We should be more surprised

OpenAI's DALL·E 'vision' of a surprised medieval monk (created Nov 30, 2022) Nay, stunned and shocked. We should allow ourselves to be taken aback by history. By how quickly the technology of the moveable-type printing press was adopted across Europe. In less than 10 years since the first book ever printed in the West, printing... Continue Reading →

Inflections and revolutions

History is full of ages, revolutions, rebirths, periods, cuttings. Not history as time elapsed, but the history as mise en récit, the narrativised sense-making of the graspable, knowable, documented past. There is no teaching of history these days that doesn’t involve the conscription of demarcations for describing the past. The ancient world is not the... Continue Reading →

Apocalyptic resonances

By the 5th century AD, it became clear to every Roman man or woman of letters that the Empire was gone. With it, gone were the schools, roads, economic and social networks and a great deal of cultural capital which had been familiar to those living during the period commonly known as late antiquity. Antiquity... Continue Reading →

A question of time and place

The city of Padua, one of the birthplaces of Renaissance humanism, from Hartmann Schedel's Weltchronik (World Chronicle), 1493 Movements start with simple ideas developed by people with a vision. Unlike ideas, movements need momentum, and the space in which they can grow. They need people at the right time in the right place. The Reformation... Continue Reading →

Taking the Penates home

Between Blaise Pascal and Pascal Bruckner, a choice has to be made. "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone", noted the first. "A life lived in a room is the sad countenance of existence", answered the other. House. Home. Heim. Hearth. The root of all the words... Continue Reading →

Medieval razorblades

Everyone knows of Ockham’s razor, but few are aware of the razor-sharp medieval writers spanning the millennium from the 5th to the 15th centuries. Razors standing against the darkness that the medieval period is often accused of. Razors cutting through the thicket of ignorance. Writers on the cutting edge of thought. William Ockham, after whom... Continue Reading →

New gambits

I don't really know what to expect when a story begins in medias res, in the middle of things. We suspect at some point we'll be taken back to the start, that someone will give a summary of what happened up to that point. The writers of classical antiquity didn't have flashlights, but they knew... Continue Reading →

Home sapiens

It’s the economy, silly! Not the economy, actually, but the house management, from the Greek oikonomia, oikos (οἶκος) for home, and nomos (νόμος) for rule or law. Home rule? To look after the big things, one needs to start small, with things closest to home. The rule of thumb can be extended to the rest... Continue Reading →

Let’s compare chronologies

A time to start and a time to end. A time to count and a time to let the sequence run by itself. A time to keep time and a time to let time run its course, without interpellation. Identities form in time. Times precedes essence, I’m a chronoexistentialist. Sub speciae aeternitatis. Under the aspect... Continue Reading →

Narrative exhaustion

Every story has been told. Every book has been written. Since the dawn of the written word, we haven’t ceased to multiply the narratives. The prophets of literary doom have long proclaimed, with the voice of Cassandra and the confidence of the Delphic Pythia, the exhaustion of the epos. We wax lyrical as we wane... Continue Reading →

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