Archive for the ‘Research & scholarship’ Category

Google Books and Real Books

November 2, 2007

The main conclusion of this excellent New Yorker essay (“Future Reading” by Anthony Grafton) is that while the huge digitization projects will bring millions of items to anyone with an internet connection, if you want fuller knowledge, you will never be able to get it just from a computer screen. If you’ve spent any amount of time with original materials, you know how true this is. It was an amazing experience for me to browse through John Milton’s own Bible, Evelyn Waugh’s manuscript copy of Brideshead Revisited, an original printing of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and any of the scores of other items I’ve had the privilege to hold and read, dating from the 10th through the 21st centuries.

That said, you’ll have to shoot me before I stop using the digital resources. They too are now indispensible.

Here’s a good quotation, but do read the essay yourself. It’s got too many interesting nuggets in it to do it justice in a blog post.

Original documents reward us for taking the trouble to find them by telling us things that no image can. Duguid describes watching a fellow-historian systematically sniff two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letters in an archive. By detecting the smell of vinegar—which had been sprinkled, in the eighteenth century, on letters from towns struck by cholera, in the hope of disinfecting them—he could trace the history of disease outbreaks. Historians of the book—a new and growing tribe—read books as scouts read trails. [. . .]

For now and for the foreseeable future, any serious reader will have to know how to travel down two very different roads simultaneously. No one should avoid the broad, smooth, and open road that leads through the screen. But if you want to know what one of Coleridge’s annotated books or an early “Spider-Man” comic really looks and feels like, or if you just want to read one of those millions of books which are being digitized, you still have to do it the old way, and you will have to for decades to come. At the New York Public Library, the staff loves electronic media. The library has made hundreds of thousands of images from its collections accessible on the Web, but it has done so in the knowledge that its collection comprises fifty-three million items.


“The Catholic Boom”: some observations

May 25, 2007

David Brooks, writing in the Opinion section on the TimesSelect website (subscription required), argues that the “quasi-religious” have economic and sociological advantages over the truly religious and the truly unreligious.

In making this argument, he seems to insult both Protestants and Catholics even as he praises them for their great financial and educational achievements. You see, quasi-religious people respect history and tradition, and benefit from the stability these afford, but because they are always questioning and dissenting, they don’t get stuck in productivity- and income-quashing ruts.


Response to Rayilyn Brown

March 27, 2007

The following is a response to the first comment on my post entitled “Meet the new Christopher Reeve.” (WordPress won’t let me post a comment to that entry, and this is long enough for its own main entry, so here it is.)


“Image” copyright

March 26, 2007

Concerning the rights of scholars to quote from personal letters:

Ms Schloss’s book, Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, says she was Joyce’s muse in his last novel Finnegan’s Wake.

To support her theory, the Stanford University scholar made use of Lucia’s medical records, European archives containing records on her life and James Joyce’s papers in university collections.

But the estate said she would be infringing its copyright on Joyce’s image, and several citations were cut from her book to avoid legal action.

Do we have “copyright” over anything that might make us look bad?

Miami update

March 22, 2007

Everywhere you look in Miami you see cranes putting up high-rises. I mean everywhere—it’s hard to look anywhere (other than straight up or down) and see fewer than three cranes. I saw eight in one view.

I gave my paper today, and the respondent—a European and a top scholar in his field—panned it in his comments. (more…)

B & B moment

March 19, 2007

I just had a major Beavis & Butthead moment. I was looking up some research on Van Eyck’s “Arnolfini portrait” and came across a book written by Ludwig Baldass.

Heh heh . . . heh heh.


March 15, 2007

Curly’s going to Miami next week for the Renaissance Society of America conference. I’ll be presenting on an unknown poet in the context of the esoteric sciences, so it should be a total hoot. This is the biggie of Renaissance conferences–more than 900 presenters! And no, we don’t wear armor or drink mead or joust. It’s a bunch of people in a big hotel sharing their literary, historical, and other cultural scholarship over three days.

I was added to the program only about 10 days ago, to fill in for a couple of backouts. Now I’m just praying that I get enough money from my department to cover the $497 plane ticket I just bought. I was considering driving, but when it’s all tallied up, the round trip comes to 40 hours on the road, and I just didn’t want to think about that. If I had time to mosey over there leisure-like, and stop to see the world’s largest pile of mud and such things, and had a companion, I wouldn’t mind driving so much at all.

This will be the farthest east I’ve ever been in the USA, topping the previous location (New Orleans) by about 850 miles.

James Cameron, et tu?

February 26, 2007

James Cameron’s coming out with his own version of The Da Vinci Code in the form of a documentary that says Jesus was never resurrected, and that he had a son by Mary Magdalene.


This CNN article says that archaeologists and religious scholars are skeptical of Cameron’s claims:

“How possible is it?” Pfann said. “On a scale of one through 10 — 10 being completely possible — it’s probably a one, maybe a one and a half.”

While you’re wasting your time with me, check out this amazing story of a piano plagiarist. Joyce Hatto passed off scores of recordings by others as if they were her own, and the scandal was only discovered after her death of cancer last year.

UPDATE: Scott points out that Hatto’s scandal makes Milli Vanilli look not so bad!

Shampoo and early puberty

October 19, 2006

NY Times article. Scary: certain products can hasten sexual development in children, resulting in things like enlarged genitalia, breast enlargement (in boys as well as girls), and pubic hair by the age of 5 or 6. These products include testosterone-enhanced skin cream and shampoo containing estrogens and placental extract. Testosterone creams and sprays have also been shown to produce increased aggression in young boys.

Anything hormonal is dangerous for the development of young children, and, as the article states, this can even include pollutants in the water.

The article is silent, however, on the birth control pill and its big sister, the Morning After pill. These are essentially artificial steroid hormones (progesterone and estrogen) that wreak havoc with a woman’s reproductive system so that she cannot conceive a child.

What I want to know: If the hormones in something as innocuous as skin cream or shampoo can create physiological and behavioral abnormalities in infants and young children, does it not stand to reason that the sustained application of artificial hormones to a woman’s system would likely also be responsible for some developmental problems? Especially in boys, given the harmful effect of estrogen on the developing male brain? Why are there so many “intersex” babies born? (Formerly called “hermaphrodites”; article cites frequency of about 1 in 4,500 births.) And has it always been this way?

Anybody looking for work?

August 1, 2006

I’ve got jobs coming out of my ears. Recently I was contacted about teaching writing and AP English lit at a nice prep school; this job I declined, because I am already teaching at two universities this fall, both of which jobs were basically handed to me (one through my institutional standing, the other through personal connections). And tonight I got a call, with a setup for teaching a literature class in the spring at a different university; I was recommended by a professor who teaches there. What am I gonna do with all this extra kwan? Or the better question is, will I still have time to work on my dissertation? (Or even better—will my gym time be safeguarded?)