1. Why did you choose to pursue a degree in Medieval Studies now?
I’ll admit that Medieval Studies hasn’t always been the hippest area of study. True, it is unlikely that any of us will live to see the day that there is a waiting list for any undergraduate Medieval Studies courses. And yes, my field will never hold the same clout among college freshman as say West African Dance or Postcolonial Semiotics.
There’s no need to despair, though! You see, we medievalists like to think of our field as the kale of academia! Remember a few years ago when most people hadn’t even heard of kale? Or if they had they were like, “Ew what is THAT? No, under absolutely no circumstances am I adding that as a topping to our pizza!” And then overnight everyone started throwing kale into smoothies and unironically bringing kale salads to the annual employee softball party.
You know when you find a hole-in-the-wall dim-sum place where you think, “This place is either going to be really authentic or give me seriously debilitating diarrhea for the rest of the week?” Medieval Studies is that hole in the wall! It’s academia’s best kept secret and this is an truly exciting time in the field’s progression!
2. What kind of training will you receive during your Medieval Studies graduate level program?
During my studies I will have the opportunity to become fluent in and translate ancient, nearly defunct languages that have been neglected and now run the risk of being forgotten by generations to come. These languages include: Middle English, Old English, Old Norse, Old French, Old Irish, Latin.
3. So, dead languages? While your sister is learning Spanish on top of her Law School coursework in order to become a pro bono ESL tutor for at-risk youth, you’re going to be poring multiple years of your life into languages that people don’t even have conversational knowledge of anymore?
Well, uh… yeah. I guess that’s accurate.
4. Will you be able to discuss your research and coursework with friends outside of your Medieval Studies program?
A UC Berkeley study was published last year and estimates that I should be able to have meaningful conversations about my field of study with about .08% of the general population. The exciting finding from this study is that this number has risen slightly by several hundredths of a decimal in the past few years since HBO first started airing Game of Thrones!
5. What areas do students focus on in a Medieval Studies program?
Graduate students are given an amazing amount of independence to explore their interests and specialize within the growing field of Medieval Studies. Some general areas of interest include (but are not limited to!) the Mystery Cycles, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s L’Histoire des rois de Bretagne, biblical exegesis, Breton lais, the history of heraldry, royal annals and charters, the works of Chrétien de Troyes, along with the decline of inflectional morphology.
6. I consider myself to be an educated and well-read person, yet have little/no understanding of the topics listed above. I am now concerned that this field of study is more obscure than I initially imagined. Could you list more topics of study within the field of Medieval Studies?
Every scholastic field is bound to appear somewhat esoteric to those outside academia. This is a common misconception, however. I can assure you that Medieval Studies is no more “obscure,” as you put it, than Applied Mathematics or the emerging field of 18th century North American Garden Studies. All the same, with pleasure I will list off a few more examples of study within my field:
Arthurian legend, archaeology of French monasticism, kingship during the Great Schism, hagiography and Lollardy.
8. That sounds like a Teletubby character.
I think you’re probably getting confused with the yellow Teletubby, Lala. In any case, Lollardy has absolutely nothing to do with children’s television, so I’m not even sure why we’re discussing it.
9. Are you making this thing up?
No! Why would I even do that?! Countless scholars spend their entire career contributing to this field of study. In fact, several universities have expressed interest in creating separate sub-departments that focus their research almost entirely on Lollardy. Seriously, google it. There’s an entire Wikipedia page on this.
10. Do you watch Game of Thrones??! You must love Game of Thrones!
11. I was assigned to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight over the summer, but did not and will not because I would much rather spend my time watching re-runs of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Will you write my 10th grade English essay?
Since completing my degree, nearly 90% of my income is made up of requests such as yours. I’m happy to announce that I will be expanding my essay catalogue this Fall and will begin offering papers on the following: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, and “Serf’s Up, Dude: A 3 page, 7th grade Explanation of Feudalism.” Please allow 3-5 business days for essays to be completed, proof read and sent by postage.
12. What have you been up to since completing your PhD/MA in Medieval Studies?
For the past six months I have been splitting my time between a highly sought after (albeit, unpaid) social media internship and Fro-Yo World where I currently work as a Flavors and Toppings Attendant.
13. Do you have any plans this Friday? I’m going to a super cool, exclusive party and was wondering—
—I would LOVE to go!
14. You didn’t let me finish. I was wondering if you could DVR Game of Thrones for me tonight? (Because I know you’ll already be watching it alone anyway.)
See answer to #10.