on a SUNDAY because the door latch is broken.” Totally serious. I can’t even get to my printout! Aaaaaaiiie!

Someone from Facilities is supposedly on their way over. In the meantime, an update.

Elliott, the car I’d had for eight years, has bit it. A stupid accident of the sort that… you just stand there and laugh. Who woulda known that going at ten miles per hour could crumple up the hood and front to the point where the car would be pronounced totaled?

Well, it happened. Nobody was hurt, thank goodness. They’ve taken the car away. We have a rental, and have purchased another car – although we won’t have it for a few more days. A Honda Fit. It’s supremely odd to have bought a new-new car, but given available options and our needs, this was the prudent thing to do.

I’m full of nervous energy. The project is two months and a bit away from conclusion. There are at least three papers to write before then, and it would be good if they didn’t suck. And then the dissertation, which I cannot WAIT for, but which will undoubtedly bring procrastination demons with it. It’s like the boss level in a video game: slay the procrastination demons (who look suspiciously like those wraith guys from Mordor), get to the golden cup – or the degree, as it happens.

It’ll All Be Fine. Now, if only my brain could turn into a brain again… *pokes the mushy puddle with a stick*

*mushy puddle EATS the stick*


Hey, you know what I’ve discovered? Stephen King isn’t all that bad. I have practically swallowed up the first two books of the Dark Tower series, which is not so much horror as dark-fantasy-meets-pulp. Its protagonist is a gunslinger named Roland. I’m happy to report that yes, he does in fact have enough qualities to be That Roland, and so reading King is officially dissertation work. iWin!

Now I am freed by way of Facilities’ help over the phone. Time to go where the internet isn’t, and make another attempt at writing a certain proposal.

E-Fest 06

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Hello from E-Fest 2006, being held at Brown right now. It’s lunchtime; the first session of papers has passed, as has the first evening of performances (last night, natch). A few thoughts so far. They aren’t intended to be an exhaustive review of the event, just things that occurred to me so far.

The most immediately striking thing, for me (thanks to reading Dr. B et al., and recent women’s issues debacles in the news*) is that, out of the twenty-two official participants, three are women. Three.

Aside from that, however, the event’s pretty interesting thus far. One of the highlights at last night’s performance was Aya Karpinska‘s reading of open.ended. Aya will be the next electronic creative writing fellow in Brown’s Literary Arts MFA program.

Judd Morrissey did a fantastic reading as well, but I can’t find it online; structurally it was similar to his The Jew’s Daughter, which is also a worthwhile read.

Nick Montfort‘s presentation particularly interested me from a pedagogical perspective. He has been working on software that, when overlayed onto a pre-existing piece of interactive fiction (in yesterday’s case, the classic Adventure), allows the user to read the game’s text transformed into different narrative styles. Victorian, for example, peppers setting descriptions etc. with “Reader,”; explicit, when you say “go west,” informs you that you have decided to go west; you have relocated yourself westward; you are now in $otherlocation; you see objects around you. That sort of thing. It seems that, applied to [IF in] other languages, this could be a useful tool for language learning!

Then there’s today. Today’s first session was titled “Memory and Real Time.” It was pretty whirlwind, but one thing that Braxton Soderman was talking about caught my attention: the place of criticism, theory and critical thinking within the increasingly real-time digital culture. (I could be misquoting; will correct later if needed, but this was for me the essence of his talk.)

Briefly: text encoding as literary analysis/research is critical thinking “on the run” (which, for Braxton, was: you get an idea and “run with it”). On the other end of that, the software that eventually shows you a larger picture is also “running”. This feels more real-time than paper writing.

Networked publication of that research, as well as online collaboration (VHL, instant messaging), are also much more real-time than publications in journals and then responses published at a much later date.

Not particularly deep, but a useful snippet for theorizing RolandHT!


*And speaking of South Dakota’s legislative idiocy, check out the fuck-you message sent by the president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe to the white boys in the state senate there. How much ass does this woman kick?! Needless to say, please donate… or don’t, but we’re not having an abortion debate in the comments, mmkay?

Amodio on orality and hypertext.

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

Mark C. Amodio, in Writing the Oral Tradition: Oral Poetics and Literate Culture in Medieval England(Notre Dame, IN: UND Press, 2004), writes (with footnote):

The reader in a literate society plays an important, active role in “writing” the “text” he or she reads* and thus plays a role in creating the “text” in just the way listening audiences in oral cultures are co-creators of the text they receive aurally, but the text produced within literate culture has an attendant physicality, and hence fixity, that oral texts lack. (8)

*A hypertext novel, and hypertext in general, can be seen as a logical extension of the subjective perspective in that readers must literally navigate their way through a “text” that has no fixed or absolutely determined path. In this way, hypertext authors are rather like modern versions of traditional poets in that they create texts with fluid narrative paths that are not easily (if at all) traceable. See further Foley, How to Read, 219-25. On hypertext’s relation to orality, see Joyce, “No One Tells You This.”

I’ll need to follow up on the references he makes, but reading this raised several reactionary thoughts. This is the first time Amodio, who doesn’t seem to be very much into electronic literature, mentions hypertext in the book (which is, by the way, a nice read so far). His treatment of e-lit as something with “no fixed or absolutely determined path” seems to imply an absence of any path at all, which of course isn’t true: hypertext authors often steer the reader in a particular direction by carefully choosing link placement. Plus, it’s certainly possible to have one or more series of single-path nodes within an otherwise link-rich text.

Another debatable implicit opinion in the above the quotation marks surrounding the word text either. What, is it not text? Kind of text? In a book dedicated to orality and literacy I’d expect a more careful consideration of the word. But perhaps he explains this further into the book.

Finally, the co-creation bit. I’ve compared for years reading interlinked bits of related stories in RolandHT with listening to an oral performance of a piece about Roland, composed by a poet on the spot using archetypes from received cultural memory. But Amodio extends the process of reception to a co-creation. Tempting, in that it (again implicitly) empowers the reader and elevates the interpretive process; but how is this co-creation distinct from forming any memory at all?

FMI, Amodio’s two footnote references are:

Foley, John Miles. How to Read an Oral Poem. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

Joyce, Michael. “No One Tells You This: Secondary Orality and Hypertextuality.” Oral Tradition 17 (2002): 325-45.

note to self: knowledge acquisition is a big topic.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

It sounds obvious, but in my Roland-related research I’ve been returning again and again to the question of how knowledge has been historically passed down. This needs to be narrowed down: specifically, how and why have people learned and taught stories? A related question is: what role did art (theater, poetry, music, visual arts) play in the lives of the people who have told Roland stories? In the lives of their audiences? (Who were their audiences at any given stage?)

If anyone knows of good literature or other sources of information on the subject, I’d love to know. We’re talking any time period between, say, 750 A.D. and now, anywhere in Europe, Middle East or the Americas.


Sunday, September 18th, 2005

It’s unknown whether Hruodlandus, the captain of the Breton March who died in 778 according to Einhard, was Charlemagne’s nephew.

Based on my observations of people over the last couple of decades, it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which they were unrelated, but the story of Roland was made more compelling by the claim of royal familial connection. In other words, it’s possible that their blood relationship is a fabricated meme that has served to hook the reader (listener) in for over a thousand years.

morality and historicity in Roland

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

History is one big soap opera. How’s this for a tangle:

In The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe, Pierre Riché writes about Carloman and Pippin III, the Short, two sons of Charles Martel, to both of whom he left the Frankish kingdom when he died. Carloman was Charlemagne’s grandfather. Page 51 provides quite the family tree. I’ll break down the paragraph and highlight the important bits, primarily because that makes the confusing passage easier to digest:

[Upon the death of Charles Martel] Carloman and Pippin found their first adversaries within the family.

– Their half-brother Grifo, the son of the Bavarian Sunnichild, reckoned on playing the part of an equal heir, as witnessed by a letter to him from [missionary, archbishop of Mainz] Boniface. He wanted to take possession of his due, but neither Pippin nor Carloman accepted this, and they imprisoned him in the bastion at Chèvremont, near Liège, while his mother was consigned to the guard of the nuns of Chelles.

– In another quarter, Chiltrude, the elder sister of the mayors of the palace, had secretly fled the kingdom with the help of friends and married Odilo, duke of Bavaria. This new relative of the Carolingian family hoped to play some political role; he enjoyed papal support and had also lately concluded a pact with Duke Hunald of Aquitaine. Upon the death of Charles Martel, Hunald had of course revolted against the heirs.

– Finally, Theutbald of Allemania, the brother of the Lantfrid subdued by Charles Martel, made a new grab for autonomy and a restored duchy.

Carloman and Pippin would thus be occupied for several years to the south and east of the kingdom.

OK, so: Charlemagne is linked to his grandfather Carloman by virtue of having more or less the same name. Charlemagne’s grandfather’s sister, from the royal standpoint, betrayed Charlemagne’s grandfather by marrying his adversary-by-proxy. This is presumably a source of shame for the family. [If I put this in my dissertation, is the evidence for that last sentence common knowledge? Do I have to explicitly present it?]

In the Song of Roland (France, 1095-1099), Roland is Charlemagne’s nephew.

In the Karlamagnús Saga (Norway, 13th century), Roland is both Charlemagne’s nephew and his son by his sister named Gilem. When Karlamagnus finds out Gilem is pregnant, he “[gives] his sister to Milon, and [makes] him duke of Brettania. The boy [is] born seven months later.”

Italians make yet another case. From Italo Calvino’s preface to Orlando Furioso di Ludovico Ariosto raccontato da Italo Calvino (Milano: Mondadori 1995, sadly only available in Italian, it’s a brilliant book):

Di Roland la tradizione francese non dice se non l’ultima battaglia e la morte. Tutto il resto della sua vita, nascita, albero genealogico, infanzia giovinezza avventure prima di Roncisvalle, egli le troverà, sotto il nome di Orlando, in Italia. Viene così stabilito che suo padre è Milone di Clermont (o Chiaromonte) alfiere di re Carlo, e sua madre è Berta, la sorella del sovrano. Avendo Milone sedotto la fanciulla, per sfuggire alle ire del regale cognato, la rapisce e fugge in Italia. Secondo alcune fonti Orlando nasce in Romagna, a Imola, secondo altre a Sutri, nel Lazio: che sia italiano non c’è dubbio. (11-12)

(The only things that the French tradition tells about Roland are his last battle and his death. The rest of his life, birth, family tree, childhood youth adventures before Roncesvalles, the character acquires under the name Orlando, in Italy. Thus, his father is established as Milon of Clermont (or Chiaromonte), Charlemagne’s standard bearer, and his mother is Berta, the king’s sister. Having seduced the girl, in order to escape his sovereign brother-in-law’s wrath, Milon kidnaps her and flees to Italy. According to some sources Orlando is born in Romagna, in the town of Imola; according to others, in Sutri, Lazio: of his Italian origin there is no doubt.)

OK, so:

1. Historian Riché claims, presumably based on good evidence, that the Carolingians had a shameful episode a couple of generations previous to Charlemagne’s. This was during the 700s, A.D.

2. The French write down The Song of Roland at the end of the 11th century. Roland is established as Charlemagne’s nephew; there is no further discussion about the dynasty. There is no historical evidence for or against kinship between Charlemagne and the Count Hruodlandus mentioned by Einhard’s account of a battle with the Basques, the only historical mention of a Roland.

3. I would speculate that plenty of gossip about the Carolingian propagated amongst their subjects: it seems to be just the way people react to celebrities, no? Or do I need to substantiate this?

4. The Norse give their tale an incestuous twist: Roland’s father is Charlemagne, and his mother Charlemagne’s sister Berta. The cover-up husband, married into the incest, is named Milon. It would be important, however, to know whether they combined the two stories about Charlemagne’s family, fabricated juicy gossip about Charlemagne, or uncovered yet another shameful secret.

5. The Italians keep Berta, but buy the story: Roland’s mother is Berta and his father is Milon. If there was incest involved in real life, then the Italians become complicit in covering it up; but then, they may have done so in ignorance of the real events.

It just seems to me that there’s a possibility that the Frankish storytellers (who were, in some cases, the king’s unofficial biographers) deliberately covered up for their sovereign, that Norwegians ran a gossip column exposing the secret, but that the Italians never got the memo encoded into the Norse saga and bought the lie, but were vain enough to appropriate the credit for Roland’s survival.

I’m not sure this is provable, though. But one thing that thinking about this has already taught me is: reading relevant histories is not merely “an OK expenditure of dissertation-researching time for my general education.” It may prove to be an absolutely necessary tool that points me more precisely about why stories were told in these particular ways, at these particular historical points.