Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Giovanni Nencioni's Study

Basically, I want this.

Giovanni Nencioni was an Italian linguistics scholar and a lexicographer. This is his study in Palazzo Barocchi, on the Arno. Photos taken from here.

Isn’t this just gorgeous?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


I get a word of the day from the OED via email. Today’s word was pococurante. I’d never heard it used before in English. Today I’ve decided to be pococurante (except on my bicycle on the way to the office).

pococurante, n. and adj.
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌpəʊkəʊkjᵿˈranti/,  U.S. /ˈˌpoʊkoʊˌkjəˈrɑn(t)i/
Etymology: <  Italian poco curante caring little (early 17th cent. or earlier) <  poco poco adv. + curante, present participle of curare to care (a1294 in reflexive use; 13th cent. in sense ‘to cure’; <  classical Latin cūrāre cure v.1), probably via the name of Seigneur Pococurante, a fictional apathetic Venetian senator in Voltaire's Candide (1759).
 A. n.
  A careless, indifferent, or nonchalant person.
1762  L. Sterne Life Tristram Shandy VI. xx. 85 Leave we my mother—(truest of all the Poco-curante's of her sex!)—careless about it.
1779  H. Thrale Jrnl. 1 May in Thraliana (1942) I. 382 He seems to have no Affections, and that won't do with me—I feel great Discomfort in the Society of a Pococurante.
1860 Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. June 708/2, I really cannot afford to hazard my reputation as a poco-curante.
1949  V. W. von Hagen South Amer. called Them iii. xvii. 219 If the Reverend Dr. Samuel Butler could have composed a single line to describe him..he might have put: ‘rat-catcher and pococurante’.
1995 Guardian 26 May (Friday Review) 8/3 The dreamy pococurante needs to bluff his way into employment at a top National School.
 B. adj.
  Careless, indifferent, nonchalant.
1815  T. Moore Mem. (1853) II. 76 That idlest of all poco-curante places, Dublin.
1823  W. M. Praed Troubadour in Poet. Wks. (1844) 102 Poco-curante in all cases Of furious foes, or pretty faces.
1881 Sat. Rev. 9 July 32/1 Lord Granville's pleasant faculty of pococurante conversation.
1948  P. A. Scholes Great Dr. Burney I. xxxvii. 379 Some odd news, which illustrates, let us proudly say, not the pococurante spirit but the sangfroid of our great British nation.
1985 Pick of Punch 25/1 A gust of river wind sprayed my entire shirtfront with damp powdered sugar; I remained placidly pococurante.

 ˌpococuˈrantish adj. careless, indifferent, or nonchalant in character.
1821 Examiner 491/1 Criticism has been a little Pococurantish of late years.
1916  G. Saintsbury Peace of Augustans (1946) v. 229 He had, when he chose not to be flighty or pococurantish, not inconsiderable common sense.
2003 Financial Times 13 Dec. (Weekend Mag.) 31 Are you quite pococurantish in the face of pressure to spend your hard-earned money on finnimbruns?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Boccaccio Bologna Books

It has been the longest time since I last updated, and I’ve been the busiest little bee. The most important thing to have happened is that I’ve moved to York to take up a lectureship at the University. This has meant moving house, settling in to a new city, and settling in to a new department. It has been a very good move, though of course I miss Pembroke very much and my friends there. York is a beautiful medieval city with an imposing cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, called the Minster. It’s a gem, with extraordinary stained glass. So, the city is a great place to be a medievalist.

Another thing that has kept me busy was preparing for a conference in Bologna last week and that was enormous fun. It was held in the Sala dello Stabat Mater in the Archiginnasio. The programme was very full but enjoyable and it was wonderful to see friends, colleagues and maestri, old and new. The third day was held in Ravenna, which was where I gave my paper. During the lunch break we went around the corner to see the Arian Baptistry, with its rather wonderful mid-sixth century mosaic depicting the baptism of Christ. It is such an extraordinary thing to have these treasures on your doorstep, to be able to take ten paces from the office door and to be standing under this! During the conference, there was a delightful bookstall, where those giving papers could take what they wanted, for free. I began to silently hyperventilate when I realized this was the case, then proceeded to jump upon the table with my arms outstretched explaining how I needed them all. I know what you’re wondering now: what books did you get then? Well, Carlo Delcorno’s edition of Domenico Cavalca’s Vite dei santi padri for SISMEL was clearly the prize win, and I’m just delighted to have it. I also picked up a copy of Bodo Guthmüller, Mito e metamorfosi nella letteratura italiana, Fiorenzo Forti, Magnanimitade: studi su un tema dantesco. While in town, I took the opportunity for a little whizz around some of my old familiar bookshops, and found a copy of Azzurra B. Givens, La dottrina d’amore nel Boccaccio, and K. Esser, ed., Opuscula Sancti Patris Francisci Assisiensis. So delighted with those.

Some little while ago I blogged a photo  of the great Raimondi in his study and mentioned that his latest book, Le voci dei libri had just appeared with Il Mulino. While at the conference, I happened upon the the fact that in the bookshop Zanichelli, more or less downstairs from the Archiginnasio, they were giving away copies of Raimondi’s book. It was thus that I felt a moral obligation to read it, and did so on the journey home. It is a beautiful meditation on the books in his life, how they came into his life, who brought them. I found so moving his account of reading Being and Time in the ruins of a Bologna terribly scarred by the war, and his time at Johns Hopkins and encountering the work of Bakhtin (with a telling tiny comment on this first encounter being in the English translation of his Rabelais book, much enriched when some time later he came to read it in the far superior Italian translation [L’opera di Rabelais e la cultura popolare, Einaudi, 1979, something that is very obvious to anyone comparing both translations).

On the way home I also read the ‘Domenica’ section of Il Sole 24 Ore where Claudio Giunta talks about the teaching of Dante in schools, the new challenges for the teaching of medieval literature, how their engagement with new media, social networking, etc, affects the way that these texts are now read. I wonder what the next Raimondi will look like, and what story his or her version of Le voci dei libri will tell. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Monday, 30 July 2012

New Chaucer Society Portland Demob

This year’s New Chaucer Society Congress took place in Portland, Oregon, and it was quite an experience. The most challenging aspect, one that pervaded the entire trip, was the crazy awful jet lag. I’d never really suffered like this before, so from now on I shall have a great deal of sympathy for those in the same boat at future NCSs. Local arrangements were carried out under enormous pressure with several relatively last-minute complications; given the circumstances, it all worked out rather well. The city of Portland is beautiful, it feels very relaxed. Everyone cycles around (it’s not quite Cambridge, but you know what I mean), everyone recycles, and the city centre has a free tram network. Portland is also home to the largest secondhand bookshop in the world. Needless to say, this proved very exciting. I made a couple of visits and found some lovely things: two gorgeous little hardbacks in the Nuova Universale Einaudi series, of Petrarch’s Canzoniere (which of course I had in a much later paperback repr) and Pavese’s Poesie, and a new copy of Nestlé-Aland’s Greek New Testament. I hmmm and hawed over T K Swing’s Fragile Leaves of the Sybil but in the end decided against. At the Congress itself there was a very good, but small, bookstand and I picked up copies of Kolve’s Telling Images, Travis’s Disseminating Chaucer, and Hanawalt & Kobialka’s collection Medieval Practices of Space, which I’ve used and found very good.

The congress was excellent. I found myself tending towards the ‘Affect’ thread, though I enjoyed some papers a good deal more than other. Amongst those papers I enjoyed, briefly: in the first panel, there were papers by Anna Wilson on Middle English devotional communities and Fan Fiction; Sara Baechle on affective literacies in manuscripts of Troilus and Criseyde, Brantley Bryant (he of Geoffrey Chaucer hath a Blog fame) talked about accounting in the Reeve’s Tale. A panel on England and France had Chris Cannon say that we are placing too much emphasis on French given how few people were actually speaking it; Madeleine Elson gave a beautifully sensitive paper on the Book of the Duchess and Machault; Kathryn Kerby-Fulton talked about scribal treatments of literary texts, concentrating on Arundel 292, a trilingual anthology. The session was chaired by Ardis Butterfield, who made some remarks about Cannon’s paper, mainly trying to set him straight, and a lively discussion ensued. The next session I attended was my own, with really terrific papers by Kara Gaston and Andrew James Johnston. Gaston talked about volgarizzamenti, and the culture of vernacularization; Johnston talked about humanism, Padua and political (politicized) astrological representations. In a feminism session, there were super papers by Betsy McCormick on the Legend of Good Women and the question of the ‘likability’ of the heroines, Laurie Finke on fraternity, medievalism and the Masons, and Ruth Evans gave a tour de force of a paper on Criseyde, psychoanalysis and Lacan. In the ‘Affect’ thread there was a Round Table on displaying, hiding and faking emotion in Chaucer, with Alcuin Blamires on blushing; Annette Kern-Stähler on Troilus and privacy; Sarah Kelen on emotional ambiguity; David Raybin on Griselda’s swoon and Lawrence Besserman on the Physican’s Tale and Prioress’s Tale. Carolyn Dinshaw gave a wonderfully enjoyable presidential address on multiple temporalities in Mandeville, a Victorian satire of Mandeville and the Chaucer Blogger. A short paper panel on Chaucer and Italy was most stimulating with papers by Teresa Kennedy on the House of Fame; Robert Sturges on vision and touch; Leah Faibisoff on the Parliament of Fowls and Tom Stillinger on Orpheus. Another ‘Affect’ panel had Anthony Bale talk about ‘The Prison of Christ’ and incarceration; Stephanie Trigg on weeping; Holly Crocker on Griselda and disaffection; Christine Neufeld on the Clerk’s Tale; William Youngman on the Reeve and Miller; and Glen Burger on Griselda. Bale was excellent, as well as Crocker, Trigg and Burger. Terribly in control of their material. There was a very good discussion of Griselda along the way. There was another super Chaucer and Italy panel, with Fred Biggs talking about the Shipman’s Tale; Rory Critten on Guiscardo and Ghismonda; and Sarah Massoni with a very excellent paper on Wykked Wives and Misogamy. The final session I went to was on Seeing the Book, with papers on John Lydgate’s ‘Sotelties’ by Heather Blatt, a paper by John Plummer on the reading scenes in Troilus and a paper on the MS Corpus 61 frontispiece by Laura Wang. The quality over all was really high. I must say that the Chaucer and Italy sessions were very stimulating and I got a great deal out of them.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Transfiguration, 1307/8–1311;
tempera on panel, 44 × 46 cm, National Gallery London 
One paper I have not mentioned, I saw in the first panel on Affect. It was entitled ‘Illuminated’ by Cary Howie and it was utterly remarkable. Remarkable in its fearless sincerity, its visionary, profound search for a new critical vocabulary, its intellectual depth and breadth, its huge heart. I was absolutely bowled over by it. It was a paper about transfiguration, light, illumination, and it was simply glorious. Howie’s paper was an event bigger than the room. Something changed, the wind shifted, time twitched.

I felt as if I was watching a prophet. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Where I'd like to Work

via hereLuke Hughes & Co. Maple Desk with a Green Leather Inset Top. H: 38" W: 54" D: 35"

I love this desk.

Nick Haus

Nick Heywood blogs here.

I am in thrall to every word he writes, every picture he posts, every object he looks at.

He’s some sort of wise stylish genius. Read and you’ll know what I mean.

(Image from here.)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Just one more book

I’ve just tracked down one of those rooms I said I loved (here): it belongs to Prof. Richard A. Macksey, at Johns Hopkins. The library comprises over 70,000 volumes. That’s rather a lot. Here’s a video, with shots of his beautiful library. I particularly like all the lovely Windsor chairs.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Where I Work(ed)

Since I’ve been posting variously on where other people work, I notice that I have not actually posted anything much here on where I work. I’ve put these photos up on my tumblr page, treated appropriately with Instagram’s nostalgic magic. The nostalgia is due to the fact that I shall soon be moving from my rooms in Cambridge when I take up a lectureship at York in October. I’m very excited by this and cannot wait, but I shall be sad to leave this room too. I’ve worked so well here, both for writing and for teaching. In term time, this little flat was also where I lived, and, despite the fact that it is what estate agents euphemistically refer to as bijoux, I always felt that I had enough space. That said, I am certainly glad that I shall have space to expand the shelves a little.

When I moved in, there was very little room for books, and after a bit of gentle hint-dropping, they came and put more in. So those shelves you see in front of my desk (the one with the computer on it), were added. And the shelves you see behind the black table were also added. The table is good, though I did covet those who had desks designed by Luke Hughes (he did work for a new building here, and has done lots of tables and desks in student rooms and in libraries throughout Oxford and Cambridge, a wonderful designer whose work I like very much). Behind my chair, which you cannot see, is mainly Chaucer. In front, is mainly Dante. They look at each other and remind me, sitting between them, of the book I have not yet written.

The black armchair is the only piece of furniture in this room I actually own (apart from the office chair—found on the street in Oxford during the first week of my doctorate and with me since—and my little Habitat Book Caddy, of course!). I found it when I went in to Borders in Cambridge, just as it was closing down. Everything was for sale, shelves, sofas, chairs, even the books. So I bought myself a book (Jacques Rancière, The Future of the Image, if you’re curious) and then bought myself a chair, in which to read it. Getting it back to my room was an adventure in itself. Having a second table is also very handy, especially in the depths of the teaching term when there’s a volley of marking to be done in waves each week.

When that volley of marking is done and term is over, then it’s back to Dublin for me. And then I work in a small room in a city-centre apartment. The apartment is a shared space, though the books occupy a large percentage of this space and they are mostly mine. On the wall is a gorgeous head portrait by Brian Bourke, while facing the desk is a lovely piece by Nina Nordenström, who works on paper and does things that look like maps. The desk was a slightly mad buy in Habitat and it took me a couple of years to get used to. In fact, it wasn’t until I cut the legs down a bit that it really felt right. It’s still not quite right, but it’s nearly there.

The shelves are in the hall and in the study, though these photos are out of date in respect of what is on the shelves in the study, since I brought a good bit of my Dante over to Cambridge this year. In the corridor, that orange set you see in the middle is a lovely copy of Shackleton-Bailey’s edition of Cicero’s Letters to Atticus (Cambridge University Press), bought for a song at the Trinity College Dublin booksale (to which I have not been in a long time). I have great memories of queuing across Front Square waiting to get in, then dashing around and finding all manner of things. I remember finding a lovely copy of Francis Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition and I have just got up now to leaf through a gorgeous copy (still in its box) of Pascal, Œuvres complètes in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, which I remember vividly picking up and thinking I’d won the lottery.

More will follow when I get myself settled at York and, more importantly, when I get the books settled. I do hope they’ll be happy there.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Two Rooms I Love

I’m not entirely sure where these came from, but aren’t they gorgeous:

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A Room of One’s Own: Nicola Gardini

I knew Gardini in Oxford, where he teaches Italian. He’s a poet, a writer, a scholar. These photos and text are from an article entitled ‘Nella stanza di Nicola Gardini’ by Sandra Bardotti. I take the liberty of reproducing them here because I’m such a sucker for writers’ rooms and the like. I like the desk, and the book trough on the desk. It’s a bit messy, but in a way that suggests it is in constant use.

Mi sembra di sentirla parlare, Amelia Lynd, qui nello studio milanese di Nicola, con il suo intercalare british impeccabile. Mi sembra di vederla muoversi eterea nella stanza, la Maestra, circondata da una luce innaturale. Si solleva con le ali fino all’ultimo piano della libreria, fino ai grandi volumi del dizionario enciclopedico Utet e del dizionario della lingua italiana Tommaseo-Bellini, per ricordarci che le parole – le idee – sono tutto. Democrazia… “Nessuno può capire fino in fondo il significato di quella parola se non ama la propria lingua. Dall’amore della lingua che parliamo e poi di quelle che apprendiamo nasce e cresce in noi il senso della democrazia… ‘Essere uno dei tanti’… Io non saprei definirla altrimenti… ‘Ed essere tanti in uno’… Questa è la democrazia. Capisci?” (Le parole perdute di Amelia Lynd, Feltrinelli 2012).
Nel salotto pieno di libri e carte di Amelia Lynd, il piccolo Luca impara a volare più in alto.
In questo bellissimo studio nel centro di Milano, hanno preso forma Le parole perdute di Amelia Lynd e altri libri di Nicola Gardini. I baroni, Per una biblioteca indispensabile, la traduzione (ancora inedita) dei versi di Catullo: molto lavoro è passato di qui e ha lasciato le sue tracce. E chissà quante altre impronte ha disseminato anche nello studio di Oxford, dove Nicola insegna letteratura italiana all’Università di Oxford – perché Nicola è uno di quei cervelli che con un dottorato in Letteratura Comparata a New York, al suo ritorno in Italia ha dovuto fare i conti con il baronato accademico e fuggire all’estero.
Libri ovunque: sulla scrivania, nella libreria, su un elegante tavolino, in una piccola libreria girevole di legno, in una libreria credenza con le ante in vetro, sul divano, per terra, sparsi sul tappeto. La grande e pregiata libreria di noce occupa tutta la parete fino al soffitto. Davanti ai libri sono poggiate alcune fotografie di famiglia. Mi mostra lo scatto di un giovane Nicola seduto su una panchina e sorride. “Questa è una delle prime foto che ho scattato al mio arrivo a New York nel Novanta. Come vedi avevo ancora i capelli e sullo sfondo si vedono le torri gemelle”. Ci sono piccoli dipinti di paesaggi e di uccellini variopinti, un guerriero dell’esercito di terracotta cinese, il busto di Omero, alcune cartoline che immortalano grandi statue classiche, l’immagine cara di Virgilio o lo sguardo penetrante di Vargas Llosa – “uno dei miei autori di riferimento, insieme a Canetti e aIsherwood”. Di Isherwood ci sono molte edizioni rare, che Nicola colleziona.
Dai tanti fogli sparsi per la stanza si intuisce l’abitudine a un attento lavoro svolto direttamente sulla carta. Seduti sul divano, insolitamente sgombro, mi mostra alcune stesure tormentate e mi parla del suo metodo di lavoro. “Scrivo al computer ma uso moltissimi fogli per gli appunti preliminari o per abbozzare strutture e sketch. Poi stampo e intervengo a mano sulla stampata, quindi riporto le correzioni a pc, e così via, fino a quando il testo non è a posto. Quando scrivo in prosa o traduco, questo è il metodo che seguo. Per la poesia, invece, sento l’esigenza della scrittura a mano”.
Quasi impossibile immaginare Nicola che si muove tra tante carte, libri e oggetti impilati sulla scrivania di legno scuro venato. “Questa bella scrivania l’ho comprata a una fiera. Nella casa dove abitavo in precedenza non la usavo molto. Avevo la fissa dei tre tavoli di pascoliana memoria, e questa l’avevo posizionata in camera da letto, dove era quasi inutilizzata. È diventata importante in questa casa, soprattutto da quando le ho cambiato posizione. Prima era rivolta verso il muro ma mi sono reso conto che avere uno spazio aperto davanti mentre scrivo mi aiuta molto a concentrarmi. Non a caso amo molto le hall dei grandi aeroporti, dove lo sguardo si perde in spazi immensi”. Tantissimi oggetti-amuleto si intravedono qua e là. Una scatolina sigillata ermeticamente al cui interno dovrebbero esserci tante bamboline in miniatura – “è con me dal 1991, doveva farmi guarire da un persistente mal di stomaco”. Una stella marina. Un timbro decorato a mano con il nome di Nicola in cinese. E poi ci sono molti sassi – “un sasso dipinto da un poeta greco; un sasso di Auschwitz, che avevo inserito in una mia installazione sul tema del dolore e della sofferenza; un grande sasso a forma di cuore che mi ha regalato mia madre”.
“Lavoro molto la mattina. È finita l’epoca in cui improvvisavo a qualsiasi ora. Adesso trovo l’ispirazione nella concentrazione. Non sono collegato a internet. Spesso mi piace leggere un’oretta prima di mettermi a scrivere. Mi capita di ascoltare musica classica mentre scrivo. In questo momento in particolare ascolto l’opera, argomento del mio prossimo romanzo”.
Nel mucchio troviamo anche degli eleganti quaderni di disegni, dove ci sono perlopiù schizzi dal vivo. Nicola dipinge – a periodi, non è un’attività costante – e alcuni intensi paesaggi naturali su tela adornano le pareti della stanza. “Qui tengo le cose più riuscite: due paesaggi americani, la mia Inghilterra”. In un angolo vicino alla finestra c’è un cavalletto – “apparteneva a Gianni Dova, mi è stato regalato da sua moglie nel 1996 corredato da pennelli e colori: così ho iniziato a dipingere a olio”. I tubetti dei colori sono abbandonati sulla tavolozza. Per terra alcuni cartoni della pizza che Nicola talvolta usa per dipingere.
C’è molto di Nicola in Amelia Lynd, nella passione per la lingua, nella fede onesta nella parola e nell’ideale. Traspare anche da questa stanza affollata di parole e ricordi, dove ogni cosa è riportata al suo significato.
“Che fede avevo nei significati, che accumulavo, proprio come te su cento quadernini! Tienli stretti tu, i tuoi quadernini! E quando, magari, ti verrà la tentazione di dubitare, tirali fuori, rileggili, non nasconderli come ho nascosto io il mio lavoro.
Goodbye, Amelia” (Le parole perdute di Amelia Lynd, Feltrinelli 2012)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Dominic Stevens

Dominic Stevens is a very talented architect based in Co. Leitrim, in the north west of Ireland. Since this is my home county, it is such a thrill to think that he’s working there. He has designed a few rather interesting houses in the county, including the wonderful ‘Mimetic House’, in Dromahair. Some photos are included below. One thing he’s been very vocal about is how houses don’t actually have to cost that much. The reason they do is that banks, developers and government coffers have all worked together to make property cost what it did. To prove this, he has developed a house that costs €25,000. The details of how to build such a house are now included in a wonderful website: and I highly recommend a visit. What is so exciting about this website is the way that it urges a complete rethink of the very idea of houses and property, and gives practical advice on how to go about doing this, including plans, instructions, the whole lot.

In the meantime, take a look at the ‘Mimetic House’ and enjoy:


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