As we wrap up this semester, I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learned in this class, since I’ve had more fun and amassed more research skills with this course than any other I’ve ever taken. Besides a profound appreciation for the fantastic people in class with me every week (you guys are amazing!), I think I’ve grown as an historian in 3 different ways.
(1) Confidence in my own ability to ask and answer meaningful questions
Whenever a past tutor asked me to question the articles we read, I felt as though I was ill-qualified to judge the work of professional historians and that I would always come to the wrong (or least imaginative) conclusion. Under our lovely tutors, however, I felt much more able to question the assumptions of the authors we read (except of course Patricia Clavin). I am better able to identify bias in the articles I choose, and I am less afraid to take chances in my own interpretations.
(2) Comfort working with primary sources
This research project has forced me to work with sources that are more nuanced and to some extent less accessible than the translated medieval texts I’m used to. I’ve watched hours of interviews and spent entire days listening to religious chants; it has certainly been immersive, and as a result I feel a more personal connection to this work than to the standard coursework that we do for other modules. Since I was able to sort the sources myself, I get to play around with my own authorial bias and sort out the aspects of writing history that appeal most to me. Basically, the freedom to wade through historical sources at my leisure has reinvigorated my passion for the past, and I cannot thank this course, my classmates and our tutors enough for that.
(3) Appreciation for collaboration
Full disclosure: I used to dread group projects, so I was incredibly wary about the pair-writing exercises. Yet they ended up being some of the best work I feel I’ve done thus far. Special thanks must go to Rachael for forcing me to stay on topic and write a specific thesis; I am a rambler, but she kept me on the straight and narrow. Along the same vein, receiving feedback from classmates can sometimes be, at best, useless and, at worst, dismissive or overly harsh. Yet we never had to fear that in this class; everyone was so keen to support each other, and the constructive criticism I received helped me refine my process in ways that I know I could not have done without the objective evaluation of our class.
This module has given me so much, and I hope I’ve contributed to my classmates’ experiences as well. It has been an enjoyable, sometimes confusing, mostly amazing ride this semester, and I am so excited to hear about everyone’s final project. I hope you guys are proud of yourselves, because we’ve done incredible work. To our fourth years, I hope this was a great way to end your last year. To my fellow third years, I hope we can chat, chuckle and collaborate next year as well! To our marvelous tutors, thank you so much for everything you’ve given us.