Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Calvino-esque Anti-Classic

I'm getting ready to give a paper at what promises to be a fantastic conference at the University of Chicago. (In fact, the lack of recent posting is down to this feeling like the stakes are high for a couple of different reasons, on top of moving back to New York this week.)

I'm presenting a weird and obscure text — naturally, because that's pretty much my portfolio — that's definitely not a classic. It's also Not A Classic in the sense that it conforms to the opposite of Calvino's definition of classics as texts that you already know and feel like you are re-reading even when you read them the first time. This is a text whose weirdness has contributed to its obscurity.

An inversion of the description of the reading process of a classic is quite apt for me in this instance, as well. Through a probably completely irreplicable series of events, I happened to read it for the first time with no context, no secondary scholarship, and without even knowing really what it was — it was bound in with another manuscript I was looking at in the Bodleian collection. It was a completely interesting exercise to read an interpret a text totally uninfluenced by and unresponsive to earlier thinking. And as it happens, my reading of this text runs totally against the grain of what almost all of the (not really voluminous) earlier scholarship says about it. Some of the earlier scholarship will be in attendance, too.  I'm nervous. It could go quite badly, but it could also go really well; and it's sort of exciting to have read this way.


  1. Blogger meet-up opportunity . . .

  2. Ack! Dame E., I only just saw your comment now — I've been basically offline since leaving Philly. Sorry to have missed the opportunity, but it's probably just as well since my flight was five hours late into ORD and I was consequently totally loopy the next day... Ah, well. Next time.