A year ago, I wrote about the words with which the Canterbury Tales begin, as well as about the celebration of the day that focuses on the enjoyment of older languages and literatures. The comments I made then still largely hold true; there remains much of value in what was written before and what was said, even if such things are too often ignored and too often put to the purposes of too often obstinately wilful evil.
As I reflect on those comments now and on the words that spurred them, I do so from a far different place (mentally and emotionally; the physical location remains the same). I am more removed from academe than I was then; I had given up the search for tenure-line work, but I still taught part-time and did some small work to incorporate the medieval into that teaching. Now, though, even that work is set aside, even if I still present a conference paper now and again, and I still look at how various properties refigure and borrow from the medieval. (Insofar as there is “the” medieval, of course, but this is not an academic treatment and the level of nuance and detail appropriate to such is not necessarily fitting here.) Working outside academe and vacationing there (for want of a better term), I better understand why thoughts about the older world are often set aside; I am not so far removed from scrambling for things that I do not recall the efforts involved therewith and the level of exhaustion that accompanies those efforts–even for someone trained to the strange disciplines of the mind that academia imposes. Nor yet am I unmindful that there is much of value in the newer world, as well; indeed, my focus is increasingly on that world, even if I still attend to what it keeps of its predecessors.
Too, I understand better why there is so much resistance to enhancement and alteration of the views commonly held about the medieval as there is. Some is the already amply identified elitism that inheres in the classification of things as medieval; there are various execrable ideologies that have held sway and still do, if fortunately less now, that benefit from and have therefore propagated such classifications. They are embedded in institutions, and inertia alone would make change challenging even without the active reinforcement that still persists. Too, there is still an association of medieval/ist work with children; it is still regarded as a thing appropriate to assign to developing minds, and the things learned early tend to remain in place long. And, again, doing the work of learning is hard, and many people simply do not have the resources available to them to do it–even if they know where to find them–and even if they can get around the unfortunate discourses that often surround those who push for more authentic, nuanced, and ultimately accurate views of things.
I still celebrate, and I still work to spread better information, even if I am not as well positioned to do the latter as before. But I despair that any knowing rain can ease the drought that has seized the shared plain.