Annual review

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It’s that time of year when I struggle. I’m a failure, I fear failing others (or rather, being a failure to them), and while I’m a tardy disaster at the best of times I become a disastrous tardigrader. There’s exams and marking and catching up with marking on which I’m invariably calamitously behind and marking exams and marking final projects; and the problem is that my students are good and write well, for many of them their exam writing is the best they’ve done all term, they’ve pulled out all the stops; and then the other problem is that in one course (experimental, new, innovative, etc.) the students have been brilliant and produced (and made, shaped, reconfigured, conceptualised) wonderful creative and critical work. Which needs time, and attention, and slow focus. (Also, it’s enjoyable and I want to selfishly savour it.)

This is another way of saying: I hate marking, and I’m bad at it, and go about it badly, and am generally a Bad Prof.


It’s also the time of year when allergies strike. This year has been pretty good, actually. Comparatively. Less consumption of soporific antihistamines than usual. And it’s now been two or three years since skin disasters put me in hospital. (Explanation: I have Ginger Skin: fragile, flammable, inflammable. “Fiery” and “passionate” in the proper actual senses of both words.) I’ve been more conscientious about getting at least eight hours’ sleep, without which I fall ill, and I’d like to think that healthy living is to blame. I have, however, got the seasonal other pains: fingers, hands, and the wrist and shoulder of my writing arm; and earlier today my old upper ribs & neck injury started to return to life. Back to the old physiotherapist exercises from a few years back, then. And anxiety, and more nail-biting and finger-gnawing than the baseline normal / usual / bad-habitual. Grimness all round with gruesome hands.

So. I don’t feel great, and I feel down about marking and how my marking marks me as a failure.

I’m not very good at talking about this sort of thing, though. The fragile human stuff. I’ll faff about, and flap and fluster and bluster; try to remain calm and clever, but be flippant and facetious, north-west-European-ly sarcastic rather than elegantly nobly sardonic. And clunky and lumpy. My colleague Lucia Lorenzi is the absolute best: epic and lyrical. I encourage you to read her. Here, for example, is the start of an excellent thread:

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It’s colleagues like Lucia, and online scholarly community, that have helped me through this last month. And the previous ones. I am grateful: human fellowship, collegiality, and kindness are a simple everyday wonder.

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Book of hours, Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, MS W.427 f. 25v

I have, as long-term readers of this blog know, a love-hate relationship with the end of year review and annual report, which are also features of this season. I’ve taken to posting them online too, because… well, why not? I work at a public institution, some of my salary is paid through public taxes, and it is therefore surely in the public interest for me to try to show that I’ve tried to do (and maybe even done) something in the past year for the public good. So here I am, as a full-time unit of value-adding productivity:

  • CV in my employers’ format (includes an Easter Egg: in the form of RELEVANT CHOCOLATE (which really ought to be a category on any annual report form) (hey, how about “WELLBEING INNOVATION”?))
  • faculty profile page: though subject to a template and to institutional control, we are left very free in our own self-description; I am fortunate that in many respects such as this one my workplace is a human/e and comparatively liberal one (in the old-fashioned pre-neoliberalist sense of the word, “for free people”)
  • annual report (1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017): posted publicly here as it/I ought to be transparent and accountable


Notwhilstanding my failsomeness, I seem to have produced a lot of words over the last year, and all of them have been free and open and public. Many of them are on here, and there are more on Twitter. That intellectual work—scholarly, commentating, critical—increasingly incorporates images because I’ve been working with manuscripts and comics / bande dessinée, bringing together teaching and my own research, as integrated learning. This is something interesting, and I hope it develops. (I feel like “it” is doing the work, I don’t feel in control of this… thing… though I feel tired when something has come into existence after The Thing has done its Thing.)


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Book non-title of the year: oh, to be variously described as “An Illustrated Yorkshire Carthusian Religious Miscellany / A Spiritual Encyclopaedia / a collection of Middle English religious verse.” British Library Add MS 37049


Two new courses:

  • MDVL 301A “The Liberal Arts”: a complete new course, with open access materials online:
  • FREN 336 “Qu’est-ce que la bande dessinée?”: a complete new course, online (some materials are password-protected and only accessible to course participants):
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The “anti-exam” is another innovation that I ought to write up properly at some point in this current Responsible Accountable Compliant Professional Reporting Cycle


Publication Record



  1. “Early Science Fiction (A Medievalist on the Chemical Wedding)“ (May 2016):
    by invitation at How Did We Get Into This Mess: David M. Perry on Language and Power; a short version of “On Early Science Fiction / SF.”



Experimentation with the literary forms of essay, commentary, and other varieties of critical creative non-fiction. Blogged as free, open-access, online publication; some of the following may be submitted in alternative forms to free open online journals at a later date: online longer-form writing mainly (for public / UBC purposes) at Sample longer-form writing from the reporting period:

  1. (April 2016) “On applied medievalism and being more like whales”
  2. “#marking”
  3. “Credo for universal lifelong higher education (1)”
  4. (May 2016) “Credo (2)”
  5. Flamenca at #kzoo2016: an introduction to international medieval congress”
  6. Flamenca at #kzoo2016 (2): notes from roundtable and tidied fuller version of talk”
  7. “On early science fiction / SF”
  8. “On kindness, curiosity, and worrying”
  9. (June 2016): “Constructing and deconstructing a medieval joke” (1) and (2)
  10. (July 2016) “On matters that matter (4): what next?”
  11. “Occitan lyric poetry as defence against the dark arts”
  12. “#femfog avant la lettre, #fembuée, and #femflow”
  13. (August 2016) “50 years ago: philology, decolonisation, deconstruction”
  14. “Work in progress: rereading / #medievaltwitter #seriousacademic kindness”
  15. “Medievalising modern French and hope”
  16. (September 2016) “The Rules (2016)” and its appendix
  17. “Of field-work and marriage”
  18. (October 2016) “Being in time, in images and imagination”
  19. (January 2017) “Experimental medievalist teaching: a talk for the UBC Early Romance Studies Research Cluster about MDVL 301A”: part 1 and part 2
  20. “Teaching the Roman de la Rose in hyper-really allegorical times: apocalypse now”
  21. Le Roman de la Rose: fear, danger, and walls vs. #bridgesnotwalls #nowallsnoban #lovetrumpshate”
  22. (February 2017) “Marsupilami est génial et Franquin fut un génie”
  23. “Qu’est-ce que le commentaire ?”
  24. (March 2017) “Literary warm-up exercise for stretching imaginative muscles / un exercice d’échauffement littéraire : l’imagination au pouvoir”
  25. “#innovation – #MakePhilologyGreatAgain”
  26. “Academic working conditions: peace, harmony, and goodwill to all”

And the next accounting year has started already:

  1. (April 2016) “FREN 336 : semaine 13 ‘méta’ – au-delà de la bande dessinée”
  2. “Consent culture, compliance culture, and hypocrisy”

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