ricardienne: (Default)
Last night's Colbert Report was super classical! (I watch on the internet, a day or so behind and especially when I'm grading) Oh, and it also had Anthony Everett, noted popularizing historian of Ancient Rome on it.

The contrast was interesting! Colbert's opening segment was an incredibly tasteless routine about Donald Trump. Seriously problematic jokes about coerced pathic homosexuality --- oh, hey Catullus/Martial/Juvenal/... But really. There's an interesting point of continuity with the ancient world, there: male identity, power, authority, who gets to speak, sexual domination. But elderly (white, male) professorial types waxing fondly in British accents about the Empire, mostly in terms of its military and its exciting imperial personalities? Not so much.

I'm not bothered by the gross generalizations, the really bizarre statements about Romanization (straight out of the 19th century), the reduction of Rome to a homogenous machine enlivened with a few salacious anecdotes. (I'm a pedant and I have a field of expertise: of course I think he said everything wrong!) I'm just a little annoyed that this is what history, and especially Roman history apparently means. When there are so many more interesting things being done, and so many more interesting people doing them (plenty of whom are popularizing personalities, I might add), why is it still comforting traditional authorities and Great Man history?
ricardienne: (christine)
So. This past weekend I obsessed about a couple of small points of grammar, but today I cornered Professor D. and geeked out at her about obscure syntax issues and Rules and text-editing, and now I think I have some of it out of my system. The other half won't be gone until after my presentation on Wednesday, though. The other thing that dominated my life this weekend also converged into a Thing, because I read Death Comes to Pemberley, a couple of the Victorian-Steampunk short stories in the Kelley Link and Gavin J. Grant Steampunk! anthology, and watched the finale of Downton Abbey. The result may have been that when I dragged myself away from JSTOR around 12:30 and fitfully fell asleep, I had dreams about the Dowager Countess and the pluperfect subjunctive.

I shall cut as soon as there are spoilers -- no worries. But first I would like to draw your attention to this article from the NY Review of Books (spoiler alert), which is, naturally, doing it's "critical takedown of overrated pseudo-intellectual television programming" thing. I think it's incredibly entertaining that so serious a publication as the NYRB has an essay whose first third is basically a shipping manifesto/plea for Lord Grantham/Bates* I always like to say that I learned how to do close reading by discovering the Harry Potter fandom in high school (back when…only 4 books had come out) and that fandom is basically an exercise in criticism of a sort; here the lines are definitely getting blurred!

I will say one thing about P.D. James's P&P sequel-cum-murder mystery: it was successful as a mystery: combining interesting period procedural details with red herrings and a not-too-obvious denoument. But I was expecting more Lizzie and Darcy tease each other and solve mysteries, and in that, I was disappointed…in this respect it is very like Downton: a noble, proud, and distant gentry obsessively caring for their dignity and their estates. Elizabeth and Darcy barely had any page-time together (she being busy bring jellies to the tenants and dealing with the housekeeper, while he was off doing the sorts of things that a magistrate of the county has to do when his estranged brother-in-law is found over a dead body on his estate.) I mean, Jane Austen characters are always more than paragons of social virtue! The best character by far was the eccentric and crochety fellow-magistrate Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, who got all the best one-liners and occasionally even provoked Darcy into being a little bit sardonic (obviously, Elizabeth was given no opportunity to indulge in such things.) [Also: aren't the Selwyns an old Harry Potter family? I'm just saying that Sir Selwyin's being a wizard would explain a lot.] I would say that it was a bit of a dystopian, Haha, You Thought It Would Be Happily Ever After Did You?, ironic sequel, but it wasn't. James obviously felt a great deal of affection and respect for Austen's characters. Too much respect. Spoilers for Downton Abbey S2 and Death Comes to Pemberley start here )

Also: these paper dolls are pretty amazing.
ricardienne: (Default)
Daniel Mendelsohn just wrote an essay on Mad Men for the New York Review of Books.

I confess I haven't seen the show, though I'm reasonably aware of what it is and how and why it's such a big deal. Anyway, Mendelsohn isn't impressed:the worst offense of a story set in the past: simultaneously contemptuous and pandering )

Anyway, the point is that Dale Peck was not impressed at all by Mendelsohn's critique of this, or of anything. But, obviously, it's not even Daniel Mendelsohn as much as Mendelsohn's icky out-there classics background:

Daniel Mendelsohn—a Princeton-educated classicist who should never be allowed to write about anything more recent than, say, Suetonius. Frankly, I’m not sure he should be allowed to write about the classics either, but I don’t know enough Latin and Greek to say if he’s as wrong about them as he is about modern stuff....all the standards of symmetry and taste that classicists are taught to hold dear, and that Mendelsohn assiduously, with a sharp eye but a tin ear, applies to everything he reviews. If it was good enough for Aristotle, it must be good enough for us, right?


As far as I can tell, Peck really just objects to Daniel Mendelsohn making pronouncements about anything -- so if he is going to criticize Mad Men for not providing any meaningful story or meaningful experience to the viewer, Peck is damn well going to defend the show, even if just as mindless entertainment!

Weirdly, though, Peck's issue is that Mendelsohn is criticizing Mad Men for presenting too straight a story, for not being self-reflective and post-modern enough. I mean, says Peck, it's so hard not to be racist and sexist: sometimes we just want to "bask in the pleasures" of the gloriously decadent past: taking others' needs into consideration...is exhausting )

I really do think it takes a white man to claim that we all fantasize about being in a "fixed and secure" place in a hierarchical society, "even if it lands [us] on the bottom." I realize that as a classicist, I'm not qualified to comment on anything later than Suetonius (thank heavens Tacitus just slips in by a few years!) but it's also a bizarre way to look at modern America: "here we are, repressing all of our natural urges and treating each other like persons with dignity all for our own collective good; heavens isn't it nice to relax into some nice warm fuzzy fantasy where the gender and economic roles are fixed and the women wear girdles and no one worries if you have a few drinks too many, grope your secretary and then drive home." I mean, yes, we do put ourselves under social pressures to behave in certain ways and to avoid certain socially unacceptable behaviors. I have a hard time believing that we police ourselves more than people policed themselves in the 1960's or in any era, really. Different pressures, maybe but not fewer.
ricardienne: (Default)
...it's like every. single. line. is not quite arch enough to be arch, but too too obviously genre-savvy to be genuine. Costumes are pretty, though, and Maggie Smith (+ her hats) pretty much makes it worthwhile. OH! And there was a bonus Trollope reference, even though I think it was designed to highlight the boringness of the guy who mentioned Trollope.

BUT. I just watched the third (UK) episode, and WHAT THE HELL?
cut for potential triggers )
ricardienne: (heiro)
Kings is really bad. But since it's more or less as trashy fantasy novel (kingdom? yes. heroic idealistic (and rather boring) young main character? yes. war with evil country? yes. evil courtiers and intrigue? yes. lame attempts at humor? yes. even lamer attempts to be insightful? yes.) I am completely hooked. This is bad: I have to much work to start watching a silly tv show.

I am trying to divide monster-chapter in two, and am meandering around as a result in Quintilian. Also in ancient issues of Harvard Studies in Classical Philology (someone was writing his dissertation on De praepositionis sub usu:"In this thesis I have examined all the Latin writers through Suetonius in order to determine the usage of the temporal sub." My man Henry Litchfield, however, wrote about National exempla virtutis in Roman literature:
Given the ideal virtues, founded on a practical basis of patriotic motive, we have to ask: How had the Roman moral teachers, in seeking to inculcate them, been the supplying the want which Christianity later satisfied by the inspiration of the lives of Jesus of Nazareth and of His saints? If we find, as surely we shall find, that the age which produced an Imitatio Christi was yet, if anything, less given to reliance upon moral instances than was that which preceded it, we shall naturally seek some explanation of their prominence in the Roman ethical system.


And my favorite (and slightly culturally relevant part):
In a society which exalts Washington and all by deifies Lincoln, the casuist is yet trained almost instinctively to ask himself not "What would Washington or Lincoln do in the given situation?" but "What would Jesus do? Or St. Paul?" This will doubtless be even more the case under other than republican governments, which seem to be the natural nursury of exempla.


Poor Mr. Litchfield would be sadly disappointed, I think, to learn that we are now more likely to ask "What would make a good Facebook status in the given situation?" than anything.
ricardienne: (Default)
So I should have done something useful, liked worked on a presentation, or at least read my adviser's comments on Monster Chapter Draft, but instead, I reread Amulet of Samarkand (found a brand new hardback for a dollar: I like Bartimaeus a lot, and I had forgotten how much I like how Nathaniel is done) and watched "Kings." (Isn't an hour and half kind of long for a television episode? Or is it so long because it's the first one? I don't have much experience with television.) It is pretty silly: everyone wanders around hitting all of the current issues in a "West Wing with a Monarchy" way, and then randomly break into quasi-Biblical speech (or maybe actually Biblical? If I knew my King James Old Testament, I might be able to recognize lines.) I suppose they were trying to cram all the plot points into the first episode, but it was a little scattershot: one minute it's healthcare, and the next it is military pragmatism vs. idealism, and meanwhile we're talking about religion in public life, and OH HAI Evil Corporate Representative of the Military Industrial Complex except no, it's actually about homosexuality. I do not need a distraction like this right now.

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