And so another semester ends, final assessments are submitted and the long summer stretches out ahead of me with all its empty hours and plans to fill them. Yet I can’t help but feel a certain sadness at the prospect, as this has been, without doubt, my most rewarding semester so far. Studying full time was more than a lifestyle change, granting me the time in which to explore material in depth and to read around the topics that intrigue me. I’ve been able to attend public lectures on viking burial sites, Queen Christina of Sweden and melancholy and the mind sciences, all of which have helped to fill in gaps in my understanding or allowed me to draw connections between the material covered in class and contemporary research.
Attending the PMRG conference in September gave me a glimpse into the realm of postgraduate research, both inspiring and intimidating in the quality of the papers presented. The conference contributed to what has been my most significant realisation over the past three months; the value of interdisciplinary studies. It is tragic that I have only come to appreciate this at a time when my university is acting to remove interdisciplinary courses from the prospectus. I’m fortunate, in that I will be able to complete my major, but saddened that future students will not be able to enroll in Medieval and Early Modern studies (MEMS.) Since reading Sir Orfeo in my first year as an undergrad I’ve been fascinated by medieval culture and feel the subject deserves far more than a unit or two under English and History to do it justice. The brilliant and passionate students I have met through this shared interest will be a great loss to the institution when they leave to pursue postgraduate studies elsewhere.
Another highlight of this semester has been having the time to socialise between classes and meet new people who share my academic interests. I have found, without exception, that everyone studying MEMS has an avid enthusiasm for the subject and many explore their interest creatively through writing, art, theatre or living history. This desire, to not only study but experience the period on some level, is part of what drew me to MEMS and to meet so many kindred spirits is the best sort of encouragement. I’m deeply grateful for the long conversations, shared ideas and book recommendations!
I’ve been very fortunate to be able to focus on my own research interests through my assessments this semester and to discover new sources that have changed my understanding of those topics. I’ve always been drawn to folklore, but thought of it mostly as a discipline that began in the 19th century, however through researching early modern healing practices I encountered Martin Martin who collected folklore from the western islands of Scotland in the late 17th century, a source I know I will be returning to in the future. Likewise, I was introduced to medieval folklore through the legends of Virgil the Magician, on which I wrote an essay and a 10,000 word short story. Through this topic I was also able to indulge my fascination with medieval occult texts and pour over the pages of the beautiful Ars notoria, sive Flores aurei.
Over the next few weeks I will be finishing the last few assignments, sitting what will hopefully be my last ever exam and preparing my application for exchange in the second half of next year. Then I can look forward to reading all those books I’ve borrowed from the library, writing without the pressure of assessment and planning for 2016.