The last couple of weeks in our class have caught me largely off-guard. I knew going into this class with little digital or medieval knowledge that aspects of it were going to prove to be difficult for me. However, I largely underestimated just how challenging it would turn out to be. I even had to postpone my trip to Montreal over reading week to focus on preparation for leading my seminar (despite being on campus for more than twelve hours everyday working on it leading up to the day I was supposed to leave). In this blog post, I will highlight some things I am struggling with in the course, as well as sharing some aspects that I am thoroughly enjoying. Hopefully I am not the only one sharing some of these struggles.
I will start off on a more positive note with something in our course that particularly sparked my interest. Those of you who were in my seminar will most likely be familiar with the fact that I was very interested in the medieval pecia system. This is a system in which universities rent out piece, or copies of textbooks, to allow students to write their own notes to study from. These notes are called pecia. Our text mentions these copies were later returned or the students incurred a fine. As many of you know, I work in the Carleton library and this system particularly sparked my interest due to the many similarities it shares with the reserve service we offer. Professors can request material to be put on reserves for students to rent for short periods of time to study and take notes from. If the material is not returned by the end of the time allotted, the student receives a fine on their account. Though hundreds of years later, the fact that we still have a similar system in place in our own library interests me very much. The pecia system is definitely something, when time allows me to, I would like to do some further research on.
Something that I have found particularly frustrating thus far is the digital tools we are downloading and working on each week. Our professor (thankfully) gives very straightforward step-by-step guides to navigating through these processes. One would think this would make the process simple, but I still somehow find a way to make mistakes. This can normally be fixed by watching many YouTube tutorials on how to use the programs and eventually figuring out how to do the simple task that was assigned originally. However, this normally takes me much longer than it should have taken.
I also struggled with transcribing the first couple of lines of my manuscript. Even though I was leading the seminar on paleography and had read about the different practices in medieval writing, I still could not decipher the letters in my manuscript. This was particularly frustrating to me due to the fact that my letters had initially appeared to be relatively clearly written. I had checked out a Latin-English dictionary in hopes of deciphering the first two letters and then looking to see if any words in that section were close to my manuscript. This proved to be a largely ineffective process that was very time consuming and I do not recommend it to any of you. In class when Marc mentioned that medieval Latin is a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to spelling, everything made a little more sense.
I can go on for much longer about how difficult I found it to prepare for my seminar and how time consuming it is, but I touched largely on that in my last blog post which details some struggles I encountered in my preparations. So, I will choose to end this project update here. However, if any of you have any questions about preparing to lead your seminar that I did not touch on, I am more than happy to talk with you (as are your other peers who have led seminars, I am sure).
See you all in class!