How to Celebrate “Whan That Aprille Day” (2017)

A guest posting by COURTNEY RYDEL

Cover of the Whan That Aprille Day event program at Washington College
Cover the program for “Whan That Aprille Day” celebrations last year at Washington College. Program designed by Olivia Serio (President of the Poetry Club, Washington College, class of 2017).

“Whan that Aprille Day” (the annual celebration of old, dead, and undead tongues) is rapidly approaching! Enjoy this posting by Prof. Courtney Rydel (Washington College) on ways to celebrate this occasion. – Global Chaucers co-directors

Coming at the beginning of April, National Poetry Month in the United States, “Whan That Aprille Day” is a holiday begun by the @LeVostreGC persona behind “Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog” and “Chaucer Doth Tweet” in 2014. @LeVostreGC proposed medievalists unite in our efforts to celebrate “the beauty and great loveliness of studying the words of the past. Our mission is to bring to mind the importance of supporting the scholarship and labor that brings these words to us…and the teaching of these…languages. For without all of this, the past would have no words for us” [read the full 2017 iteration of this open call at the medieval studies blog In The Middle].

In spring 2016, I curated an event on Multilingual Chaucer, gathering students and faculty from across Washington College, the small liberal arts college in Maryland where I teach.  Since then, I’ve participated in another large-scale Chaucer project that was directed towards the larger community, #MedievalBirds with ornithologist Jennie Carr, work on which is still ongoing. Currently I am planning a major Chaucerian event for spring 2018, with guest speaker Kim Zarins, that will involve collaboration with the Education department and local high school teachers.

Based on these experiences, I would like to offer some suggestions for other medievalists looking to create exciting events to celebrate “Whan That Aprille Day” on their campus.   Although the event originated with celebrating Chaucer, that context should not be limiting. “Whan That Aprille Day” has the goal of celebrating the “beauty and great loveliness” in all languages.  Any language, literature, or poetry is welcome!  In this contemporary moment when the NEA and NEH are threatened, we need to come together as humanists and poetry lovers.  The more that medievalists connect with scholars of modern languages and across disciplines, and with our larger community, the stronger we will be.

  • Celebrate the gifts and skills of your students and faculty, and show them how they connect to Chaucer. At Washington College we hosted a reading of “Multilingual Chaucer,” which included students and faculty reading poetry in languages including Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Latin, Spanish, French, Russian, German, Hindi, Old English, and Middle English.  Some readers read their favorite poems in other languages, and some read Chaucer or Chaucer translations.  The mixture of languages and diverse poems brought alive how “The Father of English Poetry” inhabited a multilingual space, and allowed us to hear the many languages of our polyglot, increasingly international campus.
  • If you’re going global, check out the fantastic Global Chaucers online archive, created by Jonathan Hsy and Candace Barrington. This resource for post-1945 global non-Anglophone translations of Chaucer offers sample texts, blog posts and scholarship on Chaucer in modern contexts, and reflections on his impact in the contemporary landscape.
  • Look to interdisciplinary and collaborative research. My biologist colleague Jennie Carr and I undertook a project on #MedievalBirds in fall 2016, in which we combined her expertise on ornithology with my research to create an interactive downtown gallery exhibit on Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls.  We involved students in creating a physical tree that branched onto the ceiling, showing how Chaucer’s categories of birds overlapped with evolutionary development, and in creating videos of students reciting passages from the Parliament of Fowls with present-day English translations in closed captioning.
  • Think about going beyond your college into the community. For Spring 2018, Washington College is planning an event that brings together high school teachers with our community to think about Chaucer in relation to the brilliant YA lit retelling of the Canterbury Tales by Kim Zarins, Sometimes We Tell the Truth. This event will give us an opportunity to bring together our LGBTQIA student groups as well as our secondary ed community with lovers of poetry and medieval studies.  Kim has graciously agreed to come and do a reading and craft talk, and the Education department is collaborating with us on a workshop with high school teachers to help them craft more in-depth lesson plans and relate Chaucer to contemporary issues.
  • Include other medievalists, faculty, and even emeritus faculty with a love of Chaucer! Our beloved emeritus faculty Bennett Lamond, who taught Chaucer for decades at Washington College starting back in 1965, read at our Multilingual Chaucer event.  He gave a hilarious, spirited reading of “To Rosamunde,” likening it to the Rolling Stones song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
  • Get students involved in their own retellings and rewritings of Chaucer. David Wallace’s undergraduate Chaucer course at the University of Pennsylvania in spring 2014 held an event in which students debuted both their own readings of Chaucer in the original Middle English as well as inspired, irreverent translations into present-day English.
  • Direct your event to increase opportunities for outreach on your campus. Are there other departments or programs with which you want to collaborate?  How can Chaucer connect to other time periods and topics?  Maybe you want to celebrate Chaucer’s influence on later art and media with your Media Studies or Art History departments.  Perhaps you want to work with your Gender Studies department on an event that looks at gender roles in Chaucer, or with Comparative Literature or Modern Languages scholars on an event that highlights translation.
  • Advertise! We had co-sponsors who also helped to publicize the event, including the Global Education Office, Department of English, Department of Modern Languages, Rose O’Neill Literary House, Poetry Club, and Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society).  Their efforts, along with our posters, tweets, and announcements, ensured a good turnout for the event.
  • Use social media for collaboration, connections and archiving. This international holiday was created and promoted through social media, so it’s important to create records, post pictures and videos, and tweet, blog or Facebook with the hashtag #WhanThatAprilleDay17 (please note the spelling).

Of course, all of these reflections come from the perspective of a medievalist working in English, who teaches Chaucer. Although “Whan That Aprille Day” started from a Chaucer parody account and remains Middle English heavy, its goal is wide and universal, and it offers possibilities for global and multilingual exchange, just as Chaucer himself makes in his poetry.  In the words of @LeVostreGC, “we hope that the connections, affinities, and joys of this made-up linguistic holiday will widely overflow their initial medieval English context.”

WATD Washington College event group photo
Readers pose for a group photo after the “Whan That Aprille Day” event at the Rose O’Neill Literary House, Washington College (2016).

Global Chaucers in UVA and DC

by CANDACE BARRINGTON and JONATHAN HSY

The Global Chaucers co-directors are currently in UVA! We’ll be appearing at the Scholars’ Lab on Thursday to discuss “Digital Hospitality” and the Medieval Colloquium on Friday for a workshop on “Linguistic and Cultural Hospitality.” More than ever, we are hoping this project can create a more empathetic, culturally aware, and interconnected world.

We the co-directors also proud to be taking part in an interdisciplinary symposium on Saturday organized by the GW Digital Humanities Institute at George Washington University (Washington, DC) on Saturday entitled “Global Chaucer and Shakespeare in a Digital World.” Visit the symposium website for full information [and note the informational flyer below]. The symposium features José Francisco Botelho (Brazilian translator of both Chaucer and Shakespeare) among many other exciting folks! The conference in DC is FREE and open to the public.

After the DC event, Botelho will continue on to Connecticut for a conversation about his Contos da Cantuária.

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Article: Miller’s Tale and Chinese Culture

by JONATHAN HSY

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Collage of images: English gentleman (early modern printed text), a Confucian scholar (modern drawing), and examples of ancient Chinese seal script. [original image here]

Several blog postings relating to Chaucer in Chinese contexts have appeared on this blog (see here, here, and here), and we are happy to draw attention to another resource:

Xiaolei Sun (孙晓蕾), a doctoral student at Shanghai International Studies University (and currently a visiting scholar at the University of Leeds), recently discovered this blog and kindly informed us of her article “When Fabliau Humour in Chaucer’s The Miller’s Prologue and Tale meets Chinese Translation and Culture,” published in the White Rose College of Arts & Sciences Journal (Universities of Leeds, Sheffield & York, 18 May 2016).

You can read the article online or download it as a PDF.

Beyond the Anglophone Inner Circle of Chaucer Studies [cross posting]

by JONATHAN HSY

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Outdoor portrait of Candace Barrington (2016).

Just posted today at the In The Middle blog: a timely, topical piece by Candace Barrington (co-director of Global Chaucers) on the importance of moving Chaucer Studies beyond the “Anglophone Inner Circle.” (Her posting is part of series of papers originally presented at a session organized by Jeffrey J. Cohen at the New Chaucer Society Congress held in London in July 2016.)

To read this posting (and more context for the NCS session), visit the In The Middle blog.

Global Chaucers events today (NCS London 2016)

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For people in London attending the 2016 Congress of the New Chaucer Society at Queen Mary: Two Global Chaucers events today!

[Open for NCS Delegates]
Roundtable: Translating Global Chaucers
NCS session 6G, People’s Palace 1 (Thread: Uses of the Medieval)
Wednesdy 13 July, 9-10:30am
Twitter hashtags: #NCS16 #s6g #globalchaucers

Organizer and Chair: Candace Barrington, Central Connecticut State University

1. Stephanie Downes, University of Melbourne, “Vilains mots! Nineteenth-Century French Translations of the Canterbury Tales”

2. Marcin Ciura, Independent Translator, “In the Margins of the Polish Parlement of Foules”

3. Züleyha Çetiner-Ōktem, Ege University, “Reinventing Chaucer’s Sir Thopas from a Turkish Perspective”

4. Denise Ming-yueh Wang, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan, “When Global Chaucers Go Local: Reading Chaucer in Taiwan”

[Public Event]
Herkne and Rede: Poetry Reading by Patience Agbabi
Arts 2 Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Campus
Wednesday 13 July, 8-9pm

Convener: Candace Barrington, Central Connecticut State University

Patience Agbabi is former Poet Laureate of Canterbury. Telling Tales (Canongate, 2014), in which she disperses Chaucerian narratives in present-day multiethnic London, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. Her work appears also in the anthology The Refugee Tales (Comma Press, 2016). She will  deliver an interactive reading “Herkne and Rede” that explores poetry performance as dynamic adaptation.

Refugee Tales: ebook available now!

by JONATHAN HSY

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Cover of Refugee Tales (forthcoming from Comma Press, 2016).

Refugee Tales is now available for purchase as an e-book (or pre-order a hard copy)!

This collection includes the contributions by Patience Agbabi (former Poet Laureate of Canterbury and author of Chaucerian remix Telling Tales), as well as other artists and storytellers from varied backgrounds. (We’ve mentioned Agbabi’s work throughout various blog posts, and you can read more about the “Refugee Tales” project here; see also my related posting on the global refugee crisis at In The Middle.)

Refugee Tales is a multi-voiced collection that conveys “the frighteningly common experiences of Europe’s new underclass – its refugees. … Presenting their accounts anonymously, as modern day counterparts to the pilgrims’ stories in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, this book offers rare, intimate glimpses into otherwise untold suffering” (read more on the Comma Press website).

I’ve already acquired the e-book and can already say that the poetry and stories in this book are at once beautiful, provocative, and moving.

Note all profits from this book go to the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Help for Refugees.

Note there are many events happening in July 2016 (before and throughout the New Chaucer Society Congress in London) relating to the Refugee Tales project; see event listing here (note the forum and various scheduled legs of the walk, a “reverse” pilgrimage along the route from Canterbury to Westminster).

Upcoming events of interest:

Friday, 8 July 2016: Presentations from Refugee Tales at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Ali Smith,”The Detainees Tale”; David Herd, “The Prologue;” and Patience Agbabi, “The Refugee’s Tale.” [Book tickets here – SOLD OUT as of 10 June]

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: Reading by Patience Agbabi coinciding with the New Chaucer Society Congress in London; she will deliver an interactive reading entitled “Herkne and Rede” drawing from Telling Tales that explores poetry performance as dynamic adaptation. [This is a public event. Scroll to the end of this schedule; more info will be forthcoming on this blog]

A New Look and Updates!

By JONATHAN HSY

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If you’ve visited recently, you may have noticed a few changes to the Global Chaucers website. We’re trying out a new look at the moment, but all the web content remains the same. The master list of modern Chaucer translations and adaptations (last updated in February 2015) has just now been updated with the addition of a hundred new items.

Newly identified items have been added for the following countries/languages:

Argentina/Spanish
Australia/English
Belgium/Dutch
Belgium/French
Canada/English
Colombia/Spanish
Czech Republic/Czech [incl. former Czechoslovakia]
Eritrea/English
Finland/Finnish
France/French
Germany/German
Hungary/Hungarian
India/English
India/Hindi
India/Tamil
Italy/Italian
Japan/Japanese
Mexico/Spanish
Netherlands/Dutch
Netherlands/Frisian
Romania/Romanian
Russia/Russian
South Africa/Afrikaans
South Korea/Korean
Spain/Catalan
Spain/Spanish (Castilian)
Sweden/Swedish
Turkey/Turkish
United Kingdom: England/English
United Kingdom: Scotland/Scots
United States/English

Feel free to consult the master list and if you notice any errors or are able to provide any of the missing information, please let us know!