Well-considered trifles

It is the nature of the web that it’s heavily linked, obviously, and as you’ll have spotted I love adding subtext to writing with HTML, but just recently I’ve been getting the gratification of people linking to me, which is far less silly and rather more of an endorsement. If I mention them here, along with some other things that exploration has lately led me to, it’s not so much blowing my own trumpet, I assure you—I mean, you’ve read it all already—as the natural result of following such links through to the now-legendary ‘One Step Beyond’.

I already mentioned my appearance in the latest instalment of Carnivalesque, but since then I seem to have been featured in a number of other round-ups, including a post on the site of one Steven Till who is apparently reading—hullo, sir—and in Vidi X at Archaeoastronomy. I can’t work out from that if this is a carnival of any kind or if it’s just a numbered edit such as I favour myself, but I’m grateful for the link anyway. Also as is frequent I owe a tip of the hat to Dr Nokes for linking, and also to Melissa Snell. I just recently bought my first proper hat so I shall endeavour to tip it in relevant directions shortly. If necessary I can provide photos, but I somehow doubt you require it.

Elsewhere, I see that it’s time to question ourselves as medievalists, or at least as scholars of literature, once more. And for those who consider themselves literary scholars more than historians, it would be easy for me to say, “well, yes, you do have a problem”, because of there not being the defence I raised a little while ago of being society’s memory specialists. But that defence itself was raised as a further thought after attacking similar doubts of my own, so it’s good to see that there are more defences than I thought of, because at Old English in NYC Mary Kate Hurley has raised another. Although I’m not sure she explicitly says this, what I take from her post is that as well as the critical thinking her virtual opponent dismisses, on the basis that almost any kind of thinking can be critical if done at all, the study of literature teaches habits of deep thinking, looking always for the next layer of interpretation and significance. This is something that I haven’t seen suggested elsewhere, and since history does it too, even if I think there is possibly only so far that it can go before becoming an Ouroboros-like autophage, I can get behind it. Or, given we’re talking layers on layers, on top of it. Underneath it? I’m not sure, moving on.

Speaking of being on top of things, this is damn cool, because it involves (a) geophysical survey (which as we all know is the future), (b) archaeology from aeroplanes and (c) lasers. And of these the greatest is lasers, obviously, but it still looks pretty good.

On the other hand, speaking of being beneath, these are also damn cool, and this time the link involves a rebellion against the Empire and, if not pirate gold, at least gold bearing the mark of a privateer admiral. Surely we can agree that that’s cool?

You know, occasionally I worry that my job is actually turning me into a numismatist. I have two numismatic papers in process, and spent the early part of the week trying to teach a bunch of programmers about coins that I’d imaged for them. If I was going to become a numismatist, though, or even a collector, it would not be medieval stuff but Roman coins to which I was drawn, because the richness of their symbolic language and the naturalism of their portraits makes them very dense objets d’art. But thanks to another of the miscellanies of the inimitable Dr Nokes, I find that I am not alone in this, and that if I want to enthuse about Roman coinage there will be at least one other place whose example I can follow, so this cheers me greatly. There be shiny.

That’s enough meta-content, surely I can generate some abstruse musings on eschatocols or something to drive you away again now…


2 responses to “Well-considered trifles

  1. Jonathan — as a teacher of writing, I’m always trying to get my students to look for what they “almost say” in their papers — that next argument that, although implicit in the paper, might only come out explicitly in another revision. I think that where you say I’m advocating “deep thinking” — you’re precisely right. Being aware that there are ways of interpretation and therefore significances that exist beyond surface level is necessary — and one of the functions, I feel, of the humanities. You’re right, it can get Ouroboros like if taken too far — but I think that up until that point, it can be quite revealing.

    Thanks for the generous reading! :)

  2. Glad to see there is another medievalist who’s interested in Roman coins!

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