Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A Civic Education

Last evening saw the 2008 K G Sykes Lecture at Pembroke College Cambridge, delivered by Professors Lucy Riall and Marizio Viroli entitled 'The Religion of Liberty and Italian Antifascism (1922-1945)'. The discussion was lively and the speakers were excellent. There was a very stimulating and dynamic sense of exchange between both speakers and there was a great sincerity in their engagement with the problems. A good night had by all I rather think.

During dinner I learned about Viroli's new Master in Civic Education [pdf here], which he runs in Asti drawing on experts from his own university, Princeton, as well as elsewhere. It all takes place under the aegis of a non-profit organization called Ethica Forum and it is intended to bring a new way of integrating an ethics of exchange and learning. The Masters is intended develop a sense of civic responsibility, of creating a holistic engagement with ethics in work and life. I must say that I found it rather compelling and can only imagine how it must be looked upon with suspicion by the Academy in Italy. Here's the section on what's driving the project:
L’obiettivo educativo del Master è di offrire ai partecipanti l’opportunità di acquisire una consapevolezza matura e critica della coscienza civica e del suo significato morale, politico, storico mettendo in risalto le implicazioni che essa comporta per i cittadini d’oggi, così come emerge dalla ricerca dei migliori studiosi e delle più prestigiose istituzioni internazionali. Il Master è rivolto a studiosi, insegnanti, magistrati, avvocati, giovani professionisti, funzionari di enti pubblici, regionali, nazionali ed europei, ufficiali, manager pubblici e privati, persone impegnate nell’associazionismo laico e religioso. Il principio fondamentale al quale saranno ispirate le attività del Master è la certezza che l’educazione civica consista in una combinazione di responsabilità morale e saggezza che può essere insegnata solamente in un contesto che rispetti profondamente le diversità, la libertà morale ed intellettuale e che ripudi ogni forma di indottrinamento. In linea con questo principio, il Master presterà particolare attenzione affinché i docenti che terranno i corsi abbiano dimostrato di possedere, oltre alla competenza scientifica, una genuina passione per l’insegnamento ed un’impeccabile reputazione d’integrità etica. Essi inoltre saranno invitati a sottoporre all’attenzione dei partecipanti un’ampia gamma di opinioni in campo morale, religioso e politico. Nello specifico il Master dovrà fornire agli studenti una solida conoscenza in campo storico, politico ed etico con particolare attenzione alle teorie della cittadinanza, aiutarli a far propria una rigorosa consapevolezza di problemi e ragionamenti etici, insegnare loro a comprendere il mondo contemporaneo.
It was very depressing to hear Viroli speak with such sadness about the state of his country. The incredible system of corruption and patronage in the university sector is doing very bad things to the way that the future generations of scholars are being produced and nurtured. The brain drain is extraordinary and excruciating and it is difficult to see how it can be sustainable. Perhaps, I learned last evening, there is hope.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Derek Brewer (1923-2008)

The great Chaucerian scholar Derek Brewer passed away yesterday.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Dante In Our Time

Listen to Melvin Bragg's In Our Time talking about Dante's Inferno with guests Dr Margaret Kean (St Hilda's College, Oxford), Dr Caire Honess (Leeds) and Prof. John Took (UCL). Some very good discussion.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Prayer, by Alice Oswald

Alice Oswald's first collection of poetry, The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile was published by Oxford University Press in 1996 and she has followed this impressive debut with equally impressive collections Dart (2002) and Woods, etc. (2005). In 2007 Faber republished her first collection. She writes the kind of poems I would love to write, they are huge in their perspectives. She looks at her environment and she seems to see all that is important, like the world curving into the eye of an eagle. One of my favourite poems from this collection is called Prayer:

Here I work in the hollow of God's hand
with Time bent round into my reach. I touch
the circle of the earth, I throw and catch
the sun and moon by turns into my mind.
I sense the length of it from end to end,
I sway me gently in my flesh and each
point of the process changes as I watch;
the flowers come, the rain follows the wind.

And all I ask is this—and you can see
how far the soul, when it goes under flesh,
is not a soul, is small and creaturish—
that every day the sun comes silently
to set my hands to work and that the moon
turns and returns to meet me when it's done.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

On Allegory: Some Medieval Aspects and Approaches (Newcastle, 2008)

Miglior acque is proud to present: On Allegory: Some Medieval Aspects and Approaches, ed. by Mary Carr, K.P. Clarke, and Marco Nievergelt (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), ISBN 1-84718-400-6. Pp. ix + 269. This volume of original essays took its inspiration from an Oxford graduate conference held in 2005 at Lincoln College.

Here is the Table of Contents:

E. G. Stanley, 'Allegory Through the Ages, As Read Mainly in England and As Seen Anywhere' (pp. 1-27); Meredith Bacola, 'The Persistence of Narrative: An Exploration of Hans Memling's The Seven Joys of the Virgin' (pp. 28-41); Kirsten Stirling, '“The Picture of Christ Crucified”: Luthern Influence on Donne's Religious Imagery' (pp. 42-55); Olga Malinovskaya, 'Personification and abstractio in Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy' (pp. 56-69); Darragh Greene, 'Sum newe thing: Autobiography, Allegory and Authority in the Kingis Quair' (70-86); Catherine A. M. Clarke, 'The Allegory of Landscape: Land Reclamation and Defence at Glastonbury Abbey' (pp. 87-103); Alice Spencer, 'Erotic Dialogue and the Meaning of Margaryte in Usk’s The Testament of Love' (pp. 104-132); Jane Griffiths, 'Truth and Prophecy in Stephen Hawes’ Conforte of Lovers' (pp. 133-155); William Rossiter, 'Translation of Allegory or Allegory of Translation? Petrarch’s Redressing of Boccaccio’s Griselda' (pp. 156-182); K. P. Clarke, 'Reading/Writing Griselda: A Fourteenth-Century Response (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS Plut. 42,1)' (pp. 183-208); Crofton Black, 'Allegory, Cognition, and a Philosophical Controversy: Two Texts by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola' (pp. 209-230); Vincent Gillespie, 'Afterword: On Allegory, Allegoresis and the Erotics of Reading' (pp. 231-256). There is a list of Contributors, pp. 257-259 and an Index, pp. 260-269.


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Camera Ready

Check out the New York Times College Issue article entitled: "The Camera-Friendly, Perfectly Pixelated, Easily Downloadable Celebrity Academic", by Virginia Heffernan, which test-drives five celebrity academics and their online lectures. Fascinating stuff and well worth a browse.

Read too the article on Barack Obama as a senior lecturer in law at the University of Chicago. Fascinating and compelling reading. And depressing, too, when one looks at the Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidates.


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