Archive for the 'European history' Category
Hey, kids: don’t be Whig historians! And especially avoid being Francis “The End of History” Fukuyama.
Via RealClearBooks, we learned recently that he’s got a new book called The Origins of Political Order, and unsurprisingly, he is completely wrong again. But you have to admit that it’s pretty cute that he has more in common with Karl Marx and with the first generation of Soviet historians than his modern peers because of his unshaken, dumba$$ theory of history’s inevitable destination. Reviewer John Gray asks,
[H]ow could laws of history underpin human progress when views about what constitutes progress are so ephemeral and so divergent? Some human values are universal and enduring, but ideas of progress come and go like fashions in hats. Theories of convergence reflect disparate and incompatible ideals of human betterment. What all such theories have in common is that they have come to nothing. None of the regimes that was believed to be the near-inevitable end point of modern development has emerged anywhere in the world.
Fukuyama shows no sign of being discouraged by this record of failure. Continue Reading »
Henry Hitchings suggests that my crusade to make students understand the correct use of the apostrophe may put me on the wrong side of history. He says the apostrophe vexed printers and writers who were confused about its application almost from the time of its invention in the sixteenth century, through its proliferation in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century print culture:
[C]ontrary to what defenders of the apostrophe imagine, its status has long been moot.Before the seventeenth century the apostrophe was rare. The Parisian printer Geoffroy Tory promoted it in the 1520s, and it first appeared in an English text in 1559.
Initially the apostrophe was used to signify the omission of a sound. Gradually it came to signify possession. This possessive use was at first confined to the singular. However, writers were inconsistent in their placing of the punctuation mark, and in the eighteenth century, as print culture burgeoned, everything went haywire. Although it seemed natural to use an apostrophe in the possessive plural, authorities, such as the grammarian Robert Lowth, argued against this. In a volume entitled “Grammatical Institutes” (1760), John Ash went so far as to say that the possessive apostrophe “seems to have been introduced by mistake.”
By the time Ash was writing, the apostrophe was being used to form plurals.Among those who did this was the typographer Michael Mattaire. In a grammar he brought out in 1712 he suggested that the correct plural of species was species’s. Some rival grammarians could barely contain their rage in the face of such recommendations. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the experts (all self-appointed) urgently debated the mark’s correct application.
. . . . . .
[H]ere’s the rub: say any of these names aloud and you’ll be struck by the fact that the apostrophe works on the eye rather than the ear. Simply put, we don’t hear apostrophes, and this is a significant factor accounting for the inconsistency with which they are used. Continue Reading »
Alexandra Horowitz blames e-books, but footnote-killing is a longstanding trend among non-virtual academic book publishers for at least twenty years. Most university presses and tradey U-press lines use endnotes, period. (And who other than university presses make such generous use of notes, anyway? Nonfiction trade books usually offer the clumsy and much more paper-consumptive apparatus of citing sources by quoting the beginning of a sentence, followed by ellipses, and then listing the relevant sources. Are tiny numbers on the page really all that distracting to the average reader? Srsly?)
My understanding was that the increase in paper costs nearly 20 years ago led most academic publishers to switch from footnotes (at the bottom of each page) to endnotes (at the back of the book.) Somehow, I was informed, this saves paper. I can remember the last time I read a book with footnotes–ironically, it was Anthony Grafton’s The Footnote: A Curious History (1997), which I re-read with my graduate seminar a few weeks ago, and which for obvious reasons offers footnotes rather than endnotes. (Horowitz’s exploration on the life and death of the footnote uses and cites Grafton generously, too.) But I think when it was published 14 years ago, it was already exotic for having resisted a publisher’s insistence on endnotes.
My foremost concern about e-books–or perhaps more specifically with the Kindle, although I hope those of you in the know will inform me if this is true of other e-readers–is that it makes citations by students unnecessarily annoying. Continue Reading »
(With apologies to Armistead Maupin.) A correspondent writes:
I work out at a gym off campus. I have often seen some of my colleagues and one of my graduate students in various states of undress, including nudity. Likewise, they have seen me the same way. While I am generally very comfortable being naked in front of others, I have found that these encounters make me slightly uncomfortable. They also make me laugh. What is the etiquette for seeing your colleagues and your students naked in the gym locker room? I sure could use some advice.
Heh. I’ve never been so grateful for my 33 mile commute as I am today! Continue Reading »
Unless politicians agree a package by 2 August the US may be unable to pay its bills, triggering an economic crisis.
On Tuesday the dollar fell against the euro whilst US shares opened down.
But Ms Lagarde warned against drastic cuts in spending, saying these could create a “jobless recovery”.
Our reality: u haz it rite! Maybe she should have said it would mean even more job-lessness in our so-called “recovery?” In which case we must ask: what part of this reality is the “recovery,” and can we stage an intervention in Congress and in the White House already?
Ah, the 1980s: when fashionable men dared to wear eye shadow.
This video seems newly timely given the massive wiretapping scandal blowing up News Corporation. Now that Rupert Murdoch and his empire look pretty weak, the long knives are out for him. Roger Simon reports that nearly 30 years ago–perhaps to the soundtrack of an Adam Ant video–Murdoch said something racist at a dinner with Chicago Sun-Times reporters after he bought their newspaper:
I’ve been a huge fan of Martin Amis’s writing ever since I discovered him and read his back catalog in the 1990s. What I love about his work is that he never pulls back from his self-loathing instincts. More than any other novelist, he describes in minute detail the horrors of inhabiting human flesh, and even his youthful novels are obsessed with documenting bodily corruption and decay.
The Pregnant Widow is unfortunately a disappointment. Amis pulls back on the self-loathing, and he shies away from the horrors of the flesh. Perhaps this was inevitable, given the setting for the book (1970), the fact that the main characters are all in their 20s, and that the male protagonist Keith Nearing is once again only a lightly disguised version of the now 60-ish Martin Amis, and the middle-aged and elderly tend to romanticize youth.
There are some good lines about aging and the prospect of death, however, that are vintage Amis:
When you become old. . . When you become old, you find yourself auditioning for the role of a lifetime; then, after interminable rehersals, you’re finally starring in a horror film–a talentless, irresponsible, and above all low-budget horror film, in which (as is the way with horror films) they’re saving the worst for last. (5)
While I’m working away at my day job, go read this post by Echidne, in which she discusses the ways in which the media discuss the “fertility crisis” in some European countries without noting the extreme pressure on women who are mothers in said countries to leave the workforce. (Or in one case she cites, pregnant women and mothers are just proactively pink-slipped.) She notes that even with generous maternity leave policies, most mothers do not return to work after the birth of just one child in both Germany and Italy. This sidles up to a point that I’ve made here before (and even in my day job writing recently) about the global and apparently transhistorical resistance to see women as rational economic actors who make decisions about their lives that respond directly to their political, cultural, and economic environments. Continue Reading »