And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

tirsdag 26. januar 2016

Back to the beginning, in a way

Five years ago this month I arrived in York as an exchange student to spend a term at the University of York as part of my MA degree. I was very excited about this, both because by that time I was already deeply in love with York, but also because the road there had passed through a lengthy and detailed bureaucratic process in which there were enough uncertainties to make me think at some point whether it was all worth the trouble. Fortunately, the two administrative secretaries at the York Centre for Medieval Studies were very capable ladies and guided me through the process successfully.

This year I'm back in York as an exchange student, spending a term at the University of York as part of my PhD thesis. I have been looking forward to this for quite some time, especially since this possibility was partly why I decided to do my PhD at the Centre for Medieval Literature, which is a cooperative enterprise by the University of York and the University of Southern Denmark. I'm excited to be back, and although I've spent most of my time at the work space I've been allotted on campus, I've spent enough time walking about the town to see what has change and to appreciate what is pretty much as it was back when I first came to study.

With this short blogpost I'm going back to the beginning of things, in a way. I started this blog five years ago this month, and when I started my posts were mainly updates of what I was doing and things I had seen on my many wanderings in town or on short trips to various places, such as Whitby, Edinburgh and Durham. My emphasis back then was to share with my friends those things great or small which interested me, fascinated me or which simply were there, like some snowdrops in churchyards. I thought of this blog as a way to share things that were relevant to my time in England, and this is reflected both in the name, in the brief description of the blog and the quotations in the margins which I still have kept. The blog has come a long way since then, and so have I. To some extent, there is still a strong presence of the kind of everyday minutiae which draw my attention from time to time, but my emphasis now is on the academic side of things. Most of my blogposts now are concerned with my work, and I spend more time doing research for the things I post now than I did five years ago, although even back then I had embraced the importance of research.

In the present blogpost I return to the beginning of things since I now allow myself the kind of personal reflection which marked some of my earlier writings, and in a way it feels right to do so five years later. I do this kind of thing less now, in part because I think there are much more interesting things to talk about than myself, but also because I have gained a much wider audience in these five years, an audience which is here predominantly for the academic stuff.

I'm very happy to have this blog as an outlet for my many fascinations and my sundry experiences in research and in life outside it (if such a thing can exist for a medievalist). I try to maintain a balance between academic and accessible, and also between academic and non-academic material, such as poetry, music or nature, and this allows me to tie together elements in my spectrum of interests which lie relatively far apart. All this, of course, hopefully without becoming too careless about the question of audience.

I have changed a great deal in these past five years, and things have changed a great deal for me in many ways, and this blog, too, has undergone some changes although these changes have been primarily additions rather than alterations. It's nice to look back at those five years, thinking of what I've done, what I've achieved, what I have yet to achieve, and of course there are many things I wish I would have known back then which I know now. Many things have changed, but at the core this blog remains a mixture of personal and academic journalism, and although the balance between those two has shifted, I'm happy to think that the blog is only improved, not markedly altered since I first began writing it five years ago.

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