The workers are in early bustling around the offices and printing out their spreadsheets for the monthly progress meeting. They are perhaps more buoyant than the reports would allow, but tomorrow is casual Friday. When all the forms are collected they will gather in the board room, beneath the slightly surprised portrait of Simonides,* to recount the deeds of the month.
The blog entries have felt a little leaden lately. I thought I would write something amusing or trivial, of not cheerful or uplifting. Therefore, behold the fruits of several years of obscure book collecting in the backwaters of academic publishing!
If I have erred in my Latin rendering, please correct me, but be gentle. I have chosen the easy route in using the feminine noun that works for ‘forgotten’ instead of the strange verb that would be converted, through some mystical alchemy, into a perfect passive participle. So instead, we have this little construction that I hope means “the college of forgotten scholars.”
Because I consider pre-planning one of my most important coping strategies for writing, I now have a gigantic pile of paper sitting on the floor of my office.
I wrote a trial essay on Tuesday and I am transcribing it at the moment. Posting it on the blog will be a massive act of personal bravery as re-reading this is painful to me. I remind myself that this is the entire point of the exercise and that this test format is not my strong suit. Only practice, and tedious self-analysis, will make perfect.
In the meantime, enjoy — or tolerate — two short book reviews!
A short update on what I’m working on, other than this blog.
The ICMS (k-zoo for short) is a very interdisciplinary conference and what’s more, it welcomes a large number of non-academics and ‘independent researchers’ who attend sessions and present papers. K-zoo is filled with a heady mix of traditional historians interested in the great men and important events of the past, social historians who dabble in anthropology, specialists in archeology, classics, material studies, along with literary scholars, philosophers, engineers, and monks. Yes, monks (and nuns to).
Bartolus de Saxoferrato (1313-1357) a Bolognese jurist, constructed one of the more ingenious arguments for special legal and social privileges for academics. The legal codes of Justinian defined the athletic hero as one who survived “at least three trials of courage in competition.”* Bartolus reasoned that the heroic trials of the academic began during the student years with constant testing by the Masters. The second trial took the form of the private disputation — the equivalent of the thesis defence. The final trial was the public disputation under the scrutiny of the University and the academic public. We might understand this now as the conference paper. Bartolus went further than the Roman legal precedent and claimed that his contemporary academic trials were the same, conceptually, as the joust and deeds of arms that defined the martial elites.
I survived the huge conference this week without any major trials of endurance, and returned with a mildly shameful quantity of books. One of the titles in the stack was actually free. It’s a review copy for one of my associations. Try and guess which one is the review book.
The irregularly scheduled programming will be interrupted for the next few days while I attend a conference the size of ninth-century York.
I’m presenting a paper at this particular to-do, my third actually, but I’m heading out on my own and will need to manage the ordeals without the soothing company of my uxor carissima.
I will have a few things to say about the odd discipline of conference paper writing when I get back and then it’s back to the ongoing short-essay clinic.
There is the added challenge, at this conference, as I need to avoid purchasing more books than usual. Considering that ‘usual’ can be around the $250 range, I’m not sure how well I will do.