Monday, April 14, 2008

Renaissance Woman/Jack of all Trades

I have got myself into the sort of mess that is a regular feature of my life: I am too interested in too many things and I haven't got enough time to allot to any one of them to make that study worthwhile. I think it comes from being mentally rather undirected. When I was doing my MA, I had a definite goal in mind and all my efforts, reading and thoughts were absorbed into the process, and if I am lucky enough to start on my doctorate, I shall once more have a particular motivation to organise my thoughts. As it is however, I am flailing around in a quicksand of information. There is my OU Latin course (which I originally envisaged as filling a mental gap this year) - I could spend a lot more time on it, but I am curiously unengaged. In an attempt to 'spice it up' I am attempting to translate something 'on the side'. Needless to say, my interest in that is unsustained. I have circuitously become re-interested in neo-Platonism and having read Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy have discovered Stoicism, hence the current reading of the Essays of Seneca and (and I can't be bothered to explain how), Montaigne, both of which I love.

I was reading a book on the development of European Language, but inexplicably lost interest half way through. I am listening to the radio as I type this and Salman Rushdie is holding forth on his latest book, which I have half-decided to order from the library, regardless of the fact that my newest fictional purchase is lying abandoned on the bedside table. What a complete flake I am. What a fraud! I think that I desire intellectual stimulation, and yet I shun it. I think that I have a lot to do, and yet I do nothing, restlessly starting and abandoning one project after another. Really, I need a break: do nothing and regroup my energy. As it is, I am merely sitting here reinforcing my apathy.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Chrysalis

I love this time of year. The Earth practically throbs with the expectance of new life: the spring bulbs burst into flower, the birds manically gather nesting material, the evening light speaks of hope. A blackbird sings its heart out in the wolf-light of dawn. I feel inexplicably cheerful, down to the core of my being. I am filled with a sense of anticipation, that I am about set off on adventure that will lead me who knows where. I await to emerge from the cocoon that has encased me during the winter months. As I gradually strip away the fat from my frame I see the muscle emerge beneath my skin, useful flesh that has been dormant and underused for many a year. I am reshaping myself. I am aware also that my mind needs the discipline of a new regime too. I need to slough off the superfluous accretions that impede my progress, to concentrate, to refine, to train my intellect to accept new challenges, to abandon redundancies. I aspire to both a mental and physical metamorphosis: to still be me, but a leaner, more muscular, more astute version.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Midnight (and Morning) Oil

Having got the nightmare that was (and is) funding application out of the way, I now find myself unsure of how to proceed. The vagaries of the church calendar have ensured that this year the Easter school holidays followed hot on the heels of spring half term, so the activities that normally spread into the better weather of April are this year confined to the still oft-chilly and windy latter end of March. We are all metaphorically drumming our fingers. Still, the absence of compulsory research has left me with the ostensibly pleasurable task of leisurely reading and the garnering of information that Might Come In Useful. The problem being that it is mostly of an ill-directed and meanderingly eclectic nature that will probably be filed in the memory bins as Ultimately Superfluous! The Latin course proceeds at an even pace. I love the acquisition of language skills, but am largely unenthused about the Classical authors that I once held very dear. Still, I am looking upon it as an additional string to my bow if I am called upon to read the Latin Church Fathers in the original during my doctoral studies. I occasionally translate a few lines of Jerome's De Viris Illustribus, which is none too difficult althought the vocabulary is somewhat outside the realms of my Oxford Pocket Latin dictionary! What I really need is the equivalent of Walter Baur's magnificent 'Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature'. (I was staggeringly lucky to pick up the Index for it for a few pounds in my favourite second-hand book shops the other day - what a find!) I love Jerome's rather gossipy style and really should make time for him on a more regular basis.
Rodney Whiteacre's 'Patristic Greek Reader' is also awaiting my attention. To tell the truth I am saving it for the sunnier days when the children are back at school and I can sit outside under the vines, savour and translate some good chunks relatively undisturbed.
Boethius is my new early evening read (as a salve to my Latin conscience). I love the writings of Epictetus and feel that Boethius' 'Consolations' will slide efforlessly into the same slot. As usual I am reading further into the Pauline field in preparation for the Autumn (hopefully), however I am perennially disappointed by the way that some well-respected authors feel the need to let their own denominational prejudices show. I respect your scholarship, but do you really need to let me know that you condemn homosexuality? Did I read your book for that? No, I did not... and it has clouded my opinion of you and tainted my view of your scholarship.
Translation issues continue to absorb me: Peter Newmark's slim volume 'About Translation' is a wonderfully clear exposition of the problems facing all translators and about the impossibility of objectivity (see my previous posts). A wider foray into the realm of linguistics beckons, but without knowing what the next academic year will bring, it is hard to read in a directed fashion.
I think I need to have a back-up project in mind: my Greek needs to be kept up to speed, so I think that a textual commentary on the Greek text of Philemon may fill the gap, or possibly Philippians if next year comes to nought funding-wise. I shall tackle it as I did Galatians and it will be fun to familiarise myself with new witnesses. If I go with Philemon I may look to the UBS Greek testament apparatus criticus which contains more Church Fathers than that of NA27; if Philippians, I shall probably confine myself to the latter.
I'm afraid the Biblical Hebrew will have to wait awhile yet. It was much easier when I had a study-mate and was obliged to do prep.
I still make an unconscionable amount of time for reading drivel and regularly drowse or fall asleep over some disappointing novel or biography. I excuse myself by saying that, as I am in no fit state by this time to read anything of value, the loss of consciousness during this inanity is no loss at all!