Saturday, March 16, 2013

Going Medieval, Minding the Store

Part of the joy of working at a smaller liberal arts college is the constant variation of tasks that one must do to move a program forward. The variety ensures that one does not bore quickly. On the other hand, part of the frustration of working at a smaller liberal arts college is the constant variation of tasks that one must do to move a program forward. It seems that the ever-changing tasks may also prevent one from focusing in on a promising and interesting research topic.

I suppose the later is a good explanation for why I have not actively been posting to my research blog. I have been working with a bright undergraduate on a SURE project, which I am happy to report has been approved, and we now have our sights set on a Lumen Prize, the deadline for which is this coming Wednesday. In a way, the distraction has been pleasant as it brings me back to my original research roots as a medievalist; frustrating in that I have put my 3D-DGBL development on hold. Here is a brief explanation of what we will be doing on our SURE project:
The research project applies theory derived from art history, gender studies, and medieval German studies towards the construction of an interpretive framework for analyzing bridal imagery and metaphor in Mechthild of Magdeburg's mystical treatise, Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (“The Flowing Light of the Godhead”), the first autobiographical text written by a woman in a medieval German dialect. To situate this unique text within the broader social and cultural contexts of the German High Middle Ages, we will rely on theories of gender performativity as defined by Judith Butler to guide her reading of an influential medieval German lawbook, Der Sachsenspiegel (“The Mirror of the Saxons”). Looking specifically at passages in extant manuscripts of this text dealing with matrimony, inheritance, and property rights as they relate to brides and married women, we will read the stylized gestures and positioning of the illuminated figures that accompany these passages as cultural signs indicating how the gender identity of medieval German women was constructed through public performance. Finally, by comparing the results of this analysis to passages in Das fließende Licht der Gottheit, we hope to uncover the manner in which Mechthild of Magdeburg used the figure of the bride to question, subvert, co-opt, and selectively reinforce the prescriptive gender discourses of her day. By reading Das fließende Licht der Gottheit in light of a lawbook from roughly the same time and geographical region, we seek to arrive at a deeper understanding of the mystical treatise through analysis of the material culture that was part of its original social and cultural context.
Should be a lot of fun and provide a nice change of scenery. I'm also hoping to be able to continue with some 3D model development in Blender during the time and maybe some programming in C#, just so that I don't get rusty. The truth be said, I originally wanted to create a 3D-DGBL learning environment for teaching the German Middle Ages and was in contact with the Helfta convent to get architectural plans for developing the environment. It just seemed, at the time, that software for second language acquisition would be a better place to start.
Anyway, it's been a busy few months and I'm sorry to report that I haven't had the chance to make any progress in my research. I hope you will understand. Hopefully I will have the time to get back to doing some hard programming and 3D modeling this summer. Questions? Drop me a line; I'd love to hear from you.