Hail, friends and fellows. God grant ye good evening and preserve ye. I pray ye each take a seat by the hearth and allow your gentle host to introduce himself.
Welcome to my MA blog, tentatively entitled Graved Under Mold. My name is Robbie Lyons and I wrapped up my BA in English at UCC in 2021, in the latter days of the Plague Years. Deciding to undertake the next step and have a shot at an MA was the easy, natural thing. Choosing one was considerably more difficult.
In my own time I’m a great lover of horror and weird fiction, to say nothing of noir, mystery and science-fiction. None of these highly-derived genres, easily digestible to the modern reader, can be readily traced in older works of literature without some significant spadework being put in. Even modern genres that do find easy parallels in the distant past have snares to entrap the careless reader; After all, Medieval literature is full of romance as we know it yet the word meant something wholly different to contemporary readers.
An MA studying works closer to our own time period, or even the timeless freedom of a Creative Writing course, would therefore seem like an easier path towards the ghosts and demons I’m so prone to chase after in my daily reading. And yet, I shot for OMR. The reason why is simple enough: besides a general interest in history, I’m fascinated by these older texts as the forerunners of all the literature, or even media generally, we hold dear today. There is no Lion King without Hamlet, and there is no Hamlet without Amleth. The collective body of human imagination in the form of history and folklore is crystallised and given a sharper focus by the literature that survives of our earlier ancestors.
I’ve chosen the name Graved Under Mold, a quotation from Harley 2253’s “Debate Between Body and Soul”, as it is indicative both of my fascination with the layer of buried influence that lies beneath our modern stories and of a more specific interest in how humanity’s relationship with the natural world has been paralleled in our art. To us today, nature is something beautiful and delicate, dangerous to the individual but under threat from a collective humanity whose burgeoning numbers and hungry cities threaten to overwhelm it completely. By contrast, a medieval author would have balked at the idea that any creation of God’s could be threatened by mortal men. To the medieval traveller, Nature was a deadly threat and one that would inevitably claim the body of all things that live, to be “graved under mold” while the worms eat from our chins.
This changing dynamic between Medieval humanity and nature is fascinating, and finds its most powerful modern-day influence in the prevalence of dragons in modern fantasy literature. But here I will restrain myself, for now. This introduction must not become too long, after all.
My next few uploads will be entries tentatively written during the first two weeks of the course, when we had not yet been given clearer instructions for our blog. I’ll be uploading them after a little editing to bring them closer to what I’d like here.
I will meet you all up ahead. The road be kind to ye.
Fein, Susanna Greer, et al. The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript, Volume 2 (Teams Middle English Texts). UK ed., Medieval Institute Publications, 2014, Teams Middle English Text Series, https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/publication/fein-harley2253-volume-2 [Accessed 9th October 2020]