Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reprieve (and the 100th post!)

1995 / 3000 words. 67% done!

A really good unwriting/rewriting writing day and was able to line several things up: requested color photographs (no digital images available!) of certain manuscript illuminations from the National Library in St. Petersburg, and lined up two separate (short) research trips to Paris. I have accumulated enough Manuscripts/Books found only in Paris to justify going there for two 4-day stints. You can actually get a lot done in 4 days at the Bibliothèque Nationale - I'll be at the manuscript room (will have to do some careful arranging due to their renovations) and at the Tolbiac site (the one where it's like the opening scene of Get Smart just to get inside) where I'll be looking at my first Renaissance printed book - huzzah! Actually, just the phrase "Get Smart" (let alone his cool phone!) ought to be a motivational factor these days. Or maybe, "Get Smart, Please!"

So, two causes for celebration: first, I was able to weave together observations about the text and the images that pertain to the main thesis which is an articulation of the ambivalences about Islam that Thenaud's Orientalism produces: the double-bind of fascination (the exoticism, the commerce) and subjugation (the Crusade, the accusations of tyranny). The textual ambivalences were not difficult to pinpoint, but rather to organize; the visual ambivalences led me down some surprising paths from the way the illuminator plays with place and person (the same image contains the "real" landscape that Thenaud is in as well as the allegorical dreamscape that his avatar l'Explorateur travels), to the way he reworks the mappamundi tradition. So after I write one short section on Merchants (found in the Garden of Merchandise on the Mount of Wisdom), I will be ready to move on to the Triumphe de la Force section where Thenaud articulates the connection between the Ottoman Empire and tyranny (and how François "not a tyrant" Ier will save the day) (actually, it's really fascinating how kingship and tyranny are distinguished morally). This is where I can start to work in some of the historical problems I allude to in the beginning of the paper in François's 1517 joining of Leo X's crusade and his alliance with Suleiman the Magnificent in 1525. I know that the short answer is political pragmatism, but it's the way that that pragmatism has to be reconciled to the imaginary of The Most Christian King that's got me working. You might be thinking, "hmm, ok, Anne, but those sound like big points to articulate and you've written 67% of the paper." To which I'd reply "Ack! You're right. There will be more unwriting - sigh. What my colleague Joe Heithaus calls "killing your darlings." Yikes!"

One more tiny, but highly influential, piece of good news on this front, and then, finally, pictures of the kids! In lining up these work ducks, I double-checked the due date of my Faculty Fellowship report, a deadline that started as motivational and has (as it approaches) become the source of dismay and panic, as I started to wonder how I could polish the two chapters I want to produce by May 6. Well ("aaaah!" as in angels shedding light on something), it turns out that in the last year of your Faculty Fellowship (which this is for me), you turn in your final report on September 1. !!! This means many great things: more time to really work up the chapters into finished (not just draft) form, and even possibly produce an article version of one or the other. It also means that I can use that September deadline to motivate myself throughout the summer (so so sad that I have to have external deadlines push me along - someday I'll write of my own volition, I promise!). This news makes everything different: I won't be living a split existence between work and the kids' two-week vacation (I'll be reading at night, but that is an entirely different universe/mind set than writing at night), and hey, maybe Mac and I will get another game of The Combat of the Thirty in!

Sorry, more than you've ever wanted to know about the quandaries and reprieves of an academic mom. Because, here was the swell part of today...

Like buds emerging, the sidewalk café tables have come out!!! Even though we still have school tomorrow, we are all in holiday mood already (spring, spring, spring is everywhere), and so we decided to stop for a café, milk, Orangina, pistachio ice cream (Iris) break on our way home. Why is it so glorious to sit outside and enjoy a beverage? I can tell you that the kids don't quite get it yet - about halfway through Eleanor started pleading to go home and we thus spent most of the rest of the time cajoling her into no longer complaining (why is that so exhausting?) and Iris declared that it just wasn't worth sitting in a café if you didn't eat something. Guess I'll have to wait until she's a hungry graduate student to see her nurse a lovely, tiny espresso for an hour. Those habits die hard. :-)

We finally landed on a wedding between her ladybug (named Froggy) and her dog (named Teddy) to keep Eleanor implicated in the fun of enjoying a sidewalk café. Mac took this picture and I have yet to figure out why it cracks me up so much - but oh it does. How can a little girl look so aggressive with plush animals? Mac was being told to marry them... or else! I have to confess, that I still have these moments in which I can't believe the kids are in school surrounded by French all day. Still marvel at them for taking that on. Hey, that gives me an idea: in Greencastle, the schools make a big deal about the 100th day of school; perhaps we should do a Big Thing for our 100th day in France!

If you are still reading this blog, dear reader, this is the 100th post, and, truly, you deserve a light-up cupcake or some such. You've read more about late medieval Orientalism than anybody except me and enough people to fit on probably just one bus ought to; you've been put through more neutoric musings about the kids' language acquisition than anyone should; and you've certainly been subjected to more pictures of the kids than is right. But hey, they're funny and I'm grateful for the extra time to witness their antics, and there are the megaliths, and the castles,and the Nature with a personality, and the discovery, and the dramatic weather that are always worth writing about. This blog started out as a place to keep our memory of wonderful here alive and vibrant long after we had left, but instead (or in addition?) it's become a way to make the days more real - knowing that I'll get to spend a half an hour with you, dear reader, gives our days a shape they've never had before. I don't know what that shape is, but I like where my thoughts go within it.

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