oulfis: A teacup next to a plate of scones with clotted cream and preserves. (Default)
I have another ridiculous life goal, so you know what that means: another spreadsheet! I present, Nanowrimo 2012:

Also, while we're on the topic of ridiculous life goals and their spreadsheets... I've kindasorta but not really still been working on that whole Read All The Things thing.

I've been trying to add stuff to the list so I can get to the big Shakespeare payoff, in the hopes that it will motivate me to read more. I also got sidetracked by my pressing need to read Pamela -- now that I'm finally done with it, maybe I can read Things that are on my list!
oulfis: A teacup next to a plate of scones with clotted cream and preserves. (Default)
Ok, today is actually Day 76, but my image is from Day 74 and I wanna write this to try to get into a better habit of doing it every week like I theoretically intended to. So, without further ado, The Spreadsheet:

Yeah, I rearranged it again! I think this is gonna be a common theme; when I wanna be working on All The Things, but don't feel like reading anything, I'm just gonna fidget with the spreadsheet. The blog will make for a nice time capsule.

Anyway, I ended up liking the 15th century more than I expected after all, when I got to John Skelton! Otis and Needleman describe him thus: "Wrote doggerel almost with genius. ... 'Skeltonical' verse is a staccato, voluble, now scrambling, now shuffling, often slipshod, octosyllabic couplet." Lots of fun!

I also enjoyed James I's Testament of Cresseid, perhaps more sincerely; it made me want to write my own poem about poor Cressida. It also made me want to go read Chaucer's version (on the list, but one I skipped) as well as re-reading Shakespeares (presumably appearing later). I like that I've gotten far enough to see texts really interacting with each other.

Another Otis and Needleman gem: "Blind Harry (or Henry the Minstrel), fl. 1470-1492, Scottish poet. (Possibly never a minstrel and possibly never blind.)" No further biographical information is included.

Well, that's All The Things. I think I'm gonna go... read something.
oulfis: A teacup next to a plate of scones with clotted cream and preserves. (Default)
Yeah, I'm actually... still doing this. Mostly. Took me a LONG time to get through the Canterbury Tales, and I'm still only barely entering the 15th century, but I seem to check in on the spreadsheet and read things often enough that it's worth an update.

Turns out, most of the Canturbury tales are really long, really religious, and kinda boring. But I found Geoffrey Chaucer's tale really entertaining, and in general enjoyed learning more of the ins and outs of the work.

I've also read rather a lot of Old and Middle English religious works... today I read some Old English biblical passages (largely because they show up in the screencaps), and I must say, when I finally find a translation of something it's such a radically more enjoyable reading experience. I ended up not enjoying Pearl as much as I'd hoped I would, just because I struggled so much with the Middle English. I guess I'm just a lazy person.

I did really enjoy Handlyng Synne, though, a lot more than I'd expected; I read the Cambridge History first, and then looked up the passages it mentioned as particularly interesting, then browsed the rest of the text based on the summary titles at the top of each page. I've started to adopt this methodology in general-- when I'm so lacking in context, a bit of background and some key passages combine to make a much more informative experience than slogging through the whole thing. That's how I managed to get something out of Purity and Patience, anyway.

I've officially entered the 15th century, where apparently everybody was too distracted by the 100 Years War to write anything interesting. I might just blow through it without reading too much of anything, in order to get to the good stuff in the 16th century sooner. I'm gonna get so many points for Shakespeare, I can't wait!
oulfis: A teacup next to a plate of scones with clotted cream and preserves. (Default)
It looks like I'm actually sticking with this pretty well!

I'm 70-some pages into Otis and Needleman; I've finished adding the Anglo-Saxons and the Anglo-Normans to the spreadsheet, and am now working my way through The Age of Chaucer. I'm listening to The Canterbury Tales on audiobook while I walk to campus (a silver lining for the melting-car debacle, I suppose) so I've made some progress pretty much every day since I started, even if it doesn't all show on the chart.

Speaking of the chart, here it is!

Bookkeeping notes: I decided to give myself more credit for the really big works; you can see here that Beowulf is now counting for 3 read works, rather than 1. This is based on the fact that Otis and Needleman devote three pages to describing the content of the poem-- by the same logic, The Canterbury Tales will count for 7 when I finally finish. So far those are the only two works that rated more than a page of description; I think it's a fair way to recognize that there's a difference between reading The Cuckoo Song and reading all the Canterbury Tales.

I read The Wanderer today, mostly because it shows up in my spreadsheet screencaps, and it was beautiful. So sad! This is exactly why I started this project: to read literature that is great, in all the fullest senses of the word, but which I would never have known of otherwise.

I'm only a couple hundred lines into Pearl and it's a very similar experience: kind of hard to get started, definitely something I wouldn't do if I wasn't getting "points" for it, but so rewarding.

So I'm happy.
oulfis: A teacup next to a plate of scones with clotted cream and preserves. (Default)
I finally got my copy of Otis and Needleman's Outline History of English Literature! Now it is time to read ALL THE THINGS!

That's... a lot more self-explanatory than a reasonable person would allow it to be. The Outline History of English Literature is a two-volume outline of the history of English literature. Chronologically, it lists... everything. There are roughly five to ten items per page, with three or four of those items identified as "major works". My goal for my 'gap year' is to familiarize myself with everything listed, and to read as many of the major works as I can manage.

I have, naturally, created a spreadsheet. As I work my way through the Outline History, I'll note all of the major works mentioned, and whether or not I have read them. As I read the works, I'll update their status. My spreadsheet has, at the top, a ring displaying the percentage of read vs. unread works as of that day. To the side, it has a chart of the read/unread totals over time. (The "unread" numbers will be going up as I add entries, after all!) The percentage ring is just there to be immediately satisfying, but the chart will get WAY more interesting over time. There are also some numbers wandering around to make everything work. Here's what it looks like right now:

As you can (hopefully) see, I'd already read Beowulf when I started, but I read a couple other short Anglo-Saxon poems this morning. I would never have heard of these poems-- let alone voluntarily read them!-- if it weren't for this project, but it was incredibly satisfying to be doing "real" reading again. I don't think I've read anything but fanfic and Temeraire novels since finishing my thesis in March!

I'm also really enjoying Otis and Needleman as authors. My copy is from 1952, but the book was originally written in 1936-- like all old criticism, I find it endlessly endearing. None of this postmodern, post-textual deconstructionist shit! Just on page 14: "The Fates of the Apostles is insignificant as poetry." BAM! "Juliana: Unpoetic, unemotional; tendency to wordy speeches." POW! Nothing more to be said!

But also-- I am endlessly charmed by their old-fashioned willingness to express adoration. Also on page 14: "Andreas: Explosive descriptions of man's titanic struggle with the tempest." "The Dream of the Rood: Probably the noblest and most imaginative of all Anglo-Saxon poems. ...Broodingly emotional, lyrically passionate, intensely imaginative, deeply religious." Nobody allows themselves to get so earnest these days.

Sure, there is a place for more modern, "sophisticated" criticism-- that's the kind of criticism I myself write, after all, since I don't live in 1936-- but in my heart, I will always believe that literature is meant to inspire enthusiasm.

So, I think I prefer to be embarking on this quest with two endearing antiquarians as my guides. It'll be more fun.

And now-- to read!

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