(This is less an announcement and more of a memory post. I published this post about a year ago on my old medieval research blog, and obviously, I had big plans that I didn’t pursue. But, I am re-publishing it here because I may revisit these posts sometime soon; if this is the case, I would continue with this investigation where I left off. So, I have taken to placing them here for that potential future moment.)

During the past few days, I have embarked upon a new and grand project (yes… another one). This effort will do great things for my self-education, namely, concerning the (self-)teaching of Middle English. Can I do it? Can I last longer here, in Middle English, than I did during my cursory attempt to learn Old English? I think so.

The outline I have is the following: learn, via an introduction or two, the basics of Middle English. Once I’ve learnt enough to build a foundation, then I will start on the investigation proper– i.e., a meticulous, line by line reading of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English; but, it doesn’t stop there, as the reading is not merely a close reading of the original medieval text, but a comparison with an ever increasing library of modern translations.

Why?

Simple: to slowly read, pronounce, and understand a medieval text is one thing, but to examine those translations while comparing and contrasting each translation as you riddle out your own hypothetical translation, is another matter altogether. When such literary habit becomes normalized you learn: it may be a bit repetitive, to study a short passage, then ponder how translators arrived at the translations in which they did, but it is a modus operandi which will result in a tangible academic reward– learning Chaucer’s Middle English.

What I am relying here is a combination of rote memorization– as seen through the brute repetitions of looking up words in my dictionary, sounding them out phonetically, and understanding how the sentence works– and creative application: that is where the various modern translated editions come in as one cannot see the contrast between Modern English and Middle English without examining the difference in how translators work and meditating on how they arrived at the word choices that they did. So, although a rote creativity sounds like a bit of academic hyperbole, it is actually a fusion which I expect will help me gain a mastery of Chaucer’s tongue if I ‘stick it out’ and don’t give up.

I’m calling the undertaking a “Chaucerian Investigation.”

I expect that I will be going at a snail’s pace at first. I will likely have to adjust the amount of labor I’ll need to put in each day… I even suspect that I will need to learn and take a break once in a while. I realize that it will be a constant work in progress and something that will take a while to fully grasp. Even so… I know that it is something I can do if I put my mind to it; after all, if I expect to get a scholarship to a good graduate school, then I am going to need to learn if I am to be a competitive candidate.

Above all, I know that this is something that will take a long time, even once my skills improve and I am able to hop along like an energetic bunny. But hey, that’s evolution for you (sorta!), and I am never one to shy away from science.

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