What’s the Great Scholastic Novel?

Yes, another aside at the beginning of a post, but, thanks to a very nice reference from The Smithy, home of other fans of John Duns the Subtle, ye olde humble blogge’s visitor counter’s pretty much exploded. Seriously, I’ve gotten almost as many people visiting in the last three days as I’ve ever gotten in a month around here. Thanks for visiting, y’alls!

Why aren’t there any great novels written from a Scholastic viewpoint? For that matter, how many truly great works of literature that weren’t written by Dante can those of you who don’t study the middle ages name that explicitly follow a Scholastic worldview? Heck, what about the great Stoic novel? Sure, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations aren’t poorly written at all, but really, what great play, poem, or book follows a Stoic worldview, rather than explicitly espousing one?* It seems that you can’t be an existentialist without writing novels (Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Camus, Sartre, and de Beauvoir were all pretty dang good novelists), and postmodern nihilism, especially of the “there is no truth—which should really scare you” postwar variety, produced any number of temporally disjointed and bone-crushingly dense black comedies. The Greek aristocratic ideal gave us some of the greatest epic poetry and drama the world has ever known, while postwar Japanese novelists infuse their works with Zen Buddhism’s unique wabi-sabi aesthetic, and Romanticism and German Idealism gave us a flood of great poetry. Heck, even Puritanism has produced great novels—according to at least one argument I’ve read, all of them.** So where’s the great stuff involving the nuances of virtue ethics, natural ends, and hylomorphism? Continue reading

Copyright Fun: Supreme Court Edition!

So now that we’ve had our PIPA/SOPA backlash, it’s time for the issue that’s gotten a lot less attention: what The Supremes were doing while Wikipedia & Co. were rioting.

Now, I’m as much a fan of copyright law (and following it!) as the next guy, but this is ridiculous.  In a 6-2 decision yesterday, the court ruled that a number of foreign works that had been part of the public domain are now under copyright (again).  While it may seem sensible that, if the treaty you sign says you have to treat foreign copyrights like American ones, you treat foreign copyrights like American ones, this misses the point that American copyright law is fundamentally unfair and imbalanced, extending protections to an extent unknown elsewhere in the world.

Continue reading

About the Manuscripts

I’ve used a few medieval illustrated manuscript photos in some of my posts (and probably will in the future), but, for those of you interested in such things (most anyone reading this, really), there’s a rather interesting discussion of the one I like to use, Royal MS 10 E iv (AKA the Smithfield Decretals) over at Got Medieval.


The Medieval Ebook, Part II: Writing in the Margins

As I mentioned last time, the odd writings you find in the margins of medieval books (and, for that matter, in between the lines or on loose sheets of paper inserted between the pages) are often of great importance.  Known as marginal or interlinear glosses (or, if on loose paper, extras), these notes, asides, and corrections took on a life of their own, sometimes rivaling the importance of the book they were written in.  Perhaps the most famous collections based largely on these writings would be the Catena Aurea of Thomas Aquinas, one of many such catenae aureae compiled by late antique and medieval authors, and the four books of Peter Lombard’s Sentences—though most any Scholastic writing on philosophical or theological  matters will cite glosses or extras at some point or other.

Royal 10 E IV   f. 59v   Rabbit shooting

We've lost a lot since we decided "*" was good enough.

Which brings me to the point I was making at the end of my previous post.  If you have a copy of the books/papers being cited at your fingertips, in parallel with a paper or essay using them, then, rather than having some artifact of scholarship divorced from its roots, you can see the organic growth and web of relationships between source text and new work.  Though this would be helpful enough if you could click on a citation in a paper and be taken directly to the location cited, the reverse—reading a book or paper and seeing who and what cites it as you’re reading it—could be more interesting and fruitful. Continue reading

A Thought on Electronic Publishing, Returning to Form (Part 1)

This post is part 1 of (at least) two; the second part is located here.

“Everyone” in publishing (well, other than at my small academic press where people still submit things in WordPerfect) seems to be all excited/worried/up-in-arms about the Impending Ebook Revolution.  It may happen, for obvious reasons.  It may not happen, again for obvious reasons.  I’m not a tech blogger, nor an industry pundit, nor even a cranky old emeritus professor who causes Bossman to say things about people who submit in WordPerfect before dumping it onto the production editor, so I’d suggest finding one of those if you want to know why ebooks are The Next Big Thing/The End of the World.

Rather, I was thinking about why someone would prefer electronic reading material to print.  Much of this will be addressed in later posts, but one thing that struck me as a potentially interesting consequence of electronic book downloading is how similar it is (or could be) to how reading materials were bound in the middle ages.

Yes, really. Continue reading