November Review

With a certain ominous inevitability reserved for Greek tragedy, the monthly review has returned to PBS bearing in its ropey arms the trophies and wounds of another 30 days of a DPhil in Oxford. Apparently the review carries some repressed literary aspirations as well. Rest assured, that early flourish is probably all it can muster. Rest in the warm, if dry, embrace of a largely inconsequential update of the last month.

This actually required some work with the trusty day-book and a few dips into the e-mail archive. Poor short-term memory isn’t always the disability it can be, so long as the pace is slow and the new input is manageable. Neither of those requirements are met with regularity here in Oxon.


– At the moment it consists of a mix of background reading on the chronology of the 15th and 16th centuries, the mechanics of the English legal system, current ideas about who constituted the gentry and how to identify them, and a little bit of work with primary material, mostly Star Chamber extracts and the Corum Rege rolls hosted by the AALT project.1


– Writing has been sporadic, but productive. There was the previously mentioned conference paper script which was partly necessary as the conveners have asked to publish the papers in their association journal. That paper needs some work and formatting to meet the house guide but have plenty of time for that.

– After said conference I chopped the paper into bits, inserted two bits into another paper, drafted largely from scratch on the 17-18th and then sent back out as a submission to a history essay prize. Odds are long, but the investment was worth the potential pay-off (as in 1000 gbp, an invited talk, and a publication credit). Incidentally, I was much happier with that paper than the conference version.2

Events and such:

– The month worked out better for events and seminars worth attending. In addition to the conference on the 16th I saw a very interesting talks by a medieval manuscripts scholar, a book historian, and I attended the annual meeting of the Royal Historical Society, of which I was fortunate to be elected as a member back in October. I had applied as a post-graduate member but apparently, they looked at the CV and said, “what the hell, bump him up to full member and make him feel special.” It worked.

Unfortunately, November has brought no news on any of my article submissions from March, April, July, August, and September. It is approaching the point where some editors get the 1st “hey, what’s up with the old paper?” e-mail while others get the “hey, really, any time you want to deal with that paper would be great because I’m not getting any smarter here twiddling my thumbs.” I know, that sort of escalation seems severe, but this is the cut-throat world of academic writing. By the 3rd e-mail, things can get very stern indeed.

On a positive note, I am apparently on the roster for the UK version of K-Zoo; the International Medieval Congress (1-4 July). This also tells me when I get to go home in the summer (probably 6 July if I can swing it).

That is about all that is fit to print. I think there are some signs of progress there. It’s hard to know, now that most of my measures for productivity and progress are largely meaningless. Ah well, next term will be easier not that I am mostly acclimatised.


1 For those who would like more detail, the relevant works in hand are: Catherine Nall, Reading and War in Fifteenth-Century England: From Lydgate to Malory, (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2012), Thomas H. Crofts, Malory’s Contemporary Audience, Arthurian Studies lxvi (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2006), Raluca L. Radulescu, The Gentry Context for Malory’s Morte Darthur, Arthurian Studies lv (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003), Malcolm Mercer, The Medieval Gentry: Power, Leadership and Choice During the Wars of the Roses (London: Continuum, 2010), and finally, J. H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

2 The contest in question is the Dorothy Dunnett Prize in History, made in honour of a prolific author of historical fiction I have never heard of. Thankfully, the contest does not require entries to directly engage with Ms. Dunnett’s work, only cover her chronological and social area of interest.


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