Thursday, May 31, 2007

For J. E.: sit tibi terra levis

I just found out one of my master's students died. He had been ill for a while, but evidently the pain got to be too much. The details aren't entirely clear, but either accidentally, or on purpose, he took too many pain pills.

I found out via e-mail. I don't know if any of you have had the same experience of seeing an e-mail entitled simply with a name. You open it up, and the stark news hits.

Students are not supposed to die before their professors. There's something Homerically wrong about it.

J.E. was pugnacious, argumentative, maddening, irascible. He swore and smoked. He was un-P.C. to the extreme. He would most definitely win the "Most Likely to Climb the Clock Tower" Award. He drove me crazy. I liked him immensely. I couldn't make him learn his Latin verb forms even though I met with him every other day, on my own time, mind you. We argued all the time. He loved his dog. He always brought hard candy.

How can someone so vividly alive be dead? And if there is something after this life (and God knows lately I have had some serious periods of doubt) where will J. end up? How far does God's mercy extend?

May the earth lie light upon thee.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I literally died of boredom.

Just finished writing a review of a very tedious (but very scholarly and well written) book on an excruciatingly small corner of ancient Greek political history.* Good grief! main text only about 200 pages, but 100 pages of footnotes!! The headache is slowly dissipating...a couple more glasses of beer may do it.

* I won't name it because s/he may come beat me up when the review comes out...

The odd thing, though, is the following line: "So-and-so's work was literally gilded over..." Now, obviously, the author didn't mean literally, he meant figuratively...but so many people use the word literally in place of its opposite that one reads of unfortunate souls "literally busting a gut laughing," or "literally laughing their heads off"...I'm sure you've come across the same thing. During his discussion of the Corcyrean stasis, Thucydides (3.82.4-5) talks about how in times of stasis (civil war) words lose their regular meanings:

[4] Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. [5] The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries.

It literally breaks my heart.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Good-Bye, Boccaccio

Hello, Summer!

Yes, believe it or not our school year is over, even though winds still shake the darling buds of May. I have just posted my final grades, making Aghaveagh a free woman for the first time in weeks. It's been a month since I've last posted here; the demands of teaching and scholarship have left me little time to indulge in such pasttimes such as blogging.

E pur si muove.

Reading a hundred undergraduate papers on the geography of Dante's
Inferno may have scarred me for life...certainly I see myself landing in more and more levels every year.

As for the pursuit of poetry, here's a poem by Lord Byron that is one of my favorites:

So, we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

When we traveled to Greece last summer with a group of students, one of my goals was to find the spot where Byron had scratched his name onto a pillar of the Temple of Apollo at Sounion . . . alas, you cannot get very close to the temple, and at the time I didn't know where the grafitto was. O, for a pair of binoculars!

Perhaps next time. (Here's where it is, for those of you who might be
going in the future, from a photo by Steven Christenson)

Interestingly enough, we found ourselves on the trail of Byron again in Sintra, Portugal. He stayed at Lawrence's Hotel in 1809. We went to look at the restaurant but it was too expensive for us academic types.

Now, finally, I can go check out what's been happening at
MP's place for the last month or so.