Category Archives: Paper

Everyone loves an apocalypse

Standard

In a book about apocalypses and endings in fiction, it seemed appropriate to begin with the most recently written segment, which is the epilogue, before returning to chapter/lecture 1, mischievously entitled “The End”.

It was perhaps an error to cook a ginger cake between chapters 2 and 3.  The tin is almost empty.

Advertisements

String follow and gaffle

Standard

No problem about turning to notes and references in this one, because there aren’t any.  It feels as if the book’s origin lies in a collection of slowly accumulated notes, in which the courtesy of accurate referencing was unconsidered until it was far too late to reconstruct the author’s sources.  On the plus side, this gives it a personal and slightly fugitive air.  And at least he can spell mediaeval.

The absence of a glossary presents a challenge to the reader, especially as the collaged quality of the text includes the use of specialist terms many pages before the author indicates their meaning (or occasionally never defines them at all).  This is quite a good deduction game for word-fanciers.   Even more tricky is visualising the complicated manoeuvres of, say, whipping and looping bow strings, although diagrams are added to verbal descriptions.

The moments of personal reminiscence were engaging:

I well recall the months of strain and struggle to master the [replica Mary Rose] bow and eventually, at the very limit of my strength, managed to draw some 95lbs at around 28 inches … I was definitely overbowed and doubtless set my shooting form back several years … drawing and loosing this bow gave the feeling of being caught in an earthquake …  (p 73)

It’s also interesting to learn of the work done by modern archers to repeat the reported performances of mediaeval archers, using replica bows; the modern archers are at a disadvantage as they have not been physically developed since childhood to use a heavy bow.  Some archers have reproduced remarkable feats of shooting distance and accuracy.  Roth notes drily that some of these shots may be lucky – lucky shots do occur, although mostly for excellent archers.  (p 158)

I am, of course, entirely ignorant of practical archery, but it did remind me of another wood-and-missile-related discipline:  the mysteries of knocking in and splices and sweet spots; Chinamen and the back of the hand; giving air and seaming; offs, ons, legs and squares; and the rest of cricket’s paraphernalia.  Ah, these rituals!

Footnotes -> mere notes

Standard

The removal of footnotes from the pages of academic texts has not, I feel, been a good thing for the reader.  I never found it difficult to skim past footnotes if I didn’t want to read them, but easy to pick them up if I did want to.  But it is so awkward to keep flipping to the back of a book that I nearly missed this note, whose lack of explanation I particularly enjoyed.

Chapter 6, note 24:  Volosinov also appears to go by the name of Bakhtin, and there seems to be some confusion in the literature about this…

From An introduction to theories of popular culture – Dominic Strinati  (2nd ed.)

Taking five minutes

Standard

I’ve not been here for a long time, and in the interval the parking has been made pay-and-display, and the knobs on the railings, which used to be painted gold, are all black.

The sea, luckily, remained blue, and I watched for a while,

as it slopped white water casually onto the prom (and my waiting car).

 

 

 

Let’s ignore the annoying middle of the day.

 

 

 

Later, there was a fortuitous concurrence of images.

Regressing to phonics

Standard

Lots of technical vocabulary in this one.  Some of the authors translate or define the Greek terms they use; some just transliterate; and some don’t bother at all.  Which leaves me, with my primitive half-familiarity with the Greek alphabet, painfully sounding out words, and hoping they will come out as something vaguely familiar and guessable.

A few are fairly easy given a context – I could cope with θεολογια; and γνωσις was doable.  But προσαρμοσας?  Urg.

As for the English language parts:  some of these sentences and paragraphs will remain mysterious to me for ever.  But that’s another story.

You epigone, you

Standard

Starting a new subject with a reader is more difficult than picking up an introductory text written with novices in mind.  It does, however, have the advantage of offering a full technical vocabulary, and introducing significant writers in the discipline through their own words.

Sadly, the ‘own words’ of cultural theorists (up to Part 3) seem to be quite remarkably dreary – an uglification of English which is hard to forgive, and there are 450 pages still to go.  Some of the content is moderately interesting, but Oh! if only we could have it better said!  One honourable but momentary exception:  Laclau and Mouffe describing their critics as ‘fading epigones’.  I had to look ‘epigone’ up in Chambers, and joyed in it, a word at once compendious and splendidly disdainful.  Then it was back to uglification for fifteen pages.

This is going to be a long, long, long, long, long, long read.

Thoughts and shades

Standard

I carefully consulted the forecast to travel on the coolest day this week, and then the Met Office sneakily turned it into a hot one instead.

I came home with eight; a limit imposed not by the librarian, but by my powers of traction.

Things to do when you can’t sleep: lxviii

Standard

lxviii   :   Read about a hopeless case

Richard Savage was obviously a disaster of a man.

His claims to be a neglected (indeed persecuted) illegitimate child of the Countess of Macclesfield and Earl Rivers seem to have been accepted whole by Samuel Johnson, though posterity sees a possible case of fraud and blackmail.  Even allowing the dubious circumstances of his birth, it is painful to read of Savage’s appalling behaviour to his friends and acquaintances, and his extraordinary fecklessness.

Johnson treads a complicated path through his personal knowledge of Savage’s worst behaviour; a delicate hint or two of his own attempts to support Savage; his affection for Savage as his own charming friend; his awareness of other friends’ attempts to help; and his tenderness towards Savage’s failure to cope with life, which amounted almost to a disability.  I walked with Johnson through concern, disgust, pity, contempt, regret, and, like Savage’s friends, at last you can only throw your hands in the air, and declare him beyond helping.

But I couldn’t quite join Johnson in his tenderness towards this utterly selfish and infuriating man; which is why I love Samuel Johnson, especially in the middle of the night.