MRST major reflects on their plagued 12th-century life

So I’m one of fewer than five Medieval and Renaissance Studies majors here on campus. This often leads to some weird conversations and experiences throughout my day. Wanna follow along with me and learn more about this endangered major? You might be surprised to learn that it’s not all knights in shining armor and princesses stuck in towers. I also get to learn about plagues and terrifying death rates!

My days should start before the dawn to sing Matins (the first service of the day in a Medieval Monastery), but I usually don’t end up surfacing until Terce (or 9 a.m., the third service of the day). I know, I am often a terrible medievalist! Anyhow, then it’s time for breakfast, and it is only fitting that I eat a pile of meat from a wooden board just like the Vikings. But I’m missing the salty air and plundering of villages. I spend a huge portion of each day thinking about how my life would’ve been if I had been born in the 12th century. I always assume that I would have been a part of a noble family with a majestic castle. I’d own a fancy horse and would ride it through the woods in search of adventure. However, it is much more likely that my family would have been peasants and worked the fields for some lord and lady. Also, I’m the sixth child, so there’s a good chance I would’ve been put in a monastery at a young age so my parents wouldn’t have to worry about finding someone to marry me.

Back to my current life. MRST is an interdisciplinary so I’m constantly running all over campus. But hopefully this is good training if I ever have to go fight a duel with a knight. I spend so many hours of every day reading stuff that was written at least 500 years ago—wait, usually more like 1,000 years ago. While, yes, reading primary sources is super important and informative, it also can be hilarious. Sometimes I get to read about medieval architecture plummeting to the ground because the vaults aren’t strong enough, and other times I learn about a saint who was beheaded but kept talking! Honestly, if I don’t read about at least one pope in a day, I’m concerned. Seriously, throughout the entire millennium that we study, there was so much drama going on with the papacy.

When I am not reading about the Middle Ages, I’m usually trying to sing or play some medieval or Renaissance music (I basically live in Skinner Hall). But here’s the thing: The music of these time periods is either about the church, going to war or exploring love. While I really like singing these love songs, they sometimes make my single heart sad. I don’t blame Disney for my unrealistic expectations of romance. I blame troubadours or Medieval French love poets. I just want someone to pine after me and say that, you know, the sun is dark in their eyes without me. Basically, sometimes I wish I was a beautiful medieval Scottish princess and had a bunch of handsome knights all jousting for my love.

I like to go down to the river and beat my clothes to clean them. This experience really takes me back to the 12th century, and a bonus is that my clothes then have that nice dirty river smell. It’s fun to go into a medieval literature class smelling like a real medieval peasant. I especially like debating people who are only in MRST classes to fill a requirement and are not excited about the subject! I must give off a rather scary and barbaric vibe when I tell them that the Renaissance was nothing like the Renaissance fair they visited this summer.

After a long day of medievalist sing, I wind down with mead, obviously brewed by myself, and work on battle scheming or illumination of manuscripts. There really isn’t any in-between as a medievalist—I’m either a gentle artist or a Viking warrior. So, if you see me around campus, maybe watch out? I might fight you or chew your ears off about EVERYTHING MEDIEVAL!

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