Saturday, March 31, 2007

T minus 5 days and counting

And today's been a pretty low key sort of a reading day. I'm finishing up the "selections" of Aelfric I'm reading -- some stuff from Catholic Homilies (more if I have time later in the week) and then parts of Lives of the Saints. It feels a little like being a kid again -- mostly because after a thousand years, much of the material still sounds the way it did in Catholic School religion classes, and during homilies at school masses.

I also found out that closing your eyes "just for a minute" while sitting on the couch sipping a frappucino usually ends in naptime. I think I've known that before. I am most definitely bearing that on gemynd.

Friend Blackcurrants had this lovely link in her most recent post, and it has made my day. May it make yours as well. I give you Dungeons and Discourse, part of my pre-oral week web comics postings. I'll try to find something funny each day and post it. Which will hopefully also keep me more sane.

The countdown continues...


Friday, March 30, 2007

And now -- it's really official!

As of yesterday at 5 pm, I have scheduled my pre-oral exams. They will take place next Friday -- April 6. Yup, Good Friday. It's my morbid Catholic streak coming through with the scheduling -- but I'm quite psyched. Had a fabulous meeting with my adviser yesterday, and am feeling much more ready. I even have an overarching method to the way I'm trying to consider these texts: Looking at ways in which intellectual genealogies are formed via the resurrection of certain themes and foci in such works as the Historia Ecclesia, de Temporibus, Cura Pastoralis, Consolation of Philosophy, Catholic Homilies of Aelfric, and so on. Much of it focuses around Alfredian postures and invocations -- but also on the rather fractured "contemporary" looks at Alfred himself.

I'm really quite pleased. And more than ready to go!

In other news, my adviser and I were talking about the sermon on the creation of the world, and wondering idly whether Milton knew Anglo-Saxon. Lo and behold, I tune into blog lines this morning and see Michael Drout's post on his completion of the OE Genesis poem for his Anglo-Saxon aloud program. And sure enough, Milton at the very least knew Anglo-Saxonists (in the form of Francis Junius).

And if you haven't subscribed to the podcast for Anglo-Saxon Aloud -- I'd highly recommend it. Such a wonderful resource to have!

In still other news, this week has been prospective student week, and I must say I am once again (as always) deeply impressed by the medieval admits here. A really great group of people, ones I would be happy to have as colleagues. I love this time of year. It's so energizing.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Stuff of Nightmares

Well, more specifically, stuff of my nightmares. When I was ... oh, I don't know, some age before I had the capacity to remember tiny details like the entire plot of a movie ... I watched this movie. I proceeded to forget everything about it. Except that there was an evil prince (somebody's brother -- I think the little girl in the movie) who lived in a bubble and turned people into walking boards, and a small unicorn into a toy.

Since a high school friend with a similarly disturbing memory had told me (nearly ten years ago now!!) that my memories were from a show called Unico, I've been trying to figure out what on earth this story was. I had good reason to be trying -- I've been having vague nightmares of a figure that looks not unlike this weirdo for as long as I can remember (though I can't remember when the last one was, to be fair). And now, finally, I have the name: Unico and the Island of Magic. I had my wires a bit crossed, which I suppose was to be expected. First of all, the evil prince in a bubble turns out to be Lord Kuruku, a former puppet who was disposed by his former owners, thrown into the sea, washed up at the "End of the World", and was then turned into a living puppet by the sun. He was, apparently, a bit bitter about being thrown away by humans.

So he turns them into "Living Puppets", who look like this:

There was a brother, who turned evil and did magic. His name was Toby, and he did look bizarre (though I'd conflated him with Lord Kuruku to get the "evil prince in a bubble" thing):

In the picture above you can also see that the board people did, in fact, go and make a wall. I thought they did. I just didn't know how.

Anyway, so finally, I've found the movie that built my nightmares. If you want to get a tad bit freaked out, follow this link to youtube, where the movie's posted -- this is the part near the end, where the little girl and Unico get magicked into toys, too.

And Unico? Well -- turns out he's not as scary as his movie, though the sheer adorability might be a little disturbing, not to mention the weird proto-Pokemon vibe (is Pokemon still big with kids?). It is, in fact, the funniest things that grab the imagination of little children. And it's even stranger to think of the things that still -- twenty four years later -- just won't let you go.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Ruskin at Princeton: or, with apologies to people who actually study what I'm talking about...

A fact about myself that has nothing to do with my scholarship (though there are days I wonder if it doesn't) -- I am an architecture snob. When I say architecture snob, however, I don't mean that I like the avant garde or the ultra modern -- what I know about modern architecture fits on the head of a pin. No, the architecture I love is the Gothic (not that I know considerably more about that, come to think of it): The vaulted ceilings, the arches, the windows -- the play of light and shadow that you only seem to notice in places where you feel so incredibly small. I like the feeling of gazing up at the impossible height of Notre Dame de Paris, of standing in the majesty of the unfinished St John the Divine and feeling, for just a moment, as though there is or could be something bigger -- something that draws the eye upward, both outside the building and within it. I love the narrow stairways and hidden doors -- the stain glass and the immensity of the towers. I love Gothic architecture precisely because it makes me feel small -- and the quiet of a church empty of worshipers, or the echo of the chants I sing with my Compline group each Sunday in the dark of a smaller church made more immense by the lowering of lights, heightens that feeling. Not because of the ceremony -- which though historically "accurate" is not a religious service for its participants -- but because the flickering candles perform the same effect of voices, prayers in the darkness -- offering a way to feel oneself in the world. And perhaps more importantly, offering a way to feel connected beyond a solitary self, whether in the relation of human form to stone or the complexity of two human voices sharing a single line of chant.

It's no wonder, then, that trips to Princeton are a treat for me, even when they aren't punctuated by engaging seminars and productive meetings (as today was). There's something about the openness of a distinctly non-urban landscape, the green of grass that doesn't end in gray pavement and the artificial interruptions of the sky by architecture that, though it doesn't "belong" here, is still a place I find familiar, a place I feel at ease. It's not quite the ease I felt a Wake Forest -- where the colonial architecture was familiar but still definitively learned. The ease I feel at a place like Princeton is the strange, imported sense of feeling connected to something I can't quite touch, something that can never really "belong" to me -- a history that my part of the world doesn't have, an architecture that never made its natural home (if human artifice can be said to have a natural place) on this side of the ocean. It's too sculpted, too planned. But at the same time, it reminds me of those fabulous lines from Ruskin's Stones of Venice, that seem to posit not the truth of a Gothic architecture or Gothic nature, but the possibility that Ruskin's very formulation seems to deny it, in the possibility for the actual embrace of change:

The vital principle is not the love of Knowledge, but the love of Change. It is that strange disquietude of the Gothic spirit that is its greatness; that restlessness of the dreaming mind, that wanders hither and thither among the niches, and flickers feverishly around the pinnacles, and frets and fades in labyrinthine knots and shadows along wall and roof, and yet is not satisfied, nor shall be satisfied

In that lovely Victorian way (and here I ought apologize to actual Victorianists -- what I know about the period fits on the head of a pin, and this is an awful generalization itself!), Ruskin seems to destroy the very thing he's trying to observe. The flattening, if it can be called that, of the "nature of the gothic spirit" into a romanticized vision of a love of change seems to make change itself static -- it becomes the signature of gothic art's progenitors, to be unsatisfied, unfulfilled, always searching. Yet the "Gothic spirit" still manages to escape Ruskin, and manages to escape me every time I find myself in a great Cathedral -- or on Princeton's campus -- and feel a sense of being able to breathe slightly easier. It's almost as though the "nature of the gothic spirit" -- at least in my own, singular and individual experience of it -- is not the love of Change, but its acceptance. That the endurance of the architecture -- or, in the case of this imported Gothic, its perceived endurance, the legacy of which it partakes -- is a reminder by its imposition on the landscape (the alliance of temporal and religious power in the domination enacted by an architectural form) of all that will not endure, and a certain smallness of one human in the face of the very sky her eyes are drawn to by the height.

It's probably not a coincidence that I also learned today, from one of my dear friends who's also pursuing a PhD: that the only way we ever get through this mess of a profession -- and this mess of a human life -- is together. That's what makes it worthwhile -- the connections we make with interesting people, who teach us things we could never have learned on our own. Whether they live 10 blocks away or 10 centuries.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

What I've Learned Today: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Edition

When I say today, I clearly mean "over the past two weeks" -- that's probably the first thing I ought to say. With all of the reading I did over the break on writing history, I've had some strange ideas starting to come up.

Perhaps the most important thing I've learned: Our profession is not geared toward the success of the study of older periods. By that, I actually mean : The fact that editions/translations are no longer 'real' dissertations, while it makes sense for the profession (i.e., they don't count for tenure, either, if I understand correctly), is utterly ludicrous in a field where you might be able to get a newer edition of Alfred's Grammar, but it's apparently a reprint of the edition that was done by Zupitza in the late 1900s, and it's definitely in German.

Also, we've got the slight problem of how to arrange texts. While, theoretically, reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in Swanton's stunningly fluent translation is possible, it's not quite the easiest thing to sit down and do. Particularly if you tend to forget that the entries from all manuscripts are laid out comparatively -- Winchester and Peterborough, therefore, are often on facing pages where the chronicles coincide, with the other texts coming up when they also have entries for a particular date or event. This is a genius arrangement for scholars who want to see the relative similarity/difference of the texts -- however, for a grad student of very little brain, it often results in a feeling of deja vu only alleviated when said grad student looks back at the top of the page and gets the vague feeling she ought not have been accepted at quite so highly-ranked a school if she can't keep this straight after 200 pages...That said, Swanton's translation is fantastic -- it's my brain that isn't up to snuff.

Finally, there's the question of "how do you solve a problem like temporality?" Which, though it doesn't scan with the song I'm thinking of, is remarkably similar to the answer to "how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?" I've just finished reading Alice Sheppard's chapters on Alfred in Families of the King (Univ. of Toronto Press, 2004). Sheppard's analysis of the interpretation of Alfred's life yielded by the Chronicle, and further, by Asser, is brilliant -- her assertion that Alfred's teaching was more important than his personal learning or intelligence struck me as a perfect remedy to my malaise about the relative value of an academic life versus a more political one (or at least a more politically active and/or traditionally "useful" life -- not to suggest scholars aren't useful, but you know what I mean...):

...Asser suggests that individual learning and scholarship are insufficient as political tools for sustaining loyalty. Loyalty is built when the king takes that knowledge out of the private realm and activates it by personally teaching his men.

Teaching can be political, and moreover can be a political act -- of course, the problem then is what is taught, and to whom.

More on Sheppard once I've finished the book. However, what immediately struck me was that she didn't seem to notice -- or remark on -- the manifold inconsistencies of Asser's Vita. To be fair, I reiterate that I've only finished the section of the book on Alfred -- perhaps it's a subject she returns to. What's difficult about not addressing the problem of temporality in the Vita is I think you end up missing part of the Alfredian project as a whole -- learning becomes a process, true -- but it is also a manifested fact, one that happens (in Asser's Life at least) miraculously for the king. His desire to learn and translate is inflamed by it, to be certain -- but the learning itself, though facilitated by Asser, is still an instrument and manifestation of God.

And I find myself, similarly to last week in North Carolina, about to be kicked out of the library because it's closing. Hopefully I'll have something less open-ended on all this by the time my 4.15 meeting with my orals adviser comes up on Monday...Guess I have my Saturday night cut out for me, don't I.

Edit after the walk home
It occurs to me that I should note a couple of things that were clear in my head as I typed but may actually not be clearly stated:

1. I am (mostly) just being whiny about the issue with editions. Although there is a dearth of newer editions, I'm essentially being slightly lazy. I just had to order a bunch of reprinted editions of things like the Saints Lives and the Old English Pastoral Care, so it's on my mind.

2. What I meant by the "difficult temporalities" of Asser's Life of Alfred is that, on my reading of the text at least, its quite hard to construct a coherent narrative of the king's life from it. Thus, it's hard to tell precisely when he could read, for example. As Sheppard notes, he's crowned four times, with the last one being the moment where Sheppard locates the beginning of his true reign (if I read correctly). But still -- Alfred was crowned, with all of his brothers still alive, by the Pope. That seems to matter more, to me, than the others -- after all, it suggests that God blesses the kingship, and I'm inclined to wonder if that makes it of a slightly different tone than the other crownings -- not least of all because it, like Alfred's miraculous knowledge, comes from God.

And a shout-out to someone I know doesn't read my blog -- Dr. V, if you ever see this, I found the connection between Old English and Sasanian Persia!! The idea of Anglecynn as Sheppard constructs it bears a remarkable similarity the Xwarna of the Persian Kings. Ah, for the days of my undergraduate honors history thesis. By the end of my time at Wake, it was called "Sacred Soldiers: the Zoroastrian Character of the Military Kingship of Sasanian Persia". But in 2001, in the Spring of my Sophomore year, it was still obsessed with an earlier topic, and the title connected to this Xwarna idea I wanted to pursue (and seem, finally, to have found again this year, though 500 years later, in Anglo-Saxon England, and in an entirely different course of study): "Invocations of the Divine: The Royal Xwarna and the Purity of Magian Kingship". I was just cocky enough, as a 19-year-old, to make the subtitle "Part I: Ardeshir I and Atar". One of these days (perhaps in my next lifetime) I'll learn Middle Persian, go back to the law codes and the Shahnameh -- and write part II.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Studies in Chronos: La Jetée and 12 Monkeys

I may have mentioned this movie before, but La Jetée is one of my favorite movies of all time. Why, you ask? Well, not because it's the basis for Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, though god knows that's the reason I found it in the first place. So late last night, as I wasted time not-reading due to the non-arrival of my luggage from the second half of my flight, I found this blog which links to Google video online versions of the film both in French (and note that the username of the poster of said movie might be mildly offensive, though the movie itself is well worth the momentary offense...) and English.

It's an interesting story, moving in its simplicity and the starkness of its black and white still photographs, the monologue of the voice over telling the story in third person omniscient. Yet there's something about it -- as there was with the movie 12 Monkeys -- that seems difficult to trace. And what's bizarre about the film isn't its strained relationship to the idea of chronological time. Rather, La Jetée focuses on something that 12 Monkeys elides somewhat: the centrality of the protagonist's "twice lived fragment of time". He sees a moment that defines his whole life, an experience so real it connects him to the past in a palpable way. He can be linked back in time because of this memory. They send him back, to see if it can be done -- and then when they realize that they can send him back, before the third world war and the nuclear attack that destroyed Paris, they can send him forward, to find in the world of the Future a way to save humanity -- "he said his piece, since humanity had survived, it cannot refuse its own past the means of its own survival. That sophism was taken as Fate in disguise."

And here I will give away the ending: in order to save the man's life from the executioners who no longer need him to save humanity, the humans of the future come back through time to offer him asylum in their "pacified" world. He chooses, instead, to return to the scene of his childhood, the death he had seen as a child that had haunted him his whole life: and he finds, on his arrival, the woman's face at the end of the pier. He sees a man who has tracked him through time -- and realizes that "there was no way out of Time and he knew that this haunted moment he had been granted to see as a child was the moment of his own death."

As usual, I've fixed on a few words from these final moments of the movie. "he knew there was no way out of Time." In the movie 12 Monkeys, the woman he's been visiting is a scientist(he sees her multiple times in the past), and she speaks of different times when someone has appeared in the past, making predictions about the coming plague --

According to the accounts of local officials at that time, this gentleman, judged to be about forty years of age, appeared suddenly in the village of Wyle near Stonehenge in the West of England in April of 1162. Using unfamiliar words and speaking in a strange accent, the man made dire prognostications about a pestilence which he predicted would wipe out humanity in approximately 8OO years. Deranged and hysterical, the man raped a young woman of the village, was taken into custody, but then mysteriously escaped and was not heard of again.
Of course, the 1995 version multiplies the complexities of the 1962 version, including a plot about bioterrorism and the possible extinction of the human race.

But the question from La Jetée resonates still: "there was no way out of Time." In an age of Astrophysics and advanced relativity theory -- I wonder how it is that Time becomes a sort of fetishized site of longing -- a simultaneous repulsion to the corruption of the Time line via our own future intrusions, and the longing for our pasts, our own childhoods, the moments that--in ways we could never understand without a way to return, to live them again--shape our lives. I'm also curious in what ways someone could be "out of Time." You can see where the danger lies in time travel there -- the need in science fiction for the policing of the timeline, and the strictness of the rules of time travel, or even the fact that in many science fiction worlds you can't change the past, only observe it. It's a fear of intermingling, of hybridity -- the mixing of times. I wonder if it isn't partially a fear -- projected onto a future that we will never see, using a technology that is, for all intents and purposes, unobtainable -- of the way in which history is written. Time travel, if it were to interfere with or change the course of human events, suggests that these stories of our past might have been written differently -- that they are not a fixed point of reference for our current identity.

How might the world change if history could be observed, truly observed -- by someone who played no part in it? Or moreover -- by someone empowered to change it? Further: how might our conception of history change, if the past was no longer fixed?


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Orals Reading Report

So, to speak a little more freely about what I've been focusing in on in the last few days, I've been trying to think about the way in which history gets written -- most specifically, the way in which certain ideas (like the idea of "English" or "Englishness" or "The English") get set down and played out in the "Anglo-Saxon" period (problematic terminology, I know -- but I'm hesitant to use Elaine Treharne's "Early English Vernacular" since I'm not sure how it plays out in "Middle" English...yet). Among the ideas that have sort of risen to the forefront of my work is the idea of time, and how time interacts with translation and history to form a sort of forward-looking projection.

I guess what I'm most interested here is a question of temporality. I've been a bit obsessed of late with the distinctions between Kairos and Cronos -- between the time "of God" and chronological, historical time, to use a medieval distinction. It seems quite plain, as I think about it, that it would make sense that, if history was a study in figura, then there would be a way to project present history onto the future -- i.e., create history not to inform the future but to create it differently. Which seems to be the hopeful function of all history, and historical query and writing. But I wonder if it isn't more literal, too...

And that's nothing if not opaque, as far as thoughts go. I feel like I need to go re-read Susan Stewart's On Longing. I guess I'll settle for finishing up on Bede's thinking on time in De Temporibus, and read more Augustine. Part of my problem is figuring out how to fit in all the "already done" work on these historical texts. My next project is Kathleen Davis' article in JMEMS a few years back on what the 9th century has to say to Postcolonial Studies...citational information coming soon (i.e., when I'm back in New York and have them at hand...).

Anyone else ever notice that the answer always seems to involve more Augustine when you're an early medievalist?

Bibliography of the past week at home:

Bede: The Reckoning of Time, ed. and trans. Faith Wallis

Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe by Patrick Geary

Listening For the Text: On the Uses of the Past by Brian Stock

Nation and Narration, Introduction, by Homi K. Bhabha

Construction of NationhoodChapters 1 and 2, by Adrian Hastings


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Augustine in the Sunshine

Well, actually -- I've spent the last few days reading books on theories of history, narrative and medieval historiography. I've made some fascinating discoveries, too.

The library here at Wake is closing in about 20 minutes, so this will be brief. I'll add to it tomorrow. But first -- and I know I've heard about this elsewhere, but I just finished Patrick Geary's book, Myth of Nations, which provides a really easy to read overview of an early medievalist's view of the rise of nations and nationalism. I don't know what the critical reception to it has been, but I felt like its attempt at translating some of the more complex theories into a form that a more generalized audience would understand was both helpful and important to future discussions of the nation and national identity. A moment I found particularly interesting:

Both in large hegemonic states and in aspiring independence movements, claims that "we have always been a people" actually are appeals to become a people--appeals not grounded in history, but rather, attempts to create history. The past, as has often been said, is a foreign country, and we will never find ourselves there. (p. 37)

A tension I'm finding in that quote, interestingly enough, is in that last line, which is haunting (and for good reason). "The a foreign country, and we will never find ourselves there."

While I "believe" Geary on that point, I wonder if there's anyway of writing "History" as we know it and not ending up stuck in this narritivized setting....

More soon, with thoughts on the Homi Bhabha's introduction to Nation and Narration and Brian Stock's Listening to the Text all of which is tied up in my mind with the text my freshman comp class will be working with for their final papers -- Adrian Hastings' "Nation and Nationalism" from The Construction of Nationhood. Tomorrow will bring bibliography for all this thought and more musings. Any of either in the interim or after are appreciated...

For now, ZSR Library is closing, and they're going to lock me in if I don't get moving!


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Do we need a Second Life?

For awhile now, I've been confused and fascinated by the online gaming industry, and the rather disturbingly named "Second Life", which seems to be the new big thing in having another life online.

Today, my interest was piqued yet again, by this article on the BBC website. Apparently, these MMOs -- Massively Multiplayer Online games -- will be expanding in the next few years, and we can expect them to become more and more complex and realistic and engrossing in the process.

I've darted around to different sites, including : Second Life's homepage, a more easy-to-read and yet surprisingly revealing USA Today article , and a rather interesting LA Times article that considers a "revolutionary" group within the online world.

I feel impressively ambivalent about online "life" games. the part of me that has been technologically involved since a relatively early age finds this fascinating, exciting -- down to the possibility of changing the very nature of what it means to live in the world. A lot of my friends do online gaming, and if I didn't have so much work, I might be involved as well. It wouldn't be the first, either -- I was a frequent commentator on a fan website at the age of 16, a time when my online interests were easier to deal with -- and a good bit more intellectually stimulating -- than my peers. I was lucky -- we know all too well in this world that a naive kid on the internet can get into a good bit of trouble, where all of my experiences were very innocent and intellectual in nature (mythology discussions and the like).

But a part of me worries. I guess I pause in a world where a million dollars are being spent on "virtual" things. And when online "revolutionaries" are narrating the story of their own heroic quest "to make the world better" I can't help but wonder -- isn't an online world always predicated on having the possibility of the technology and literacy it takes to engage those very games? It seems unlikely, then, that these "utopias" can ever actually be utopian for anyone except those who have disengaged from the possibility of improving the actual world that we live in. From helping real people. From fighting real wars and changing the responses of real people to globalizing corporations.

Are other people thinking about this? Does it scare anyone else? I know I'm being simplistic, I'm privileging the "real", and I'm discriminating against people who, for reasons that widely vary, want to have this opportunity to have a "Second Life."

But where does that end? When virtual worlds overtake television, and people construct whole lives built in cyberspace, what happens to the "human"? More importantly, what happens to those we leave behind, to those who can't afford this "Second Life." Don't we owe something to the world we live in? Shouldn't we focus on changing the life we have before we build a new one? Helping real people before we create "avatars" for ourselves?

What are the ethical obligations of those who can have a "second life" to those who are (technologically, ideologically, economically) excluded from it?

So after a conversation with a friend directly after this post, I was given a bit of an insight: is a virtual world any different, in the end, from being in academia? We say we're important, that we engage the real world -- but the key difference is our interlocutors are either other academics or (in my case at least) authors who lived and died when our language didn't even look like this. Users of Second Life, in the end, are still real people interacting, even if they are doing so "virtually".

I stress again that I don't really know how I feel about all this, from Second Life to grad student life (which rather lets go of a first life, in favor of one that is lived in the library) but then -- I guess I'm still trying to decide what I believe in, about academic work and about my own work in particular. I still believe that literature has something to say. I just wonder where, when and to what end we know how to hear it.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In the realm of completely not academic...

I'm going home on Saturday, for Spring Break. Yes, back to the loveliness of North Carolina. And given the renewal of wintry temperatures here in NYC, I'm thrilled -- after all, there's something to be said for a 20 degree temperature difference. There is, in fact a very good reason I tend to be vaguely unhappy here in the winter. I'll take a high of close to 70 and sunshine when I'm studying in the library over our current frozen extremes any day of the week.

More, and of substance I hope, tomorrow or Wednesday.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Alternative to Wikipedia

You might think, given that I am in academia and have been for awhile, the answer might be "actual library research." For the record: it is.

However, some people in this great country I live in have also decided that Wikipedia is a questionable source, but for reasons that boggle my no-doubt liberally biased academic mind.

I present you with Conservapedia.

Oh yes, you heard me right. Their raison d'etre?

Conservapedia is a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American. On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian "C.E." instead of "A.D.", which Conservapedia uses. Christianity receives no credit for the great advances and discoveries it inspired, such as those of the Renaissance.

Check out the article on The Common Era, which is clearly meant to be hostile to Christianity.

And don't miss the great Bias in Wikipedia.

There are days expatriating doesn't seem so bad.

With thanks to a friend who studies the Renaissance (which, as quoted previously, Wikipedia doesn't give the truth about Christianity's part in) who pointed this out to me.


Friday, March 02, 2007


So this has been a week of perspective gaining. Orals reading (and meetings, and other work) were pretty rough this week -- in fact, it was one of the harder weeks I've had in grad school (though, thankfully, everything seemed to be back on miraculous track by Wednesday evening).

However, the best part of my graduate school experience -- the friends I've made while being here -- came to my aid. Today we had a bit of "group reading," in which a few of my friends who are also in process of reading for exams and I get together, together. As a side note, I'm into the Historia Ecclesia and will be posting a draft of my new rationale - on "Language, Religion and National Identity in England: Imagining (the) English ca. 900-1066 CE" - sometime this weekend. Anyway, at one point, I was lamenting the focus on minute detail that can get people so stressed out in Academia (there were reasons for this, but I don't think they really matter). And one of my two friends suggested that what was needed was a bit of perspective.

He phrased it this way: "We live the way we do [reading for a living and quibbling over minutiae], and 40 million people are dying of AIDS right now in Africa."

And suddenly, my difficulties and pains and anxieties of the Old English variety melt away. In the end, I'm just damn lucky. Not that I should be complacent in my work, its engagement with others or my relatively comfortable life as a graduate student. However. Recognizing how lucky I am, to live as and where I do now -- I hope I can use my good fortune to make the world around me. Regardless of how far out my admittedly small sphere of influence might extend -- that I live gratefully, and with an eye toward giving back, however I can find ways to do that.

In other news -- Christopher A. Jones gave a remarkable lecture for the ASSC at Princeton Thursday. I'm amazed at how fascinated I'm becoming with prose, and particularly with religious prose. And here I always thought I'd be working only on poetry.