Thursday, March 25, 2010

Benefactors of humanity


More than once in the past I have said that Roger Pearse is a benefactor of humanity. It still seems to be true. Why is he our benefactor? He has taken it upon himself translate or commission translations of a great many early Christian works which have until now been available only to people who could read the original languages. Some people think that's fine -- if you don't know ancient Greek you would not understand these sources anyway -- but that's not my attitude, nor is it Roger's. As someone who has studied late antiquity and read a lot of obscure Christian literature from that era, I am in awe of Roger's generosity. The translations that he posts and otherwise gives away are not a complete substitute for the originals, but they make available part of the cultural and religious legacy of early Christianity to many new people.

I was inspired to say something about Roger by a blog post he published today, just one of the interesting posts of his that I've read since I discovered he had a blog. the Post announces a new translation of Hippolytus's Chronicon, one of the very first world chronicles written by Christian, in this case a third century Roman clergyman who eventually was martyred. (He is sometimes considered the first antipope.) In an earlier incarnation I had to know something about Hippolytus; it would have been nice to have this translation then.

But one of the interesting things about this new translation is that it is not, as far as I can tell, one of Roger's projects! There is another benefactor of humanity out there and this person is named T. C. Schmidt. Thank you very much, T.C.!

Image: Hippolytus being martyred, dragged behind a horse, from the Wikipedia entry on him.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dating Beowulf part IV: summing up

Michael Drout got busy and then I got busy and so my link to his final discussion of the dating of Beowulf is only being posted now. Thanks, Michael.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dating Beowulf part III

Michael Drout finds a few moments to argue for late dates for Beowulf.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dating Beowulf part II

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Inventing Late Antiquity: a scholarly treat

Peter Brown has been over the last generation or so an extraordinarily influential historian of Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. He is one of the chief figures, perhaps THE chief, in the invention of the notion of Late Antiquity. What that means is, he drew attention to a period formerly split between scholars interested in Classical Antiquity and those interested in the Early Church or the Early Middle Ages (or both), and argued that this was a period with a character of its own. It was a controversial idea then and still is now, but it's been a productive perspective, inspiring much work that would otherwise never have been done.

I used to work in Late Antiquity (as academics say; I didn't commute) and I've had the pleasure of hearing him speak both in a seminar, on saints and their historical significance, and at a conference, on sexual renunciation. He is perhaps the most amazing speaker I have ever heard -- every time the excitement of the ideas he's talked about has made my heart beat faster.

Brown, who is Oxford trained, was at Oxford last month to speak at the opening of an Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity, a kind of validation of his efforts that few of us can ever hope for. The talk's about where the name and concept of Late Antiquity came from.
If you're not familiar with the culture and setting of Oxford, it may be a slow start for you (he's talking to a home-town crowd), but if you've ever wondered about how intellectual viewpoints change, and what kind of resistance new ones face, have a look.

You may also find a laugh or two, and conclude that yes, famous academics are as eccentric as you might have thought.

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Dating Beowulf: a scholarly treat

This is not about "dating" in the usual sense, or Nekkid Beowulf or Nekkid Grendel's mother, but about the debate over the date that the Old English epic Beowulf was written. (A five hundred year range has been suggested, and none of the possibilities are completely without merit!)

Some years ago, Michael Drout, an eminent expert on Old English literature and J.R.R. Tolkien, found that even high school kids with only the vaguest notion of the story could get excited about this issue. (I think that this says something about Drout's style.) So, in what should probably be called the "Year of Beowulf," he is blogging at Wormtalk and Slugspeak about the various possibilities. Part one of Dating Beowulf is here.

And it is a scholarly treat. I hope it amuses others as well.

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