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Ceci n'est pas une hors-texte


If I ever have a couple of King Charles spaniels, I'm gonna call them Deleuze and Guattari. In the meantime I'm just gonna think of Deleuze and Guattari as a couple of King Charles spaniels.

'It is, as Deleuze and Guattari have called, a “becoming-animal” or an ideal deterritorialisation from the shackles of time, space, identity, et cetera.'


Source and discussion here.

What, indeed.

Or as the man said, 'The postulate or common understanding involved in speech is certainly coextensive, in the obligation it carries, with the social organism of which language is the instrument, and the ends of which it is an effort to subserve.'

P. G. Wodehouse wrote that, in Jeeves Takes Charge.

And you know what Jeeves would call his spaniels.

Imitative Anachronisms, part 1

High Renaissance, Renaissance versus Early Modern, and other terms can be used as intellectual currency to draw students and visitors, to signal membership of a group, or to sell books, but such terms need to be used... advisedly.

There is in historical circles some conflation of ‘periodisation’ and ‘stylistic characterisation’, as Jill Burke addresses in her introduction to Rethinking the High Renaissance: The Culture of the Visual Arts in Early Sixteenth-Century Rome (p. 2). For example, not just fifteenth-century English and French sources, but the fifteenth century itself in England and France is usually classified as medieval, in Italy as Renaissance. This is an understandable result when authors and readers are looking for characteristics of a period with which to construct larger narratives and critical analyses and deconstruction of those narratives. The question, and it may be an increasingly common question (since deconstructionism?) seems to be whether such labels determine the parameters and directions of scholarship anachronistically.

The consensus at the Monash Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies last week (insofar as a consensus registered on the Richter scale of such things) was that periodisation labels are allowable if defined, or better, juxtaposed in such a way as to remind the audience that X did not exactly succeed Y. This is rather reminiscent of the principle of imitatio.

was and is a much discussed characteristic of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century European arts and literature. It encompasses something like the modern idea of adaptation or extension of the original, as well as amalgamation and pastiche from many authors - although it didn't have the pejorative overtones that pastiche does now because they had a different idea of what originality was. Dionysius, followed by Quintilian, Erasmus and therefore most sixteenth-century schools of thought, saw imitatio as the way in which literature progresses. So somewhat important. Also important was imitation also included the more familiar sense of copying nature or earlier authors for practice or other reasons. A good author for those as fascinated by the subject as me, is Martin McLaughlin. Another is Erasmus (De Copia Rerum.)

Imitatio was an ideal and certainly a ‘hot topic’ (Burke, p. 18) from 1494 (p. 1). Burke therefore proposes it as an alternative way of thinking about the sixteenth century. But why only from 1494? Burke is arguing for multivalence as a telling development here, but multivalence is certainly nothing new. Is not this just another periodisation by stylistic characterisation? The Age of Imitatio, from the exile of the Medici to the dissolution of the monasteries?

Possibly. And possibly the use of imitatio itself, as an organising principle, is predetermined by the course of historiography, which let us not forget is historically determined. For example history of ideas is largely history of science, and as Constant Mews observed, therefore always Early Modern, never Renaissance. One thing I always enjoy about these accidental teleologies is that they engender questioning and redrawing of the chronologies (cf. R. W. Southern’s ‘Medieval Humanism’) or, less often, the terms (Erwin Panofsky’s ‘Renaissance and Renascences’ or J. H. Parry’s ‘Age of Reconnaissance’.) This is precisely what imitatio does.

As an undergraduate it always seemed better to me to be driven by the parameters in the primary sources than by those of the historiography, more ‘engaging with the text’ to use internal rather than external frameworks. But is it? The value of external conceptual frameworks is that they provide an alternative, not to replace or to choose in preference to the internal ones, but to juxtapose with them as the Renaissance painters depicted classical deities in contemporary dress.

And yet, some apparently ‘external’ conceptual frameworks are arguably born in the times they describe. They include the ‘High Renaissance’ ‘moment of genius’ framework, still used in exhibitions in many of the world’s best galleries, in which Raphael and Michaelangelo bloomed briefly and brightly and most important, approachably, between the stylised flatness of the medieval and the overblown mannered hothouse of the baroque.* The moment is generally dated between about 1500 and about 1530, although your mileage may vary.

It has been noted that this model seems to necessitate a narrative of ‘peaks’ and ‘troughs’ in intellectual and artistic worth, in ‘culture’ in the broadest sense, and in history-worthiness. The idea of a ‘renaissance’ to characterise a period of unusual talent necessitates finding other, earlier or later ‘renaissances’. Thus we have an eighth-century renaissance, a twelfth-century renaissance, and so on, each of which must degenerate into decadence and decline in order to contrast properly with the next renaissance.

However, Burke does note that the High Renaissance ‘has been seen as a kind of escapism from the prevailing mood of the time’, like 1930s ‘Golden Age’ cinema. And like 1930s cinema, the same phenomenon can be both rule and exception.

*I blame that sort of sentence on the fact that my bedtime reading of late is a heady combination of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh and Dylan Thomas. The point still stands.
Mind the gap

Found this perfectly true sentence in a screed of slightly alarming ('Victimization side support to place blade width on throwaway saw for cutting front man of The assembled plinth.') spambot-generated prose when looking for something else.

It doesn't entrance me quite as much these days as it once did; being able to see the joins (and even occasionally recognise sources from snippets) takes away some of the magic. There are also a few combinations of even fewer words that appear so often in, shall we say, LAZY ILLITERATE AND I WILL SMACK YOU AND FAIL YOU copywriting  that the same hackneyed-to-death combinations are translated (in the literal, which is to say the metaphorical sense*) into the algorithms that make up this stuff, and self-perpetuation of the banal to the extent that even inanimate typewriter-monkeys perpetuate it, is, of course, depressing. Which is a shame because linguistic serendipity is one of the largest and most reliable consolations in life. We all have a more or less flimsy collection of reasons for not dying and the pleasure of the newly-coined sentence is not the flimsiest of mine.

That being so, maybe I shouldn't read so much spam, especially in combination with Latin pulp fiction** and bad theses and reports. It does neither my vocab nor my grammar any favours.

*Translation literally means carrying across, which is a metaphor. All in this, which I'm also reading. Couldn't go past a manifold pun title if I wanted to.

**Life of Apollonius. The appeal of cathartic potboiler trash is an old appeal. The hero is unbearable, in that Charlton Heston you-could-strike-matches-on-his-chin-and-I'm-tempted-to-do-it way, but at least it inclines us to do OTT voices when reading.

Edited version here, for comparison. Is this any better?Collapse )


Supermarket philosophy



One of the reasons I find action so difficult, other than a rampaging lazy streak, is not fear of shaking things up or for the sake of some day easing my fit into a mould (what mould, anyway?), but the pleasure of the melancholy contemplation that precedes any kind of will asserting itself. Note that the comic is not about 'choose a thing and go after it', it's about how many possible things there are. I just moved back near where I used to live and have been happily going for long solitary winter walks, noting what is different and what is the same, what is lingering from autumn and what is pushing into spring, who's put their prices up in the last 10 years and who hasn't, that the café I briefly* waitressed in when I was eighteen is considerably emptier than it was, maybe because of its underworld connections. Pissing on fenceposts, as it were.

The local supermarket is one I worked in 10 years ago, when the shopping centre was untidier and less prosperous-looking than now, but also less bleak in that shiny, plate glass and chain store way that has supposedly ruined most English towns (it's a staple tabloid rant). I was a little bit excited to go back, remembering many a pleasant conversation when I worked there with the liquor manager, who was a self-educated, curious kind of guy. He was there, but he didn't see me and of course I didn't say hi. Just got my stuff and walked home. The long way. Because human interaction is like hot chips: cheap, sufficiently readily available to give the illusion of being universally available, and the idea is often more exciting than the reality (do you not find with hot chips?) All of which completely succeeds in lulling me into a 'meh, mañana' attitude to life.

Harvey Pekar didn't have all the answers any more than Randall Munroe, but he did say why we prefer not to see the full panoply of possibilities (because the total perspective vortex does stagger the mind) and in the process, he depicted the pleasure of standing looking at it without going in. Look how huge the thought bubble gets after that little signalling scrap of paper drifts by. It's music. It refreshes the spirit. It is, in fact, sublime.

Stephen Fry knows the answers:

Should have said hi.

*Briefly because I was a terrible waitress, nothing to do with the underworld connections.

The point of Tumblr.


For those who have not seen it (_inbetween_?), The Gallifreycrumb Tinies is a thing.

Children's books I got around to just now: Bridge to Terabithia, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Currently deep in The Gnole, alternating with Anna Karenina and Tarka the Otter. One day I will get around to the GTs.



High on a surprising moment of efficiency, and the after-effects of uncertainty-induced insomnia, our heroine broke a personal rule and bought
twoCollapse )dressesCollapse )

off the internet, where you can't try things on. Will it make any difference? Which was the encouragement award and which was the prize? Will I watch any cartoons over the next fortnight, being as how the pub trivia theme is going to be about cartoons? If it couldn't be considered homework (in some universe. If you squint so hard you see supernovae for an hour. Tonight's theme was indeed space, yes, full points there) would I have been watching cartoons a lot for no reason? These things remain to be seen.

My friend is going home for the summer. She is an unusually strong* and gracious lady and I am glad to have made her acquaintance. Will I profit by the example? This also RTBS.**

*Mentally, I mean. I've no idea what she can bench press.

**In my off moments I am tempted to file my reports under that title, but I fear that only a small section of the computer science department would appreciate such behaviour, if them. So better judgment prevails, as Nick Carraway might say if he were more like Judi Dench.***

*** So = in such a way, not so = therefore, of course. Which is pretty much why I like that novel. It's in the intonation. Mooood.

Good lord. There may be thousands, even millions, of readers, who mentally read 'So, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past'. For decades, for all I know. And taught it, and said it like that on screen.
Mm. In the words of Frank Zappa, I, for one, care less for them.

Alright that's probably enough comma abuse until next time.



My facebook has been in Latin for years, but it has only just now occurred to me that there should be a fanfic character called Linea Temporis. Oh man. What am I doing, avoiding the obvious?

The rewards of hermeneutics

Clarke, K. P. Chaucer and Italian Textuality. Series: Oxford
English Monographs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. ix,
234. £60.00. ISBN: 978-0-19-960777-8.

Reviewed by Alessandra Petrina
Università degli Studi di Padova

Geoffrey Chaucer's Italian texts, K. P. Clarke observes in the
concluding pages of his work, were not simply texts but books, and on
this important difference hinges the analysis undertaken here. The
Italian sources of Chaucer's poems have been exhaustively discussed
and explored for the past century, and studies such as Correale and
Hamel's Sources and Analogues of the Canterbury Tales (2002-
05), have mapped for us the complex web of Chaucer's Italian reading.
More recently, however, there has been in medieval and early modern
studies a surge of attention for books as objects, rather then mere
repositories of texts, and for what they tell us about contemporary
readers; works such as William H. Sherman's Used Books (2007),
devoted to the reading habits of Renaissance England, are exemplary in
this respect.

Chaucer and Italian Textuality is clearly situated in this
critical context, and while owing much to a tradition of Anglo-Italian
studies investigating the role of Italian poets in English literature,
it also seeks to move beyond comparative analysis, focusing instead on
the material culture in which these texts were read and handled. Such
an approach is extremely complex, as it requires investigation both at
a historical and at a philological level, and Clarke is sure-footed in
the latter area, analyzing an impressive number of fourteenth-century
manuscripts (in fact, the absence of an index of manuscripts is keenly
felt here) and revealing a complex web of writers, commentators and
readers. He is particularly interested in the evidence of contemporary
readers interacting with the text in marginalia and glosses. His
highlighting of the role of two Italian readers, Filippo Ceffi and
Francesco d'Amaretto Mannelli, whose attitudes, respectively, to
Ovid's Heroides and Boccaccio's Decameron might have
informed Chaucer's own, offers a welcome addition to what we already
know of late medieval readership.

A Florentine notary, amanuensis and translator, Ceffi makes his
appearance in chapter 1, dedicated to the vernacular tradition of
Ovidian texts. Fascinated with the play between authoriality and
textuality at work in the Heroides (which Ceffi translated into
Italian in the early fourteenth century), Clarke proposes this text as
a model on which medieval writers could exercise and explore, gaining
the rewards of hermeneutics. The relation between this text and the
Legend of Good Women is of course well known, and Clarke re-
examines this relation in light of the "peculiar medieval flavour"
(14) imparted to the Heroides by their manuscript appearance.
Clarke explores the rich commentary tradition and reads Chaucer's use
of Ovid as a model for the "sleight of hand" (19) the English poet
practices when deliberately confusing the intentio auctoris
with the intentio commentatoris. Readers might wonder whether
this is strictly relevant to the "Italian textuality" of the title,
but Clarke's exploration of Chaucer's work repays us of this slight
disappointment by the richness of his own hermeneutics, setting the
Legend in the context of Chaucer's entire oeuvre, and gleaning
a number of rich details and original observations from his analysis,
though a sense of the overall purpose of this section is perhaps
lacking. In comparing the Legend to Ceffi's translation of the
Heroides, Clarke is relying (as Sanford Brown Meech did in the
1930 article from which Clarke draws inspiration) solely on internal
evidence. As a result, his hypothesis rests on too fragile a basis,
and though the analogies in the instances quoted are indeed striking,
they are too few and isolated to constitute the "compelling evidence"
(29) they are claimed to be. Very little attempt has been made to
reconstruct the circulation of this or any other of Ceffi's works, or
to formulate a hypothesis for the occasion on which Chaucer might have
come in contact with this translation; nor is there any attempt to
compare it with contemporary Italian and French translations of the
same text. However, the comparison is useful insofar as Clarke makes a
good case for Ceffi's status as a sophisticated writer and erudite,
implicitly offering a useful comparison for Chaucer's use of Ovid.

The rest of the book is constructed as a progress from Boccaccio to
Chaucer, highlighting the former's activity as interpreter and
commentator of his own and other people's works. What is suggested is
not only the simple and much debated issue of the sources of Chaucer's
works: more subtly, Clarke uses Boccaccio's activity as a commentator
to hypothesize a network of textual criticism, in which the Italian
writer and his informed and articulate approach to manuscripts, as
evidenced in his tireless activity as a glossator, instructs Chaucer's
own approach not only to Italian vernacular poems, but also to the
classics. This is especially useful in the case of Troilus and
, given the attention paid in this text to the classical
and vernacular literary tradition. Equal attention is devoted to
The Knight's Tale, and the triangulation with Boccaccio and
Statius is here highly rewarding (though in a book punctiliously
referring to a wealth of critical studies, one would have expected an
allusion to V.A. Kolve's magisterial study of the tale in Chaucer
and the Imagery of Narrative

The study of glosses offers unexpected gems and sheds light into
obscure corners; Clarke's analysis of Mannelli's fascinating glosses
to Boccaccio's tale of Griselda reveals an unexpectedly modern
reaction, as Gualtieri's "matta bestialità" evokes even in the
fourteenth-century reader the same outraged perplexity many of us feel
today (111-28). Intriguing as this is, however, such an insight is not
pursued in Chaucer's version of the tale, as Clarke, turning to the
Canterbury Tales (discussed not simply as text, but in the
context of the two early, most famous manuscripts in which they
appear, Ellesmere and Hengwrt), initially concentrates on the Wife of
Bath and her Prologue, rather that on the Clerk's Tale. Given
the explicit debate over texts and their authority on the Wife's
Prologue, Clarke's conclusion is inevitable: the Wife presents herself
as a text, and her legerdemain with biblical and patristic texts
mirrors her skillful handling of men and of the narrative material at
her disposal in the Tale. Confusingly, in the move from Boccaccio to
Chaucer the analysis is heavily gendered: Boccaccio's feminine readers
turn into Chaucer's feminine text, and in their turn this offers the
opportunity for a more general, and perhaps generic, declaration that
"all language is feminine" (148). The concluding section of the book
goes back to the Griselda motif, analyzing the Clerk's Tale and
the glosses present in the early manuscripts, but not attempting a
comparison with the glossing of Boccaccio's corresponding tale,
studied in the previous chapter.

As may be seen in this synopsis, sometimes the author's love for
detailed analysis is indulged at the expense of a unifying narrative,
and the book risks losing unity and focus. Perhaps this is inevitable
in a work that reveals such wide reading on the part of the author,
both of primary and secondary sources, and Clarke's use of generally
forgotten texts such as the paratextual apparatus of Boccaccio's work,
or the Italian writer's epistles, is very welcome. His uncovering of
the wealth of information often hidden in marginalia also prompts a
salutary reminder for modern editors, when he denounces a "modern
mistrust of the marginal or paratextual material that so pervaded a
manuscript culture and that became sanitized within a printed culture"
(68). Happily, this warning has already been heeded by a number of
scholars and editors (as witness recent studies acknowledged in the
present work), and the resources of online editing, allowing access to
images of the manuscripts and reconstruction of the paratextual
apparatus, as well as offering new solutions for a presentation of a
non-linear text, may make Clarke's preoccupations slightly outdated.
What I find challenging here is his attention for, and careful
distinction between, the work of the glossator and the reader's

Clarke is to be commended for his painstaking attention to manuscripts
and their physical characteristics, and his reconstruction of the
complex textual history of works such as Boccaccio's Teseida
marks an important step forward in our understanding of these texts.
The book also shows excellent use of literary theory in the reading of
manuscript textuality. However, occasionally this reader felt the book
was rather a missed opportunity. It may be that Clarke's extreme
respect for the critical sources he quotes, sometimes ad
, betrays an excessive dependence on the scholarly
tradition on the subject, leading him to forget the thrust of his own
argument, but the book sometimes gives the impression of a work still
in progress, showing impressive potential but not yet coalesced into a
unifying whole. Tighter editing might have helped here, and forced the
author to give up marginal notes that may have only little relevance.
Some instances of poor editing result in confused reading: on p. 32 an
Ovidian apocryphon, De pulice libellus, is mentioned; on p. 36
there is a reference to Pulex, without any hint at the fact
that the two are the same work. More worryingly, on p. 3 the writer
underlines the importance of Dante's decision to write in
prosimetrum, that is, alternating poetic text and prose
commentary, without mentioning the obvious model for such a choice,
Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae (other sources obviously
could be Martianus Capella's De nuptiis Philologiae et
, or Bernardus Silvestris' Cosmographia); when,
however, on p. 40 we are told that Dante translated parts of the
Consolatione for his Convivio, we feel the writer should
have made the connection. There is also some forcing of
interpretation, as when on p. 105 we are told that at the end of canto
5 of the Inferno Dante faints "when confronted with the
terrifying responsibility he has an author"--which is not true,
strictly speaking, since the narrator clearly states he faints "di
pietate," for pity. All these, though giving the reader some unease,
are minor points, amply compensated by the interesting insights Clarke
provides into medieval reading practices, but they leave something to
be desired in an accomplished scholarly work.

My cool friends

In the week between Christmas and New Year, while I was down the coast (tent, fish and chips, clifftop walks, dodgem cars- consecutively, not concurrently, mind-) my friend Aimee and her coworker

"emailed Neil Gaiman and asked if he'd like to come and visit City Library while he's in Melbourne. And he emailed back and said yes. Then Amanda Palmer emailed and asked if she could come too, and could she please play the piano [of course their library has a piano], and could Neil maybe do a reading. So, that's a thing."
So, they did. And although I haven't seen three of the people in this photo, judging by the other three I am guessing that this is what they look like all the time.

Jazz hands!Collapse )

Initiative. Cool.



-library Masters that I have failed to do as an evening sideline this semester, and that I want to do as a main thing next semester, as it is both demanding and fascinating

-helping organise stuff for this (most actual historical research done by the previous girl, I can't take credit- but am organising the launch of this)


-hoping that perhaps the person who liaises with the archives to get said history stuff out of the cardboard boxes under the stairs and into proper archives next year, is me. I will need to put a proposal and get a grant and such, so 'hoping' = 'keeping in mind'

-hope to get some work in the archives which will help with the above

-the people I was talking about in the Last Posts, did get sacked, all except three (one good one) and the jobs were advertised externally. I got an interview, but I didn't get the job. Fortunately none of the feedback on why not, suggested that I had done or said anything, or neglected to do or say anything, to make them think perhaps I wouldn't be excellent at the work. So professional pride is still unbruised.

-spent last weekend in the libraries 10.30-5pm, and in a recording studio 7pm-2ish. They asked me to come and 'Yoko around' which I decided meant carry stuff, take a few happy snaps for the website and otherwise could always do my homework if bored... but not bored. Results here. All concerned highly pleased and excited about radio play and the like possibilities.

summer projects:

-organising some kind of playlet for a friend's wedding in mid-January (I suggested it during a paper on A Midsummer Night's Dream, but I don't think the rude mechanicals' one from that is going to be ideal.) Have to get started fast, there is not much time.

-cataloguing the student union book co-op and getting up a website/Facebook page/similar for same (ok it's not for profit, but no one knows it's there, which is a Crying Shame. So basic to a university!)

-that grant proposal

-reading for the Masters

-finding work for next year that is only evenings and weekends, and structuring the rest of the time such that I cannot start accepting the inevitable and constant 'unusual emergency' casual work on the grounds that it is easier than study. It is easier, and that is why I ultimately prefer studying. *tattoos it on forehead, refreshing the impression of the last time it had to be tattooed there*

-proofreading a history PhD


-enjoying the weather as weather permits

Oh, and I have new shoes that are rather spiffing.