31 May 2006 - Wednesday

Unfortunate associations

I recently started on Quentin Skinner's The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, which is a study of medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation political philosophy. So far, I've been reading Skinner's analysis of 12th-15th century Italian scholarship, observing the efforts of the city republics to explain their resistance to papal, imperial, and plutocratic domination. I've reached and nearly finished the chapter on the Florentine Renaissance; next up is "The Age of Princes."

And you know what? Several times over the last few days as I've sat with the book, I've gotten the urge to watch The Godfather. Isn't that terrible? Apparently I think almost exclusively in terms of an unfortunate stereotype of Italian culture. I cannot read a book with names like "Bruni" and "Salutati" and "Pico della Mirandola" without also thinking of Michael and Vito. It's disgraceful.

In my defense, of course, one could easily argue that the brutal patronage politics of medieval Italy were not much different from the system depicted in the movie. Very little separates the Five Families from medieval dynasties.

In related news, Lee has been posting photos from a recent trip to Italy at verbum ipsum. Rome is here, here, here, here, and here. Florence is here and here.

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30 May 2006 - Tuesday

Reading list

Joseph Bottum discusses The Mad Scientists' Club. I loved those stories. (HT: Siris)

Derek likens plainchant to Victor Borge.

Slate has commissioned a set of lurid pulp-fiction-style jackets for classic literary works. I want to see these in bookstores.

Holyoffice strikes again: "The Internet Theologian Explains The Da Vinci Code." Stuff this good shouldn't be hosted on LiveJournal.

Steven F. Sage claims that Adolf Hitler consciously imitated a Henrik Ibsen play as he orchestrated the rise of the Third Reich.

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29 May 2006 - Monday

American memories

Click for information about this poster
WPA poster, c. 1937

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28 May 2006 - Sunday

Conflict and comprehension

In the recent Patrick Henry College controversy, the central theme of the dispute was not necessarily academic freedom, although that's what outsiders (including me) talked about the most. The central question for those actually involved was the proper Christian attitude toward the liberal arts. Two PHC professors, Kevin Culberson and David Noe, chose that topic for a student magazine article they wrote just before resigning.

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, they told the PHC community, does not mean that evangelicals can ignore outside thought. On the contrary, "the majority of the knowledge we need comes to us from God's grace revealed in nature, and the bulk of that through the efforts of irreligious and ungodly men." Therefore, the liberal arts are valuable as a way to find freestanding sources of truth, not just pagan material to contrast with the Bible.

When I first read the article, I got the odd feeling that many conservative Protestants would bristle at its language even as they obey its spirit in their everyday lives. Anyway, the article seems pretty reasonable to me. What I like most in it, however, comes at the very end. I like this because it brings to mind my experiences with evangelical students.

When we examine the writings of any author, professed Christian or otherwise, the proper question is not, "Was this man a Christian?" but "Is this true?" Nor should we spend much time looking for points of disagreement. Rather we should focus on taking what has been rightly said and submitting it to the service of Christ.

It violates Christian charity when we delight in identifying those points at which pagan authors depart from the Scriptures. Is there really any profundity in concluding that Plato or Vergil did not know Christ? How much better is it to see that God has not left himself without witness among all peoples, we would say especially among the Greeks and Romans. If from the lips of infants and children he has ordained praise, and the stars themselves, though mute, declare the glory of God, day after day pouring forth speech, is it not true that in all aspects of the liberal arts God has revealed his glorious knowledge for our benefit?

In that last paragraph, I think, lies the heart of the problem. I can easily imagine the discussions that might have led Culberson and Noe to write this plea.

In my experience, many of my fellow evangelicals, although they may think they are willing to interact with the ideas of non-Christians, are actually pretty patronizing. As the authors hint above, many take pleasure in pointing out the shortcomings of any unorthodox philosophy. To such people, anything out of line with their interpretation of the Bible is by definition absurd; it is to be dismissed with ridicule and Bible verses. "How could anybody possibly think that?" they wonder.

And yes, to some of them, observing that a Spinoza or Goethe or Derrida was not exactly Chalcedon-compliant would seem like insightful philosophical analysis. They have no ability to step into someone else's worldview for a moment, to understand how people reach different conclusions. They lack the humility to recognize that someone's work can be brilliant even when they don't agree with it. As a result, they also often lack the ability to tell when a particular Christian is not being brilliant.

But I don't think this problem is unique to us evangelicals, nor do I think the problem is a religious one. I'm just observing the problems I see closest to home. Pretty much everybody is susceptible; we all tend to get uptight about something or another. And as another blogger noted some time ago, a lot of people just don't seem to be able to appreciate cool arguments for their coolness.

I think that's terribly sad. God made the human mind far too beautiful, even in all its decay, for us to disparage the variety and intricacy of its work.

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27 May 2006 - Saturday

Fear and snobbery

I am reading Julius Getman's In the Company of Scholars: The Struggle for the Soul of Higher Education (UT Press, 1992). Getman is a law professor, and the book reflects his professional experience, but many of his arguments apply to other disciplines as well.

One of the main themes of the book is the tension Getman sees between the elitist and egalitarian impulses of the academy. He is particularly critical of what he interprets as widespread pretense and arrogance on elite campuses. His complaints come from personal experience; Getman went on from a working-class childhood to get an education at Harvard Law.

Getman argues that the snobbery is a result of fear:

Academic life is frequently perceived to be a haven for the timid, and there is much to the stereotype. Many of the worst features of academic life -- the pedantry, jargon, obscurantism, and removal from reality -- have their roots in fear of discovery. Yet meaningful success requires a degree of boldness.

In later years, I realized that many students and young faculty members behave in self-defeating ways. [...] They do not believe that they have anything of value to contribute to a high-level academic debate. Often this feeling prevents people from publishing or teaching effectively and sometimes it makes them pedantic, overly abstract, or unnecessarily elegant in the presentation of their ideas. Sometimes I think that the great majority of young academics fall into two categories: the unnecessarily diffident and the infuriatingly arrogant. In more reflective moments, I realize that the two categories are essentially one. Underneath the arrogance so common among young academics, there is generally fear of being exposed as an intellectual charlatan. The feeling is almost universal. The fear reflects, among other things, that deep down almost all of us are aware of how little we know about the subjects we teach. (pp. 25-26)

This got me thinking. Assuming Getman is right (and I'm guessing he's not entirely wrong), I would add that I think similar fears lie behind a lot of the popular anti-intellectualism that some of us complain about. If many academics cloak their insecurities with arrogance, I think non-academics often do the same. At least, in my experience.

Many people speak proudly of their participation in "the real world" as if it were morally and even mentally superior to the sheltered and luxurious (ha!) life of the universities. Some openly disparage intellectuals as subversive and supercilious pantywaists (those probably aren't the terms they would use, but never mind that). I suspect such anti-intellectuals feel threatened by an educational system that obviously wields a great deal of power in society, but in which they are unlikely to be allowed a voice. Anti-intellectualism is itself often a form a snobbery prompted by fear and a sense of exclusion.

And it's true that the opinions of many segments of society are unlikely to be taken seriously by the academy. At best, the intellectuals smile indulgently and try to figure out how to liberate these people from their woeful ignorance. It's no wonder if they respond in kind.

I still think one of the best things we all could do to make everybody feel human again is to avoid politicization [edit: "polarization" might be a better term than "politicization"; the problem is not being opinionated but being antagonistic]. If we could overlook the accumulated partisan baggage of personalities, cultures, and ideologies, we might treat each other with more respect and become better thinkers, too. I'm not claiming to be good at that -- quite the contrary -- but I would like to improve.

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25 May 2006 - Thursday


Thought the first:

I keep starting on new books and articles. At this point, I think it might be wise to try to finish something before I start the next one. But which one to finish first?

Thought the second:

The National Geographic Bee is on right now in the other room. I probably shouldn't watch. Those little kids make me feel so stupid.

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23 May 2006 - Tuesday

Reading list

Swapatorium has a series of photographs of a Macy's parade from about 1932.

Noting an odd tendency in her students, Another Damned Medievalist asks whether anybody knows just when Americans started thinking of the two world wars as American interventions on behalf of the utterly feckless British and French. The comments so far suggest that it started early.

I should link at least one of this year's commencement addresses. John O'Hurley (J. Peterman on Seinfeld) delivered a good one to Providence College. (Via Marc, who was there)

Eric Muller has uncovered a cool letter of protest sent to FDR in April 1942 in response to the Japanese-American internments. It is signed by Countee Cullen, John Dewey, Harry Emerson Fosdick, and Reinhold Niebuhr, among others.

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21 May 2006 - Sunday

Ancient and medieval history

Brandon Watson has put together a great edition of Carnivalesque, the premodern history carnival. I should link Carnivalesque more often. Topics in this one include the International Congress of Medieval Studies, unprovenanced artifacts, and Aristotelian metaphysics.

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20 May 2006 - Saturday

Reading list

Two recent HNN articles highlight different aspects of the history of the American press. Eric Burns talks about the scurrilous tactics and outrageous falsehoods of founding-era journalism; Christopher B. Daly describes early efforts to restrict press freedom.

Hugo Schwyzer meditates on Las Vegas, Capitol Hill, and the kingdom of heaven.

Faced with evidence that some observers are hazy on the specifics of Christianity, Holyoffice provides a "cheat sheet" of important terms.

Headline at The Onion: "Heroic Computer Dies to Save World from Master's Thesis" (HT: Jeremy Boggs)

With "The Polyglot Manifesto" (part I; part II), Manan Ahmed argues that historians need to learn to communicate in a digital environment.

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Mill at 200

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the brilliant John Stuart Mill, the preeminent thinker of liberalism. Chances are, whether you think you agree with Mill or not, you have absorbed some of his political philosophy.

The object of this Essay is to assert one simple principle ... that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.
His essay On Liberty (1859), quoted above and below, is remarkable as a defense of individual liberty against even the most democratic of governments. Few thinkers, before or since, have pressed individual autonomy as far as Mill did in this essay. Yet the rule he used to define the limits of freedom is used today by people of many different political perspectives to justify some of their positions.
But there is a sphere of action in which society, as distinguished from the individual, has, if any, only an indirect interest; comprehending all that portion of a person's life and conduct which affects only himself, or if it also affects others, only with their free, voluntary, and undeceived consent and participation. When I say only himself, I mean directly, and in the first instance; for whatever affects himself, may affect others through himself. ...

This, then, is the appropriate region of human liberty. It comprises, first, the inward domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscience in the most comprehensive sense; liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral, or theological. The liberty of expressing and publishing opinions may seem to fall under a different principle, since it belongs to that part of the conduct of an individual which concerns other people; but, being almost of as much importance as the liberty of thought itself, and resting in great part on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from it.

Secondly, the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow; without impediment from our fellow-creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong.

Thirdly, from this liberty of each individual, follows the liberty, within the same limits, of combination among individuals; freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others; the persons combining being supposed to be of full age, and not forced or deceived.

No society in which these liberties are not, on the whole, respected, is free, whatever may be its form of government; and none is completely free in which they do not exist absolute and unqualified. The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. [Paragraph breaks added]

I have seen people of all sorts of political backgrounds use Mill's rule selectively to support their own opinions. But I have rarely seen anyone apply it consistently. (Mill himself had trouble.) There is always some point at which we find others' conduct so disgusting that we cannot bear to let the conduct continue, however little it interferes directly with our own freedom. And of course we can argue forever about indirect consequences, which are a perfectly real danger; very few individual choices are entirely without involuntary effect on other individuals. We can argue about how much harm is done by problems like inequality or broken families or secondhand smoke.

But as the basic test of a state interest, "Does that action harm other people, or just that one idiot?" is a fundamental part of the way most of us, whether we consider ourselves conservative or liberal or something else, talk about government.

This page has a long list of links to online John Stuart Mill texts, including The Subjection of Women, a plea for gender equality. Mill seems to have collaborated with his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill, on some of his writing.

By the way, last year, On Liberty nearly made Human Events' list of the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries." It came in at number 14.

Update: The incomparable Brandon also has a birthday post; he provides links to two newspaper articles printed for the occasion. Particularly worth noting is the OpinionJournal article, in which Roger Scruton explains why he finds Mill's work badly flawed.

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19 May 2006 - Friday

Vaguely familiar

I hesitate to believe this is true until I see somebody else report it -- the story is just that suggestive.

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

That's the story at Canada's National Post. (HT: Done with Mirrors)

Daniel Larison, however, says there's nothing new here, and the Third Reich is the wrong precedent to cite.

Update: Looks like my initial skepticism was justified.

"Such a plan has never been proposed or discussed in parliament," [Jewish legislator Morris] Motamed told the Associated Press.

"Such news, which appeared abroad, is an insult to religious minorities here."

Another Iranian legislator said the newspaper has distorted a bill that he presented to parliament, which calls for more conservative clothing for Muslims.

"It's a sheer lie. The rumours about this are worthless," Emad Afroogh said.

Afroogh's bill seeks to make women dress more traditionally and avoid Western fashions. Minority religious labels have nothing to do with it, he said.

"The bill is not related to minorities. It is only about clothing," he said.

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My two cents

Please remember what would happen to a student caught in repeated plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification -- especially if that student showed absolutely no remorse for his or her behavior.

It would vary according to school, of course. But at Harvard or Yale, the average punishment for academic dishonesty is a two-semester suspension; at Washington and Lee University, plagiarism automatically results in permanent expulsion.* And at CU-Boulder, where students "frustrated with the lack of academic integrity on campus" asked for an honor code in 1998,* violations result in punishment ranging from a warning letter to permanent expulsion.*

Therefore, I have little sympathy with anyone insecure enough to think that Ward Churchill's offenses are somehow mitigated by his critics' political views. He should be fired. For the sake of the children.

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18 May 2006 - Thursday

Marsiglio of Padua

One political theorist who has attracted my attention lately is Marsiglio (or Marsilius) of Padua, a fourteenth-century writer. For his time, Marsiglio had a remarkable understanding of human society -- a republican, or perhaps more accurately, a contractarian understanding.

In any society, Marsiglio believed, the citizens are the proper ultimate source of legislation. Civil government exists to protect the community's temporal happiness, so the communal will is a better determinant of law than a particular will is. Rulers, according to this view, derive their authority from the election of the citizens.

His 1324 work Defensor pacis (possibly co-written by John of Jandun) appeals to Aristotle for support:

We declare, according to truth and the opinion of Aristotle, the legislator, or the prime and proper effective cause of law, to be the people or the whole body of citizens or its weightier part, commanding or deciding by its own choice or will, expressed verbally in a general assemblage of the citizens, that something be done or omitted concerning the civil actions of men, under a temporal punishment or penalty. I say the weightier part, taking into consideration both the number of persons and their quality in the community for which the law is enacted.

The whole body of citizens, or its weightier part, either makes law directly or commits this duty to some one or few; the latter do not, and cannot, constitute the legislator in the strict sense of the term; they act only in such matters and for such periods as are covered by the authorization from the primary legislator. [This translated excerpt is from Francis William Coker's Readings in Political Philosophy (Macmillan, 1938); I have added paragraph breaks.]

The geopolitical context of Marsiglio's work was a dispute between Pope John XXII and Ludwig of Bavaria. Ludwig imagined himself emperor. John had other opinions, and as pope, he declared Ludwig's authority void. (This conflict, by the way, is the backdrop of Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose.) Marsiglio took the side of the emperor, denying the authority of the pope to interfere in civil government.

Ludwig became Marsiglio's patron. John, on the other hand, condemned the writer as a heresiarch in 1327. It is not difficult to see why. First, Marsiglio applied his governmental model even to church governance -- replacing the authority of popes and councils with "the common consent of Christians," denying the Petrine succession of the papacy. Furthermore, he denied that the Church rightly possesses any temporal authority:

... Neither the Roman bishop, called the pope, nor any other bishop, presbyter, or deacon, ought to have the ruling or judgment or coercive jurisdiction of any priest, prince, community, society or single person of any rank whatsoever. ... Christ Himself did not come into the world to rule men, or to judge them by civil judgment, nor to govern in a temporal sense, but rather to subject Himself to the state and condition of this world; that indeed from such judgment and rule He wished to exclude and did exclude Himself and His apostles and disciples, and that He excluded their successors, the bishops and presbyters, by His example, and word and counsel and command from all governing and worldly, that is, coercive rule. [This translated excerpt is found here.]
It is not particularly easy to locate online resources on Marsiglio. Here's what I've found:

+ An excerpt from Defensor pacis
+ The conclusions of Defensor pacis
+ The condemnation by John XXII
+ An entry at Wikipedia
+ An entry in The Columbia Encyclopedia
+ An unflattering Catholic Encylopedia entry
+ Lecture notes by R. J. Kilcullen

In preparing this entry, I also referred to Coker's book (cited above) and an article by Cary J. Nederman: "Marsiglio of Padua," in David Boucher and Paul Kelly, eds., Political Thinkers (Oxford, 2003).

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17 May 2006 - Wednesday

FRUS online

Foreign Relations of the United States is available online -- with volumes from 1861 to 1960! The collection still has gaps, with the 1870s, 80s, and 90s only sparsely covered.

HT: MeFi, via H-Diplo

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15 May 2006 - Monday

Trouble in Purcellville

At Cliopatria, KC Johnson has drawn my attention to the fact that five professors recently resigned from Patrick Henry College. The conservative Christian institution has drawn a lot of attention over the last few years; these faculty resignations reveal internal debate over academic freedom and the role of Scripture in intellectual life.

The story, as reported in Leesburg Today (23 March and 12 May) and in the Chronicle of Higher Education (12 May), is as follows.

Continue reading "Trouble in Purcellville" below the fold . . .

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History Carnival 31

The thirty-first History Carnival is up at Airminded. Brett Holman has prepared an excellent compilation, including such gems as these:

At Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog, the master presents a list of Galfridus Chauceres lynes of picke-uppe. "Ich haue the tale of Lancelot yn myn roome. Woldstow rede of yt wyth me?" >>

Dorothy King describes the fascinating stonework assocated with the Small Metropolis, a little Byzantine church. >>

Martin Rundkvist discusses the Viking settlement at Baggensstäket. >>

Michael Lorenzen reminds us that President James K. Polk was censured by Congress for provoking war. >>

Jonathan Petropoulos discusses the role that some German royals played in helping Hitler to power. >>

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14 May 2006 - Sunday

Happy Mother's Day

I didn't forget it. Honest.

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Reading list

At Got Medieval, Carl Pyrdum has exposed S.R. 458 (a Senate resolution that the national anthem should be sung in English only) for the self-stultifying silliness it is.

Caleb McDaniel critiques what he calls "the cult of information" that, among other things, leads the public to excuse government overreach. I'm tempted to start quoting T. S. Eliot.

Laura James reminds us what un ugly thing a presumption of guilt can be. That may be useful to remember when discussing cases like this; I feel safe saying that some innocent players have been branded brutes because of their association with the team. The rest of the matter, Lord willing, will be sorted out properly in court.

Mirium Burstein provides a helpful guide to interpreting the coffee-shop rituals of professors in finals season. Please approach such professors cautiously; the grade you save could be your own.

After nine months of teaching at Duke, Mark Goodacre reflects on the differences between American and British higher education.

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Jaroslav Pelikan 1923-2006

Word is circulating that Jaroslav Pelikan, the greatest contemporary church historian, died yesterday of lung cancer. He was 82. According to OrthodoxWiki, the funeral will happen Wednesday.

My first contact with Pelikan's work came in the form of this lecture: "The Predicament of the Christian Historian."

No historicism about the West and no exoticism about the East could excise that specific history, the history of Jesus and of the movement that came out of his life and message, from the history that had produced the members of [Adolf von] Harnack's audience at the University of Berlin in 1900, who could be and were ignorant of it but who could not be and were not unaffected by it in a fundamental way. As he put it in his opening words, "The great philosopher of Positivism, John Stuart Mill, once said that the human race cannot be reminded often enough that there was once a man named Socrates. He is right, but it is more important to go on reminding the human race that a man named Jesus Christ once stood in their midst."

But there was a more substantive and fundamental reason as well: the history of Jesus and of his message carried that force also because his sayings and parables uniquely "speak to us through the centuries with the freshness of the present." ...

Was it "the Christian historian" as historian or "the Christian historian" as Christian, perhaps even "the Christian historian" as theologian, who was speaking in pronouncing such judgments? It is the predicament of the Christian historian to live in that tension; for, as I have suggested elsewhere, every historian must be a polyglot, speaking one or more of the dialectes of "past-ese" and simultaneously communicating to contemporaries in "present-ese."

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13 May 2006 - Saturday


As expected, I went to the UT Press tent sale with my father yesterday. I spent a couple of hours at the "hurt books" tables, gently pushing my way between other shoppers to get to the tables in the first place, then waiting for the pack to move so that I could survey new sections of the merchandise. I balanced a heavy box of books on one arm, using the other arm to pluck promising books from the piles. The hurt books, by the way, were generally new but slightly damaged; they cost $3 per paperback and $5 per hardcover.

Said al-Andalusi (trans. Semaan I. Salem and Alok Kumar), Science in the Medieval World: "Book of the Categories of Nations"

Wm. Roger Louis, ed., More Adventures with Britannia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain

Bernard Gordon, Hollywood Exile: or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist

Michael Gagarin and Douglas M. MacDowell, trans., Antiphon and Andocides

Donald Margulies, Nora Glickman, Elise Thoron, Ari Roth, Corey Fischer, Jeffrey Sweet, Motti Lerner, Marilyn Clayton Felt, and Jennifer Maisel, Nine Contemporary Jewish Plays

Pinchas H. Peli, Torah Today: A Renewed Encounter with Scripture

Harry Huntt Ransom, The Conscience of the University, and Other Essays

Daniel Dinello, Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology

Julius Getman, In the Company of Scholars: The Struggle for the Soul of Higher Education

T. H. White, The Book of Merlyn: The Unpublished Conclusion to The Once and Future King

Tony Mendoza, Cuba -- Going Back

Susan A. Spectorsky, trans., Chapters on Marriage and Divorce: Responses of Ibn Hanbal and Ibn Rahwayh

Joseph H. Hobbs, Mount Sinai

After exhausting the tent sale, we headed to Half Price Books for some additional speculation.

An Evening in Paris (music CD)

W. H. D. Rouse, trans. Great Dialogues of Plato (Republic, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Ion, Meno, Symposium)

Fernand Braudel (trans. Richard Mayne), A History of Civilizations

The Book of Common Prayer

Roy Porter and Mikluas Teich, eds., Revolution in History

Alvaro de Silva, ed., The Last Letters of Thomas More

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10 May 2006 - Wednesday

Upcoming attractions

For those in the Austin area:

University of Texas Press Annual Outdoor Book Sale

This Friday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). I've been there the last two years, and I have no intention of missing it this year. UT Press will be selling lots of brand-new (and some slightly damaged) textbooks for cheap, all outdoors under a big tent, which somehow makes the hunt more exciting.

2006 Summer Film Series at the Paramount Theatre

From 24 May to 8 September. I'm not as impressed with this year's lineup as I have been with some previous seasons, but I'm sure that won't keep me from enjoying it.

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9 May 2006 - Tuesday

Reading list

At The Galilean Library, David Misialowski has begun a series of articles on the roots of modern art. Links to the first three installments may be found here.

Lunettes Rouges takes us on an illustrated trip through an exhibit at the Kunstmuseum Basel. The show is "Hans Holbein the Younger: The Basel Years (1515-1532)." The entry is in French; information is also available in English at the museum's Web site.

openDemocracy has published Fukuyama's new afterward to The End of History and the Last Man. Several other oD contributors debate his conclusions here.

At Ben Witherington's blog, a Texan evangelical Christian by the name of Omar Hamid Al-Rikabi discusses his struggles with religious identity, racism, and nationalism -- and the meaning of Christ's sacrifice.

An anonymous humanities PhD has started a blog as part of a project to reunite his or her Christian faith with his or her life as an academic. The inaugural post explains.

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8 May 2006 - Monday

The Great Longview Marketing Tour

Amidst the chaos of preparing for a wedding and a graduation, a few of my college friends and I found time last week to accomplish something we had wanted to do for years. Gallagher, Martinez, Wheeler, and I piled into a car and set out on the Great Longview Marketing Tour, documenting the quirky advertising we had noticed during our stay in East Texas. We'd been driving by these signs week after week for four years; we decided we had to share them with the world before we lost the chance forever.

Click on the thumbnails to get the full effect.

Haute cuisine.

A well-diversified company.

The scare quotes are a nice touch.

Continue reading "The Great Longview Marketing Tour" below the fold . . .

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| Posted by Wilson at 15:18 Central | Link | TrackBack (1)
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7 May 2006 - Sunday


It is done! I am now a former LeTourneau University student, bearing a BA in history-political science and a BS in business administration.

Furthermore, my friends Rachel and Wheeler are married.

I am full of contradictory emotions. I may never see some of my friends again (and two of them are now united in a way that will take some getting used to), and I have left a place that had almost come to seem like home. But I am also free to start a new life in a new place. For the moment, I am back in rural Central Texas, hoping for a little peace and quiet. For the Wheelers, I wish a similarly peaceful summer and a marriage that will grow ever stronger.

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| Posted by Wilson at 12:43 Central | Link | TrackBack (0)
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3 May 2006 - Wednesday

Summer is coming! Summer is coming!

I have an idea. Since school is ending (permanently, for some of my visitors) here's an opportunity to share ideas for summer reading. What books are you likely to borrow from the local library? What's sitting on your shelf right now, waiting to be consumed? We can even expand the concept of "reading a text" to include watching films, listening to the radio, and so on.

For example, my list includes:

+ the rest of The Satanic Verses
+ the rest of Political Thinkers
+ something at the Texas Shakespeare Festival
+ Cato's Letters
+ Why Study the Past?
+ lots and lots of NPR

Feel free to add your own picks -- whether you think you'll actually get to them or not. This is a chance to think wishfully, if need be.

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| Posted by Wilson at 15:23 Central | Link | TrackBack (0)
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1 May 2006 - Monday

History Carnival 30

The thirtieth History Carnival is up at ClioWeb. I would link a few favorites as usual, but I'm a little preoccupied at the moment. Go take a look for yourself.

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| Posted by Wilson at 17:34 Central | Link | TrackBack (0)
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