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The extremely helpful Medievalists.net recently posted this video request asking:
Why and how did you get interested in medieval history? We want to hear your stories about you discovered the Middle Ages and medieval history. We are setting up a page on Medievalists.net to post your videos and stories – you can post them here on Youtube, or on our Facebook page, or email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Since I study medieval literature, to which medieval history is merely (!) vital background, I’m not sure I’m truly invited to this party, but I’m inspired to answer for my interest in the Middle Ages.
Several elements contributed to my interest in medieval literature. I was always a reader, and I loved books and stories with medieval settings. I was good at languages. But through college and my MA program, I thought I was going to focus on modern or contemporary literature–in fact, I was planning to be a poet. Fortunately, that didn’t work out.
By the time I started my PhD, I’d read some modern historical novels that made medieval literature seem really intriguing (e.g., Dunnett, Walton, White), but I still hadn’t made up my mind between 20th century or medieval literature by the time I arrived at UNC-Chapel Hill. At this point, chance or fate (Wyrd in Anglo-Saxon) or God took a hand.
I took Old English, because we all had to (those were the days!), which introduced me not only to the language but also to several students planning to major in medieval lit. One afternoon, as I was riding home on the bus, a fellow grad student asked me what I planned to major in. I told him I hadn’t decided. He invited me to a party for medieval studies majors that weekend. The deciding factor: medievalists were kind, funny, cheerful, pleasant people. Even the moody ones weren’t mean about it. The 20th c. majors were mostly sarcastic, snarky, and morose. I foresaw a depressing future full of angst as a 20th c. major, and declared my intentions the next week.
My interest in languages and linguistics got a workout (Old and Middle English, Provencal, Old French, Latin, German, Old Irish, Middle Welsh), and I could follow the paths of the old tales back to their origins. It’s like archaeology–but less dusty. And so much, much more. Still enjoying it. Thanks, Michael Kuczynski—although I could and should thank many other people who contributed to my medieval studies, if Mike hadn’t invited me to that party, I might never have gotten to know any of them.