Thursday, August 28, 2008

Greek Rhetoric does Matter, even if Cahill omits it.

Having enjoyed Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, I eagerly bought his Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, when I saw it on remainder. It is part of Cahill's series "The Hinges of History." Cahill's web page describes the book as showing
"the birth of a new cultural outlook that permeates the West to this day"
and "a magnificent new perspective on the evolution of the Western world. "
I am nearly finished reading, and on the whole, I have enjoyed it and learned. Joy Connolly's review from the New York Times, November, 2003, is generally favorable and in depth, whereas an anonymous citizen reviewer is a bit more critical (and less in depth). Perhaps my favorite parts are the first two chapters, on fighting in the Illiad and homecoming in the Odyssey. The book is divided into chapters about what western culture has learned from the Greeks, such as "how to fight" and "how to think."

I was surprised not to find "rhetoric" in the index, but I figured that the chapter on philosphy and Aristotle would surely mention rhetoric among the cognitive advances made by the Greeks. However, rhetoric is not there - neither with philosophy nor with politics and how to rule. It's an astonishing oversight on Cahill's part. I would love to ask him about his decision to omit rhetoric. In my opinion - OK biased - the ability to persuade (which is what rhetoric is) is fundamental to western culture and an understanding of psychology and philosophy (what counts as evidence, what does the audience value, how do we know what we know). And if you are going to discuss Aristotle's contribution to taxonomies, then his categorizing of appeals and topoi would be logical to mention.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More on Dorothy Sayers

As a followup to my previous post about Women at Universities and being curious about any links between Dorothy Sayer and her contemporary and better known author Virginia Woolf, I searched and found some interesting items, though not as much about the two of them as I had hoped. Were they friends? Did they correspond?

Here's an interesting piece from the Open Letters Monthly Arts and Literature Review: "Second Glance: Dorothy Sayers and the Last Golden Age" byJoanna Scutts.
And here's another from the Jesus Creed blog called "Before Women were Pastors" by Scot McKnight.

Does anyone know of links between Sayers and Woolf?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Women at University

Jeffrey Williams' interesting article "Teach the University" from Pedagogy, 2008, argues that we at the university should teach our students about the essences, values, controversies, histories, and cultures, etc of what a university is. Sent to me by my friend and colleague Jeremy, now an assistant professor in Missouri, the article also includes a handy bibliography of books, films, etc that deal with issues of university. One book, Moo, by Jane Smiley, I have but haven't read. Maybe one day, as it is supposed to be funny, about an ag school similar to Oregon State.

Another book on Williams' list is Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers, 1936, which I also have and have read but so long ago that I was happy to read it again on our recent vacation to the Oregon coast. The mystery involves a "Poison Pen" who is writing nasty notes and playing nasty tricks on the women at Shrewsbury College (a fictional women's college at Oxford University). The heroine, Harriet Vane, an alum, returns to help solve the crimes, finally calling on her friend and persistent suitor Lord Peter Wimsey for help.

What interested me deeply is the way Sayers tackles the question of women's education. This story is still in the early aftermath of women's. entry to higher ed A quick search on Wikipedia says that Sayers was born in Oxford (her father a chaplain etc). Says Wikipedia,
in 1912, she won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford,[4] studying modern languages and medieval literature. She finished with first-class honours in 1916. Although women could not be awarded degrees at that time, Sayers was among the first to receive a degree when the situation changed a few years later, and in 1920 she graduated MA.
Sayers' mysteries are more thoughtful and insightful than light hearted mysteries, due partly to the frequent quotes from Spencer, Keats, etc and the Latin, French, and Greek allusions that are not translated. (According to Wikipedia, she started learning Latin at age 6. ) In fact, the denouement involves a proposal and reply in Latin. Definitely a work of its time period. Very few students today take Latin, though I had three years in my high school - and very useful it has been, too. Her Latin was no doubt helpful when she translated Dante's Divine Comedy.

The gist of the PP's anger is that women don't belong at university, that academic women are shirking their duties to husband and children (indeed their duties to marry and have children), that academic women are taking jobs from men who then cannot support their families, and that academics in general put the principle of truth above personal needs - in this case pointing out an error of fact in a master's thesis that then cost the person his job. (Besides dealing with sexism, Sayers hints at issues of classism that are not as thoroughly explored.) Sayers' feminism is more explicitly dealt with in her essay "Are Women Human" (cover above). If I can find a link to the essay on line I will add it.

I have been thinking of using some of this material for my sample essay #1 for our FYC - on the theme of education, society, and individuals, with readings by Bennett, Gatto, Loewen, Hirsch, et al. I could add my own experience at a women's college, Bryn Mawr, founded 1890's to provide higher education for women.

And in connection with this, this afternoon I plan to watch the film Mona Lisa Smile, which should resonate, considering that my degree is also art history, from a "Seven Sisters" school, about a decade after the plot in the Julia Roberts film. I'll let you know what I think. The film is not on Williams' list, however.

Book cover image credit:


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Updates on What I did in Denver

Here's what Greg Zobel of Adjunct Advice reported on the presentation in Denver. It was great that he came because my presentation had a screen shot of one of his posts on "Tips for Talking to the Not so Tech Savvy" which we all are at some point.

Port Orford's New Library - I'll visit in 2 weeks

This is such great news - tiny town of Port Orford on the Oregon coast has finished its library. Last summer we saw the start of excavation. There had just been a ground-breaking. And less than one year later - according to Margie Boule's article in the July 10 Oregonian - the library is finished and entirely funded by fundraisers and not a penny in the bond measure. We are planning to retire to Port Orford in a few years, so this is great news. If I knew how to put an arrow on a picture I could show just where this new library is. At the top is what it looks like!

Beach scene from I Love Oregon
Aerial from PortOrford.Org
Library image from Port Orford Library Home page


Monday, August 04, 2008

Water, water everywhere -

Today's article by Jeff Mapes (see photo of the Columbia River) about proposals to sell Oregon's water to LA because, according to state Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, it is "a vital commodity just being flushed down into the ocean," Nelson said, "and we're not getting any use of it" seems pretty crazy. For one thing - "we" ARE getting use of it - We being the animals, the plants, the planet, as well as the humans. Nelson thinks that "Oregon could be a Saudi Arabia of water." Hmm. I'm not buying that idea!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Brian Doyle's lovely writing in the Oregonian

I certainly enjoy reading essays by Brian Doyle in the Portland Oregonian, and I mean to write and tell him so. For example, he had a great piece on the value of newspapers - I think it was last Sunday July 27 - and now, because one of the values of newspapers is that readers can savor them slowly over a week - I am finishing the 7/27/08 Arts section with Doyle's essay on "The Freedom of not reading a book to its mind-numbing finish" which most of us can relate to. True confessions: Once in college at Bryn Mawr, I intentionally decided not to finish some of my philosophy reading of Plato - first time I had consciously not done homework. Felt so liberated. My roommate was shocked that this was my first liberation of intentionally not doing homework. Well, I was a bit of a nerd then (maybe now too). Anyway, mostly I do finish - but lately I am really bogged down in Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Love, Pray which everyone says is so wonderful - even Anne Lamott, who blurbed the book and whose opinion I totally respect. Here's Lamott's comment from the book's website:
Anne Lamott on "Eat, Pray, Love"

"This is a wonderful book, brilliant and personal, rich in spiritual insight, filled with sorrow and a great sense of humor. Elizabeth Gilbert is everything you would love in a tour guide, of magical places she has traveled to both deep inside and across the oceans: she's wise, jaunty, human, ethereal, hilarious, heartbreaking, and God, does she pay great attention to the things that really matter." -- Anne Lamott

So I "should" finish. Especially as a dear friend gave me the book. But Gilbert seems contrived and Lamott is genuine. I mean, Gilbert so conveniently got an advance for this nifty concept - three "I" countries - Italy, India, Indonesia. That's so cutesy. So, Gilbert - while I may not have put you away forever - you are no longer on the bedside table. Maybe another day - when I retire perhaps? I can now take Doyle as my expert on putting aside books that are not clicking. I just won't tell anyone.

PS: By the way, to sort of explain why my posts are a bit sporadic - when I have time to blog at home on weekends, it's so slow with dial-up modem.

The undending popularity of Pirates

After the very successful movie trilogy of Pirates of the Caribbean - with everyone going AArgh - even the group in nearby Albany, Oregon, with "Talk Like a Pirate" - and now Leslie Cockburn's article for the Canadian Daily Gleaner about young adult books about pirates - fact and fiction - writes about Long John Silver from the novel Treasure Island. Cockburn writers:
But the ultimate pirate, and one you should introduce your children to as quickly as possible, is Long John Silver, the star of Robert Lewis Stevenson's classic adventure novel, Treasure Island. This is one of the best adventure books ever written. Let me say that while Stevenson didn't have dinosaurs and a multi-million dollar budget, he nevertheless he made his island every bit as dangerous, suspenseful and thrilling as Jurassic Park. No one, I swear, having read the book, could resist the lure of a crumpled map and the siren song of buried gold. It appeals to the absolute worst in us - our heroes steal the gold, kill the pirates, come home and live happily every after. No soul searching, no second thoughts, just a rousing chorus of "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest." Arrrgh!
But here's my funny connection: In 8th grade - years ago - our English teacher assigned an art project after reading Treasure Island. I amde a map showing England, the traverse to the Caribbean, and the imaginary island itself, and my teacher gave a low grade complaining that I had no evidence that Treasure Island was in the Caribbean. Aha - I brought in my grandfather's history of pirates -- Jameson, John Franklin. Privateering and Piracy in the Colonial Period: Illustrative Documents. New York City: The MacMillan Company, 1923. E195.J3 - see this bibliography - which proved that Captain Kidd - mentioned in the novel - was known to be in the Caribbenn, which then proved that Treasure Island must also be there. My teacher was not thrilled to be corrected but she did change the grade. Aargh, indeed!

PS: Last year's da Vinci Days Kinetic Sculpture Race featured a vehicle called "Pie Rat of the Carob Bean" which was wonderful. Had been Cheesy Rider before and this year it was Rat-Tattoo-Eee! Very clever.