Latest update: 4/3/2005; 2:33:55 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

Apologies ... no more posts tonight; I just had a major coughing fit (it's an allergy thing) and I just can't do it ...

::Sunday, November 23, 2003 8:58:35 PM::
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ante diem ix kalendas decembres

::Sunday, November 23, 2003 11:15:02 AM::
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REVIEW: From the Boston Globe

The Boston Globe has a review of Michael Wood, Road to Delphi which incipit:

Pick up this book even if you don't think you have an interest in oracles. You will, by the time you've finished.

As a piece of advice, followed by a prediction, the previous paragraph is a lot more straightforward than anything ever uttered by a true oracle. I've told you quite clearly what I think you should do, and what the result is likely to be if you do it. Oracles, in contrast, have traditionally dealt in ambiguity. They hint, they suggest, they speak in riddles that make sense only in hindsight. Michael Wood, who teaches at Princeton and has written books on Vladimir Nabokov and Luis Buuel, believes that ''oracles are precise mirrors of our needs, marking all the places where our available knowledge doesn't seem to be enough."

Part cultural history, part literary analysis, and part philosophical discourse, ''The Road to Delphi" is an elegant guided tour through the intricacies of oracular pronouncement. In any given myth, ancient or modern, when an oracle speaks, the important question is always one of interpretation: What does the oracle mean? Wood is concerned with an even larger area of interpretation: What does it mean that we have oracles?

More ...

::Sunday, November 23, 2003 10:53:25 AM::
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CHATTER: Casaubon v. Casaubon

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a reviewish sort of thing of  A.D. Nuttall, Dead From the Waist Down: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and Popular Imagination, which includes a comparison of Edward Casaubon with his more 'real' namesake Isaac Casaubon. On the latter, the Chronical says:

There is yet another link, and it brings us to the third focus of Nuttall's inquiry, Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614). He was a Renaissance classical scholar of great intellectual heft -- and also, as it happens, the subject of a biography by Pattison. This Casaubon epitomizes, for Nuttall, the ideal of a scholar who is fulfilled in both life and work, and for whom the two are complementary rather than opposed. After being widowed young, he made a "profoundly happy" second marriage, fathered an astonishing 19 children (one wonders how happy that made his bride), became a counselor to kings, and pursued a "cumulative, complex simultaneous assault on a vast range" of now-obscure classical subjects. The nonspecialists among us may never have heard of him, but his contemporaries -- and later classicists such as Pattison -- revered him. Nuttall's chapter on Isaac Casaubon is tendentiously subtitled "The Real Thing," and Nuttall writes: "Casaubon's interior life was a vast, labyrinthine journey, through a world of books. ... But while Mr. Casaubon was lost and wretched in his labyrinth, Isaac Casaubon was happy in his."

Nuttall is clearly happy in his as well, even if the reader, like Theseus, might sometimes wish for a ball of thread. The author writes confidently, with an eye for subtlety and detail, about a vibrant web of relationships: between fiction and fact, a scholar's life and work, intellection and religious feeling, and more. He is especially concerned with the process of "reading into" -- which he both demonstrates and explains. Just as contemporaries sometimes "read" Mr. Casaubon as Mark Pattison, Pattison read his life into Isaac Casaubon's scholarly agon. Nuttall quotes approvingly the verdict of the Oxford Professor Emeritus Hugh Lloyd-Jones, who referred to Pattison's Isaac Casaubon as "a concealed autobiography." For Nuttall, too, the processes of identification and projection seem to be at work. Just as Pattison and Casaubon probed, prodded, and corrected corrupt classical texts, Nuttall seeks to disentangle strands of intellectual history and limn more-precise connections among the disparate figures he describes.

Laden with Greek and Latin verse and translations thereof, much of Nuttall's book is naturally heavy going, and his discursiveness doesn't help. Somewhat more accessible are his introduction, on Robert Browning's poem "A Grammarian's Funeral," and his conclusion, on Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love, which help frame the argument. The Browning poem is central to Nuttall, who finds his title, "dead from the waist down," in a description of the grammarian. Despite that damning epithet, parts of Browning's poem seem triumphant, as though the poet is tempted to celebrate this man who "decided not to Live but Know." Nuttall's argument is that Browning is not purposefully ambiguous, but rather downright confused about the value of the grammarian's quest for (minute) knowledge, and the costs of that search.

In contrast, Nuttall is frankly admiring of Stoppard's play, with its "joyful persnicketiness about linguistic usage" and its adroit recourse to the classics. Pattison turns up as a minor character in the play, declaring, paradoxically, "Personally I am in favor of education, but a university is not the place for it." Nuttall identifies another intriguing paradox: For A.E. Housman, Invention's central figure, it is not his poetry -- with its repressed longings for the "comrades" and "lads" of an invented youth -- but his scholarship in which he is, arguably, most free, most nearly himself. Nuttall takes seriously the defense of classical exegesis, and, more broadly, of knowledge for its own sake, that is embedded in the play, a defense that tends to be overlooked when The Invention of Love is read simply as a tragic tale of a blighted and sublimated love.

Nuttall concludes his treatise with a meditation on the idea of scholarship in the contemporary world. He questions whether the term itself may have become outmoded, perhaps replaceable by words such as "intelligence" and "rightness." But he finishes, unsurprisingly and rather unfashionably, by defending what he calls "an altruistic reverence for truth, in all its possible minuteness and complexity." Yes, he admits quirkily, "money spent on university libraries would be better spent on relieving the third world." On the other hand, he says, "we might as well have some who are trained to ask critical questions, to weigh and to test."

That process matters very much to Nuttall, though, like all scholars, he certainly hopes that the road taken will lead to an intellectual pot of gold. "Casaubon struggled with what he read," he writes of the scholar he most admires, "but he struggled fruitfully." That's a consummation devoutly to be wished for Nuttall's own readers. How fruitful the struggle will be for those seeking to wed the traditional idealism of the scholar with the gritty practicalities of contemporary academic life, however, remains to be seen.

The whole thing ...

::Sunday, November 23, 2003 10:50:22 AM::
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NUNTII: Newsletters Available

The latest "explorator" and Ancient World On Television listings (weekly version) are now available online. Enjoy!.

::Sunday, November 23, 2003 10:44:54 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 a.m. |A&E| The Ancient Gold of Troy
"Since WWII, one of the world's most fantastic fortunes was
believed lost--its priceless heirlooms from the time of the
Homeric legends a casualty of war. But when the cache was found
in a secret vault in a Russian museum, an international uproar
ensued over who owned the ancient treasure. Join us as we follow
the journey of Troy's gold."

::Sunday, November 23, 2003 10:41:51 AM::
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1. n. an abnormal state or condition resulting from the forced migration from a lengthy Classical education into a profoundly unClassical world; 2. n. a blog about Ancient Greece and Rome compiled by one so afflicted (v. "rogueclassicist"); 3. n. a Classics blog.

Publishing schedule:
Rogueclassicism is updated daily, usually before 7.00 a.m. (Eastern) during the week. Give me a couple of hours to work on my sleep deficit on weekends and holidays, but still expect the page to be updated by 10.00 a.m. at the latest.

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