Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Doo after the good and leue the euyl"

"herein may be seen noble shyualrye, Curtosye, Humanyte, frendlyness, hardynesse, loue, frendshyp, Cowardyse, Murdre, hate, vertue, and synne.  Doo after the good and leue the euyl".

     William Caxton, Preface to his famous 1485 edition of Le morte d'Arthur, by Thomas Malory.  I was put onto this by Carolyne Larrington, reviewing the apparently superlative new edition of Le morte d'Arthur by P. J. C. Field, in "Unto me delyverd," Times literary supplement no. 5797 (May 9, 2014):  13.  But she, following probably Field, varies the orthography:  "herein may be seen noble shyvalrye, curtosye, humanyte, frendlyness, hardynesse, love, frendshyp, cowardyse, murdre, hate, vertue, and synne"; "doo after the good and leve the evyl".

"at the forefront of a decidedly rearguard action"

     "On the ground, in congregations, liberal Christianity has floundered, its champions less and less able to explain why a liberally minded person should bother to be a liberally minded Christian.  That is not a strong position from which to recruit followers.  Among Christian theologians, the dynamic has not been so different:  the firebrand lecturers and supervisors, whose account of the faith might inspire a student [to] take up the mantle in the next generation of academics, have been people whose scholarship is informed by a sense of the faith as the pearl of great price, and who see its traditionsin one or other of its most characterful expressionsas worth glorying in."

     Andrew Davison, "Common terrain," a review of Reinventing theological liberal Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2013), Times literary supplement no. 5799 (May 23, 2014), 24.
     The "decidedly rearguard action" is being mounted by theological liberalism, not conservatism.  Yet in Davison's hands, the book at its "forefront" (Hobson's) comes off as surprisingly conservative (which would make it a good book in my view).
     Prof. Davison is Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences in the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Blind devotion

"Milton collected expensive books, too; he quoted extensively, for example, from the slick folio editions of Byzantine history in parallel Greek and Latin published by the Imprimerie Royale in Paris, a deluxe publishing venture intended by its Catholic masterminds to promote an entente between the Churches of Rome and of the East.  Milton would have snorted at that, but in a letter of 1657 to a scholarly friend in Paris, he asked his contact to buy up the volumes he did not yet have, and send them over.  Now a complete set of this imposing series was fabulously expensive  the run of volumes sitting on the shelves in my own college cost its first owner £30 in 1666, a staggering sum.  And yet, as knowledgeable readers readers will no doubt be remarking to themselves, by 1657 Milton had been totally blind for five years."

     William Poole, "A burning issue:  Boccaccio's 'Life of Dante' in the Bodleian, and its original owner" (Milton), Times literary supplement no. 5799 (May 23, 2014):  15 (14-15).  And yet "Milton's own books have proved frustratingly elusive over the centuries.  We know he was a serious book collector, and immediately after his death his library, even though already diminished, was still tantalizing prey for prospecting book dealers. . . . [Yet] Of this impressive personal library, augmented by Milton even after the collapse of his eyes, only [ten] titles in [eight] volumes have so far found their way into the arms of modern scholars" (15).

beget = exalt, crown

This day I have begot whom I declare
My onely Son. . . .

     John Milton, Paradise lost V, ll. 603-604.  According to Nigel Smith, who follows John Leonard in Faithful labourers:  a reception history of Paradise Lost, 1667-1970 (Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 499, it was Herbert Grierson who in 1926 (in a review of Denis Saurat's Milton:  man and thinker (1925)) proved that "begot" here means "exalted" (on p. 393 Leonard says "made him a king").  Yet "To this day, . . . the metaphorical definition of 'begot' remains unregistered in the Oxford English Dictionary" (Nigel Smith, "Other worlds:  space, time and happiness:  some critical questions from 300 years of reading 'Paradise Lost,'" Times literary supplement no. 5799 (May 23, 2014):  3 (3-4)).

"There ain’t much that’s left here that ain’t all run down."

West Virginia Culture and History
     Hazel Dickens, "Hills of home," It's hard to tell the singer from the song (1987).  For a recording, go here.

"It can happen here"

"the claim that only Hindus should teach about Hinduism betrays the same misunderstanding of the nature of secular education, of the academic discipline of religious studies, that colors [Dina Nath] Batra's contentions.  Growing up in a tradition does not necessarily produce the knowledge and understanding required of a scholar of religion.  There is an essential difference between preaching and teaching, between teaching religion (which the parents or, more often nowadays, grandparents of many American Hindus may do) and teaching about religion (which Hindu or non-Hindu instructors in school may do).
     "Comparative religion . . . is not the same thing as interreligious dialogue, in which only Hindus can publicly speak for Hinduism.  Both approaches . . . are valuable, but they have very different goals and limitations.  Of course there is always bias, from inside or outside the religion.  But writing and teaching in the academic study of religion should never depend upon the faith of the writer or teacher."

     Wendy Doniger, "India:  censorship by the Batra brigade," New York review of books 61, no. 12 (May 8, 2014):  52-53 (51-53).
     "Both approaches are valuable", but Doniger's is in some senses parasitic upon the other.