Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Learning Learning

562 / 3000 words. 19% done!

Welcome to what might be an annoying new feature in the blog: a word-count meter for my Leeds paper. I've seen these on many an academic blog and while it seems a little quantitative, it greatly appeals to the Virgo in me, so I'm going to give it a try. As soon as I've figured out how to put it off to the side, I'll do so. For now, it might grace the top of these posts for a while. I also, in a more traditional (i.e. 19th century) way want to be accountable to you, dear reader. Knowing you are out there (out here) makes me want to keep going - as I know you all are in your daily endeavors. Would that I could promise steady progress - instead, you'll see the numbers fluctuate as I write and rewrite and unwrite each day. But I will be writing each day! Or, as the marvelously encouraging Barbara Steinson once shared...

The cartoon is available at the (incredibly distracting and wonderful) New Yorker cartoon bank. I love that little girl - a true hero! an inspiration! I've often said I'll write a little every day, but there are so many other things that can come first when I'm on campus. Not here! This can come first for several hours a day. Well, not tomorrow, although I may try to snag the morning - because things have started off pretty well. I'm caught between tow modes: the book and the conference talk. They are about as far apart on the writing spectrum as I can imagine, so I'm starting with the conference talk - 20 minutes, 3000 words. I have a decent introduction and a first point worked out about how Jean Thenaud's trip to the Holy Land in 1511-1513 framed his treatise on the four cardinal virtues that he started writing immediately upon his return. It's fascinating: he calls himself Louise's "slave, serf, and pilgrim" (oh, it was good to be the almost-queen in the 16th century!) in the dedicatory letter, but throughout the Triumphe des Vertuz he dubs himself "l'Explorateur" (the Explorer) - which creates an interesting ambivalence between the piety of pilgrimage and the practicalities of exploration (navigation, etc.). That ambivalence is pursued in the illumination which shows a variety of times and places all crammed into a perspectival space (so, combining traditional (medieval) modes of representation with contemporary (what we now call Renaissance) ones). There will be more tomorrow on the relationship between Jean Thenaud and Louise as pilgrim-by-proxy and patron (for the trip to the Holy Land) and as writer-patron (from the Triumphe). The images are weird and hard to work with (neither medieval nor Renaissance, a kind of wonderful, difficult in-between) and as soon as I get a decent reproduction, i will post it here. The manuscript in questions is at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg, but they seem comfortable with digital images (yea!).

The big surprise came from finishing a preliminary table of contents for a book project yesterday. I've thought and thought about how to tie together all of the disparate endeavors that I see at play in Louise's manuscript collection, and I think that I may have found a structure within which to discuss them all (at last!). The book (and you need know I feel sheepish even writing that, but at some point I must forge ahead and believe that I can do this) would be entitled The Four Virtues of Louise de Savoie (it might have a subtitle like :how a royal mother and regent queen negotiated the French Renaissance) and would be structured along the four cardinal virtues, in homage to Thenaud's great work but also because, as I thought about all that I've read, I realized that there are four great topics within Louise's career to be covered:
  1. Prudence - Louise's self-fashioning in the French courts
  2. Force - Orientalism and François Ier's Moral Education
  3. Justice - Louise's two rules as regent queen
  4. Temperance - Humanism and Marguerite de Navarre's Religious Education
I have multiple images and issues and texts that I'd want to treat under each and the first two chapters are partly written through conference talks. It's looking more do-able than anything I've ever thought through since the dissertation. And with a blueprint who knows, perhaps I could "write a little every day" even during the wonderful mayhem that is the academic year. For now, the NaNoWriMo meter will be my wee beacon. (NaNoWriMo, by the way is National Novel Writing Month when, apparently, people all over the world set about writing novels. A word meter seems like a rather dry muse, but then again, our modern age is a consistently strange one!)

But enough! Today was out day to meet with Oliver's very wonderful teacher. She's his third teacher thus far this year (there were a bunch of maternity leaves that we couldn't keep up with) and with her we are in a good groove. I should have taken more pictures of all his notebooks, but that would have been a little odd. We were so impressed by all the stuff that he's doing: conjugating, writing, the math (fun addition, but they do multiplication before subtraction, go figure), music, culture (kids get a "permis de piétons" here - gotta be street savvy in France!). The section that Oliver does not participate in are reading (just too difficult) - it's at that time that he reads his books in English. He's currently almost finished with Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (which is also a swell movie that has (heart skips a beat) Paul Bettany in it) and on his way to the other two books in the series. His teacher thinks this is just great that he reads a bit in English in each day - and so does Oliver. I've commented several times that he seems more relaxed at the end of the school day (we his parents probably are, too, which may contribute to his happy-go-lucky stance) so I asked him why do you think that is? "Because here, there's a pause between worksheets and we get to glue them in our big notebooks and see what we've done. And because I have time to read." So there you have it: time, pace - and a chance to read. I can't preserve this for him back in the States (where reading for pleasure is not allowed during the school day) (am I right about that? maybe not!), but we can certainly glue things in a big notebook! I do love this about the French school: every worksheet is completely covered with lots of activities and once a student has filled in all of them, he or she gets to glue the entire worksheet into a giant notebook. I love this! The kids have these enormous tomes of filled activity sheets and I can see why Oliver would feel a sense of accomplishments. The French have made paper supplies into an art form (as any fan of the Clairefontaine-Rhodia notebooks can attest), and it's good to see it start so early.

The other big news is that, indeed, last night (late, late after our wonderful evening), Baby Pink Dragon and Her Friend The Little Girl and their 21 friends did indeed catch up with Krrrrrichelieu, and he did indeed drink of the golden cup and give up his evil ways and, as Iris liked to say afterwards "joined the rich tapestry of life." It was pretty cathartic after three months of relentless pursuit and we were somewhat at a loss tonight, so we just talked about last night some more and about our days. Tomorrow night, though, we must enter into a new adventure. I'm pulling for the Adventures of Belzig, the plucky Breton boy, but we shall see what the kids have in mind. The Breton Fairy Tales of the day are all from Broceliande forest now (I had to get a new book!) which means Merlin territory and thus connections to King Arthur. With the (absolutely awesome looking) Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien in in Comper-en-Broceliande opening up soon, we may need to join the fun at the Round Table!


  1. Anne!! I just received a link to your lovely blog and am laughing and oohing and ahhing as silently as possible here at my desk at work! I am so happy to see that you are all doing well and enjoying your time here so much! I will be reading everyday from now on!
    gros bisous à vous tous,

  2. Amira, dear one!

    your work desk in Paris, France? we'll be there the last week of July - will you? send me an e-mail so that I may catch up with all of your goings on!

    so lovely to hear from you!