Friday, May 7, 2010


2037 / 3000 words. 68% done!

Writing art history, like most academic writing I would imagine, entails keeping a bunch of plates spinning - much like those circus performers (one could go too far with the simile, so I'll be brief) who set plates spinning on tall sticks, you get an idea going, then another, and another, and another, and by the time you have five or six plates going, you have an act - you have something worth talking about. It takes a long time, much effort, and several false starts to get those plates up and going, and what I struggled with today was trying to get them all going again all at once. Guess what? It didn't work, and the two additional percent written on my Leeds paper was really just some rewriting. But I did what I had to do: I reread the paper and remembered where I was going with it; and I looked at the images afresh and tried to decide on some key points. I have about 1000 words left and way too much material left. That's going to be a bit of a problem, too. I need to finish this paper very quickly and go back to expanding it into a book chapter. The May school calendar is creating additional pressures as well: no school next Thursday and Friday because of Ascension (aaaah! (angelic voices)); and no school Monday the 24th because of Pentecost (aaaah! again). So - Leeds paper done by Tuesday afternoon, and chapter writing (slower, more difficult, but I finally get to say everything I want to say) starts the week after. Mac and I have also decided that we need to start working mornings, too - so I'll get the 7:30 - 9 a.m. time slot and he'll get the 9:30-11 a.m. time slot. Just to keep the thoughts going, the plates spinning so that we don't have to repeat today too many times.

So up there you see Fran├žois promising to rid his Empire of Tyranny, i.e. the Ottoman Turks. I'm really glad that I read the novel, The Historian - it dealt a great deal with Ottoman Turks in Hungary, and this is what I'm reading about these days. I know that the big switch from supporting Pope Leo X's call to Crusade in 1517 to the 1525 and on alliance with Soliman the Magnificent was politically and militarily motivated by Fran├žois's endless war with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, but I want to trace the images and work with the ambiguities of Orientalism - it's astounding how long Western culture has simultaneously constructed, been repulsed by, and been fascinated by characteristics of the Middle Eastern/Muslim Other such as violence, cruelty and tyranny. In some ways, they get it all from the Greeks (who had many similar things to say about the Persians), but in other ways, it's all very immediate and real. The "tyranny" associations is really interesting - and still very much in use in American politics about the Middle East. So, hopefully Monday you'll get something more focused from me - once I start writing about the images things fall into better place.

So what does it mean when these are the books on your coffee table? I brought home Les Femmes Savantes from Paris, France, but they've been overtaken by Titeuf, this beleaguered hipster kid who cracks Oliver and Iris up - he's continuously stunned by life's injustices and always winds up the butt of every situation. I'd make a smart link between Titeuf and the Femmes Savantes, but not a thing comes to mind. :-) Few moments are as delicious as Friday afternoon, of course, when a lovely week-end stretches out before you and you try to take the week off like it's a huge, long scarf. The kids shared stories from school - Oliver had quite the tale to tell: remember that poem that he enjoyed reciting? Well, the teacher asked him if he would do it for the whole class and he did!!! And, as he put it, "I was clapped." So there you go! Iris is clearly learning Chinese songs (winter: North Pole; early spring: Africa; spring: China), but tells us they're French. And Eleanor whispered in my ear: "Shhh! Don't tell my teachers: I'm a superstar!" She's had this belief for quite a while now.

Iris also drew a marvelous little portrait of Uncle Steve - those little black dots are stubble apparently. Nice portrait of Uncle Steve, yes? He's certainly one happy fellow and Iris misses him sorely. I especially like the frame colored in all around. Steve is finishing up his academic semester at Mary Washington University; all of my medieval colleagues are gearing up to go to big, wonderful Kalamazoo next week-end; and I am getting ready to plunge back into work - I'm out of sync with the academic calendar, but will have to manage!!!

Iris had us laughing before, during and after dinner. Here is a chart that she herself called "Complicated" - the more complicated the better. It seemed to be a chart to record everyone's favorite color, but somehow she turned it competitive and it was, indeed, complicated. At dinner, she wanted to sing her new Chinese song from school - the part that cracked us up was when she said "I'll be taking questions afterwards." !!! Maybe she ought to be writing my Leeds academic conference paper. We wanted to settle into a movie tonight but she balked at the idea of watching it in French, saying she needed a break and that "besides, I miss Indiana." This is the first manifestation of homesickness that I've seen in her, so I indulged her and it was Peter Pan with all the singing and the flying. Tomorrow is market day, and I look forward to following the rhythm of the seasons and to thinking precise, focused thoughts about cheese, meat and produce.

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