by cheri block
The last time I visited the stacks at a university library, I believe Judge Blah stole a kiss from me somewhere between The Scarlet Letter and The Marble Faun.
Over thirty years have passed since that kiss and that research, but I am back at it (the research, that is).
Until this quarter, all of our writing assignments have been about the the works we were reading. In some cases, I have shared my literary thoughts here–and you have on occasion, weighed in–helping me to formulate my thoughts by challenging my ideas. You have provided paragraphs of historical information and interpretation better than any online periodical. Thank you to Zeus, Man of Roma, Richard, and Andreas Kluth.
I wrote on many topics last year–from the Hebrew Bible’s God as CEO to Sophocles’ hysterical Antigone paired with Virgil’s misinformed Dido. I made some Freudian interpretations about King Beowulf and his dragon and then praised Chaucer’s saucy Wife of Bath. In the spring I made a hash of Austen’s odd couple, the Palmers, and finished my academic year with a lower scoring essay on Nietzsche’s use of metaphor in his Preface in On the Genealogy of Morality.
This year my essays have been about Euripides’ The Trojan Women and Shakespeare’s King Henry V. Writing about such amazing works of literature has been a humbling blast of ancient wind that has knocked me flat on my face, at times.
My latest assignment is a research paper. To the stacks I must go.
With ten library call numbers on a Post-It Note and a yellow legal tablet under my arm, I took the stairs down to the basement of the Green Library and headed to military history. Down in the stacks I found books on the Normans, on Medieval Warhorses, on the Byzantine and Muslim horsemen, on horse transport in the Medieval Mediterranean, and on the Bayeux Tapestry. When I leave the stacks, three hours later, my book bag is so heavy that I need a pack animal to carry 12 books out to my car.
My adventure has begun.
I am researching and reading about William the Conqueror’s amazing 70 mile crossing of the English Channel with, what most historians seem to agree, were about 2500-3000 stallions loaded on boats that were probably of Viking design.
For those of you who might not remember or be interested in the Battle of Hastings, please keep reading! This story is one of the grabbers (as we say in junior high writing instruction) of all grabbers. William, grossly unhappy about Harold’s ascension to the English crown after the death of the childless Edward, decides to attack England and seize his rightful throne. In approximately 7-9 months, he assembled over 700 ships, outfitted them with supplies, and left in the night for the journey to England. He did this after loading the stallions–not geldings or mares–onto these boats.
The story of Harold of England and William of Normandy and all their angst is told in the amazing Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidery about 224 feet long that miraculously has survived since 1077 or thereabouts and is now housed in Bayeux, France. I am looking at each panel and thread in my search for a thesis.
If William can logistically take so many stallions by small boat to England, I can develop a working thesis. I hope. The prospectus is due Monday at 5:00 pm.