I have run into a rare form of writer’s block that isn’t usually covered in the literature. Apparently, I really don’t like writing about topics that, well, wind me up. Foolishly I wrote a conference paper last year on just such a red-button topic which I also submitted to a call-for-papers in an edited collection. That proposal was accepted and my personal deadline for submitting the draft is now so close that I am guaranteed to miss it (the editorial deadline is actually in late May, but I want it done, and out my door by early April).
My flailing and floundering is entirely down to my easily provoked tempter which makes it hard to write coherent and balanced prose. It is too easy to turn a nice argument into a laundry list of errors that will bore, or offend, most readers. I’m not entirely sure how to get out of this little pit that my bile has burned into the landscape but I must, and while I’m on the way, write another 5000 words while I’m at it.
What pushed me to this conclusion (that it’s my frustration with the ‘errors’ which prompted the paper in the first place) was this collection of pages put up by the University of Leicester that describe (in achingly sparse detail) the sharp-force trauma found on their Greyfriars skeleton.
Oh, and whatever you do, do not read the comments.
la.[Anne] Villanne, thou knowst no law of God nor man:
no beast so fierce, but knowst some touche of pittie.
Glo.[Richard] But I know none, and therefore am no beast.1
Richard’s attempt at a self-defence against Anne’s insult is at the same time a backhanded condemnation of human nature which, unique amongst all beasts, is capable of a total lack of pity. Richard also shows a heroic lack of tact since this whole exchange happens in the midst of Anne’s solemn procession with dead husband in train. Richard’s sweeping self-incrimination is all part of his strategy to woo Anne, newly widowed by his own plans. This is the genius of The Bard, in building such a monstrosity, in a few lines.
Now that recent archaeological revelations allow us to see the real Richard III, in bones if not in flesh, it’s still likely that Shakespeare’s version will remain the popular one. While I can’t muster the sort of enthusiasm this story gets from the History Blog, I confess some morbid fascination all the same. I did not have the energy to articulate that interest in the previous post (which was cleverly titled to fit with this one, something lost in the page design). If I can’t display the same enthusiasum, I can at least nurture some frustration.
I have more to say on this, but not at the unedited moment:
Richard III Dig (BBC, 4 Feb)
The History Blog, run off the BlogSpot servers, is a good source of current archaeological news and some amusing writing. I rarely cross-post things, but this excerpt is worth the effort.
The original plan for the Leicester parking lot dig that was so astonishingly successful was to excavate two trenches over the course of two weeks which would be filled in and reverted to a parking lot at the end. That was based on everyone’s modest expectations of what they might find. Then the deities of archaeological good fortune laid giant sloppy kisses all over them so they were able to locate the Greyfriars church and abbey and, most importantly, human remains of a male with scoliosis, sharp force trauma to the skull and an arrowhead embedded in his back.