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On meeting the Chaucer Blogger, or, The Academic's Fan's Tale

On meeting the Chaucer Blogger, or, The Academic's Fan's Tale

 <-- {The Chaucer Blogger at work}

What would it do to your research if you were a very dedicated fan of your topic or field? If you loved it enough (or, conversely, were sick, tired, depressed, or angry enough) to make an entire, but separate, body of work dedicated to your field of research? I suppose these questions all apply to the pseudonymous academic wordpresses, but I'm talking about the Chaucer Blogger, LeVostreGC, whose posts on The Da Vinci Code, the MLA, and Serpentes on a Shippe have brought light to my research-fogged days since 2006. But while LeVostreGC became internet-famous among certain sets of fans, who delighted in his Lines of Pick-Uppe and sighed through his tragic romance with the Pearl Poet, the blogger's identity remained a well-guarded secret until last year's big reveal.  So when UC Riverside's Critical Digital Humanities group put up an advert for the Chaucer Blogger's appearance on campus, I jumped at the chance to meet hir, and perhaps even get hir inscriptioun in myn booke.

Brantley Bryant is a mild-mannered, sandy-haired scholar who pushes his glasses up to read from his laptop, narrating the birth of the Chaucer Blogger with professorial aplomb. His carefully textured tale is a fascinating one, twining LeVostreGC's emergence from Friendster to Blogger, across a tightly-friendslocked Livejournal, from within an equally tight-locked academic fastness, where laborious research produced tightly-knit writing, but squeezed out any sense of play in the process of creation. The long ABD process, filled with dense historical research and primary documents, alchemised a whimsical acceptance of Friendster's blog creating functions and transmuted into a lively recounting of deliberately heterotemporal phenomena, in which Margerye Kempe could not only go to the MLA, but blog her interview in a variant of Middle English. Bryant accounted for that mixing of or floating across time with the title of his blog: Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog, where "hath" and "blog" could both exist and question each other. The phenomenon of a blog in Middle English quickly spread across certain circuits of internet wordlovers, coming to rest in the happy coextension between lit-nerds, lovers of gentle social satire, and an entire, fast-growing community of digital medievalists all finding each other online. 

So far, I had followed his narratives with eager interest (fan since 2006, yes?), but as he spoke, I also began to recognise one of my own scholarly preoccupations being reflected back at me: how to balance the scholarly academic work of rigorous critique with the playful project digitally embodied in the voice of LeVostreGC? In other words, how to get the enthusiastic creative response of fandom into the same conversation as the analytic critical stances of more modern academe? Because, of course, in the times of the historical Chaucer, scholarly productivity and authorial belonging were quite different artifacts, or so I've been told. But that moment of seeming irreconcilability emerged to haunt the entire presentation for me, an indication that although its digital versions may proliferate online, fandom has been a big thinky theory thing for upwards of a millenium. Digital humanists, how do you deal with the enthusiasm-analysis continuum?  Digital classicists, I know you're not surprised! Digital medievalists, is it true in your work that certain medieval paradigms could be very useful for thinking digital media? And aca-fans, fandom academics, academics of fandoms -- what do you make of this playful creative impulse within your own professional work? 


1 comment


Thank you for posting this -- I know I am responding quite late, but have just joined HASTAC. I remember seeing this blog, but had almost forgotten about it. The chaucer blog seems to me part of an ongoing cultural merger between play and work, games and serious strategic problem-solving. The blog ingeniously provides its user with an opportunity to practice and explore Middle English voice and prose, while simultaneously educating readers in an entertaining way about discourse of the past. Thanks again!