Geoffrey Chaucer was my gateway drug in undergrad to a love of medieval literature. I took the class on a whim, and found myself sitting under the instruction of a professor who would go on to have one of the most profound influences on my academic development. I was entranced by the beauty of Middle English, and I fell in love with the wit, depth, and thoughtfulness of the Canterbury Tales. I went on to study Old English as a language course, study the history of the linguistic development of the English language, and do an independent study translating Beowulf. Here in Oxford over the years, I have studied Anglo-Saxon literature, Medieval and Renaissance Romance, and this year decided to take the final term of my master’s degree back with Chaucer where it all began. Not only do I appreciate the poetic bookends of that choice, but after many years focusing on Old English and Anglo-Saxon literature, it’s just good to be spending time with my ole’ buddy Chaucer in Middle English. I even remember calling my time spent studying or reading for my undergrad class “dates with Chaucer”, and so now after all this time it’s nice to be picking up where we left off.
Classes in Oxford follow the tutorial structure. I have tutorials with only a few other students, and we only meet with our professor twice a week. We sit in a circle in couches in her office and talk about the reading. Each of these tutorials feels so short because there is always so much to talk about. Between classes we have the primary text to read, as well as a list of supplemental reading our professor sends out. The end result is a lot of library time.
Each of the colleges that comprise Oxford University has its own library attached to it, from which we can borrow books.
This is ours:
And he hangs out by the check-out desk: Then of course there is the Bodleian Library, which is truly a treasure. These books cannot be taken out, which means a lot of time spent there. However, who can complain when it looks like this?
This is the Radcliffe Camera, definitely one of the more famous fixtures of Oxford and one of the main library buildings. (Of which there are many)There’s even a creepy underground part called the Gladstone Link. I’m always afraid of getting squished in the wheely bookshelves, so I like to stay in the Radcliffe Camera. Pictures aren’t allowed in the reading rooms, but I took this picture of the dazzling staircase between floors.
The days are getting busier now as I am working on a 25-page paper, in addition to reading for class. Truly this is a labor of love, though, and I wish the time were not rushing by quite so fast.
One other special Chaucer moment of this summer was getting to see his tomb at Westminster Abbey. There were some tears involved, and I could (and should) write about that visit in a whole other post at some point. But I am glad at least that I got to take a little pilgrimage of my own to visit the Bard of my heart and the author that changed it all for me.