Musings of a domesticated scholar

Category: manuscript

Miscellany and Money

It has been too, too long since my last post.  Some updates:
I’m still mapping
My sisters, husband, brothers-in-law, and I surprised my dad for his 70th birthday in Austin thanks to the mad coordinating skills of my stepmom, Heather

For those of you interested in the intersections between digital and print worlds, here is a link about the “listsicle” of Thomas Nashe, who wrote in the late sixteenth-century on “Eight Kindes of Drunkennes” Listsicle Article

For those curious about how exercise can “change your DNA”– can you smell the spin?– check out this little ditty about what we already know: working out is the best thing ever, and people who don’t do it are lame. Feeling guilty? You should!

[skip transition] I’ve noticed– in news and in recent articles floating about my laptop– an increased curiosity in changing perceptions of wealth.  For instance, Mitt Romney seems rather unapologetic about his gazillions, and his wife doesn’t consider herself wealthy at all (see abc article here). 

Mitt and Ann Romney, image from The Telegraph

But according to Michael Dean Crews, The US would not be the first nation to pull extraordinary wealth from the flames of socio-religious condemnation.  In his master’s thesis, he examines “the various ways that the perception of bankers and banking in Florence changed from the 13th to the 15th century” within “three categories, scholastic attitude, law, and public image, and utilizes a socio-intellectual style of historical inquiry.”  
He continues:

Dante in Florence

“The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that the positive acceptance of banking from a formerly profane vocation was due to a more advanced understanding of industry and economics, a more relativistic interpretation of theological and juridical sources, and an aggressive campaign by the humanists to redefine moral values and to reshape the Florentine culture and urban landscape in order to bring esteem and power to the elite bankers. ” The rest of the article is here.

Sounds familiar, no?  Allow me to be clear– I’m passing no judgment on Romney or the Florentine bankers; I’m only drawing a parallel.  

Yet banking isn’t the only arena to benefit from the reworking of wealth’s righteousness.  In 2007, John R. Black published an article called “Tradition and Transformation in the Cult of St. Guthlac in Early Medieval England” in The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe.  In it he finds that: “[a]nalysis of the variations introduced into the hagiographic corpus, both textual and iconographic, for a saint’s cult over the course of the medieval era demonstrates the vitality of that corpus, reveals the cultural significance of the variations introduced, and offers insights into (re)conceptualizations of sainthood.” 
St Guthlac and Demons, Guthlac Roll (13th century)
Fascinating? Yes. Relevant to this post? Almost.  
Here’s the good part: “Such analysis elucidates, for example, the ‘evolution’ of St. Guthlac from ascetic solitary to promoter and defender of a wealthy religious establishment.” Article here.
I wonder, then, if the Republican voters, and later, the larger body of American voters, will reorder the narrative of Romney’s wealth (if they need to).  What other forms might his money-making take in the public eye?

Until soon, patient readers!

On Onus of Ownership

I’ve enrolled in Fiona Somerset’s “Radical Textualities” at Duke this spring, and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to get some real manuscript experience!  This week we are reading about variance, censorship, and the “great editions” of multi-layered medieval texts.  In an article resisting the bibliographic obsession of previous Wycliffite scholarship, Somerset writes: “In lollard textual culture’s mood of radical variance, every version of a text interpolates, excises, or modifies the content they have in common, or else lifts part of it into a different setting.  Often it is impossible to trace how the work developed, in its remaining copies.” She focuses on different kinds of books than others working in lollardy usually have; she therefore appropriately hones in on different modes of book production, “that began in the earliest phase of the [lollard] movement, but persisted when the more organized activity that produced large-scale collaborations in England had come to an end”whose “products are more idiosyncratic and decentralized… [and whose] most common venue of assembly is the personal or household anthology…” which was truly piecemeal.
As most of you know, I’ve had a hard time pinning down a dissertation topic/genre/century, but I do keep returning to manuscript work.  As most of you can imagine, this presents any scholar with the genuine issue of accessibility.  Although Duke and UNC have great collections, getting to them can be more difficult than first supposed.  I’ll come back to the accessibility problem soon.

We spent the first couple of classes hashing out ideas about cutting and pasting, remixing, refiguring, re-apropriating (and no, that’s not redundant here) manuscripts, printed books, and digital media.  Where do processes overlap?  What do reworking poetry or biblical exegesis, say, have to do with remixing music or other media?  And how does any of this matter now, and to whom?
A visual break from, to prevent any rabbit-hole vortex of crushingly deep ponderings on this topic:

Of course, central to these questions of remixing is ownership, which I like to distinguish from authorship.  Somerset articulates resistance to a bibliographic impulse in literary studies that coincides with a lesson I taught last week.  I assigned Hegel to my freshmen (muah-ha-ha) to get them into an appropriate mindset about the nature of the course.  I intentionally left off the title and the author so they wouldn’t just say “hey, this is boring/difficult/whatever– I’ll just Google it.”  Some of them, I found, had pasted in parts of the passage in order to identify the author, and we had an open conversation about this urge to know about the author in order to feel equipped to read the work.  Incidentally, this was the same day as the Wikipedia blackout– a coincidence whose coolness was sadly lost on some of them.  
Nevertheless, it seems that authorship is visiting some sort of vengeance upon me for all those papers I wrote that “killed the author.”  In a time when so much information is free, freely edited, and freely exchanged across different media, what does it mean to be an author, a commentator, a cut-and-paster, a plagiarist?  Authorship isn’t always ownership, and that could create great demands on all the other stewards of texts.  What do we owe to audience?  To the text’s author? And how much do economic elements of textual production affect its “authenticity” or reliability?  What does the author owe the rest of us?  How influential is money-making to text-making, and why?
Moreover, what are we to make of our transition from this:
No CTRL + C here.
to this?
Is free and full access even conceivable?  At what cost? 
How do we move between prosperity of resources nearly impossible to find (or even to know exist) in our world’s best libraries and responsible, equitable accessibility?
Bodleian curator, looking far too cool to let us see this book from the Mary Shelley exhibit.   

Could it be that those Stanford professors have it right after all?

The Art (s and Crafts) and Science of Facial Recognition

Woo-hoo! It’s almost Halloween, one of my favorite holidays.  Per a long-time, long-distance tradition with my mother, my first move was to sit “the family” down to watch Tim Burton’s strange and inspiring The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Disney (Touchstone), 1993

I’ve found no better way to get in the goblins, ghosts, and ghouls mood than watching this movie.  To my horror, it was Drew’s first time to watch it all the way through; he nevertheless found a noble way of commemorating its important place in our newly married tradition.
Impressive, no?
And Drew’s not the only skilled at recognizing and rendering graphics across disparate media. 
(How’s that for a segue!)  According to this article in LiveScience, Tel Aviv university is using computer software “based on facial recognition technology” to recognize– and importantly, reunite– “hundreds of thousands of fragments from medieval religious scrolls that are scattered across the globe” (Pappas).  Evidently, the program can distinguish handwriting, spacing, and even peculiar properties of the pages themselves.  
This new software isn’t just for people who love old and dusty esoterica for ancientness’ sake.  The Cairo Genizah (storage room for Jewish holy texts), for instance, “contains merchant’s lists, divorce documents, and even personal letters” which will give scholars “a firsthand look at hundreds of years of history in the Middle East.”  Indeed, scholars are even trying to use this technology to study the Dead Sea Scrolls, shown above.  For those interested, here is a LiveScience article about the Dead Sea Scrolls’ digitization.
Well, that’s all for now.  Until next time, stay ever-watchful; there’s no telling what you might piece together.

Let’s do this thing

I’m determined to make this blog work.  Here we go again.

The semester has begun, and I’m on UNC, but not Duke, fall break.  At least I have Friday off!

Some non-academic highlights of the semester:
trying to get involved with Second Chance Pet Adoptions
helping pups get adopted through Middle Mutts (love-out to Nicole Fisk!)
chatting with Brianna about dresses
an amazing weekend in the mountains with Emily, etc.
planning a trip to DC (now postponed until December)
celebrating Tabitha’s first birthday with best sister-in-law of ALL time and Drew
started allergy shots– in a year my eyes might not be puffy all the time!

Teaching this semester has been rough, not least because my class starts at 8am.  And we all know how much of a morning person I’m not.  But I’ve also tried a lot of new things which have proven less productive than I’d hoped, like my visual analysis of comic books unit.

William Morrow Paperbacks, 1994

I had expected the rhetoric of news unit, which we’re in the middle of right now, to be better than it is, but it’s an improvement for sure.  Also, we’ve had our first round of conferences and I always feel like I have a little better grasp on things once I speak to everyone face-to-face.
Sadly, some of my students have had some serious issues, whether personal or physical, and that’s been hard to keep track of.  Nevertheless, they are all great, great kids who are tolerating this class admirably.

M Nagle, New York Times

I’ve really enjoyed my 17th century class at UNC, which is a total shock.  We started with Donne, who usually drives me crazy.  But somehow he was different this time, and that is no doubt due to Dr Barbour’s teaching. Un-freakin-believable, this guy.  I could listen (and watch– his lectures are highly dramatic) to him talk about anything.  He’s electric. Even our meetings are awesome.  He is the most thoroughly engaged, inspiring professor I’ve ever had, and has done more than accommodate me in a class that’s so many centuries ahead of my own interests.  I’m totally, totally stoked that he’ll be on my minor committee!

The Duke class is challenging, which I love.  Dr Aers leaves it all to us– here’s a recommended reading list, do what you will– and there’s a lot to be said for that kind of self-starting scholarship.  The seminar has warmed up a bit, though it’s still a bit awkward at times.  The biggest perk so far is that my new hero, Michael Cornett, gave a presentation on ALL the English (or Latin, written in England) confessions.  I emailed him to follow up and the man replied by sending me his entire nearly 900-page dissertation.  At this point in my career, every book I want to buy is close to $300, so getting his unpublished but invaluable research over my computer rocked my life.  He just sent me this damn thing, and then recommended a seminar paper topic!  Here’s the real closer, though.  He scanned a 16th century confession manuscript that follows quite closely an 8th century confessional prayer by Alcuin.  He sent me the images and I’m transcribing it now.

Speaking of book accessibility, I received my Kindle (and its burnt-orange cover) and am loving it!
More details on what I’m reading, how I’m cleaning up a massive, massive pen leak (courtesy of Tabitha) on two carpets, and how we’re spending the weekend to come.

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