Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Week in Links (1/22-1/29)

There are other 3D, 360-degree digital tours of the church building still known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba, but this one took my breath away. The photography is incredibly high-resolution, and they lit the building well. So not only is it a navigable tour of the building, it's also the best photography I've ever seen of the space. Click through the images in the sidebar, use the map to navigate the tour, and just prepare to be awed. I'm really excited that this came across the Islamic art history listserv now because I'm teaching about this building in my intro class and will be able to use this site in illustrating my lecture:

Virtual Tour of the Great Mosque of Córdoba

I saw this first while checking my email on my iPhone in the waiting room of a doctor's office, and I sat excitedly making screen shots of the views I would want to include in my lecture.

(Click to enlarge. It's well worth it.)


Via @girlarchaeo's campaign for everybody to watch this video. I really like the beginning part about "will this be on the test?" because, in a very non-preachy way, it makes the point about that being an ill-considered question. I'm very seriously tempted to show that to my students at the beginning of classes in future semesters. I'm also hopeful that the medieval section will be of some use:

Crash Course in World History Part #1

An opportunity for any early-career medievalists (graduate students and PhDs since 2007) out there:

The Michael Camille Memorial Essay Prize

A review and slideshow of the current exhibition on the Hajj at the British Museum:

Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam

A new profile of perhaps the most important contemporary Arab poet:

Adonis: A Life in Writing

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sola Scriptura: Writing Against a Secular Doctrine

I am beginning work on what, if all the stars align, will be a major literary translation project. In short order, I am meeting with the author of the text. And I find myself at a bit of a giddy loss.

Most literary critics don't consider the intentions of the author to be a valid consideration within analysis; and for medievalists it's very easy. Our authors are eight or ten centuries dead; there's no chance I'll ever read an interview with Judah ibn Tibbon in the Times Literary Supplement in which he explains what really motivated the famous 1190 critique of his son that I happily spend my days analyzing. He's never going to be talking about his work on Oprah after being named her new book club author of the month. And he's never going to say anything while accepting a Pulitzer Prize that throws my previous analysis into total chaos. I will never be able to ask him what he meant by a tricky turn of phrase or an example of ambiguous diction. It's not hard to read sola scriptura because that's all there is. Even the prologues that talk about the theories of translation and writing and language are, by now, text, punto final.

 So  you can imagine that every fiber of my being that has been influenced by my training as a critic is shouting: "All you have is the text! The intention of the author is irrelevant! It is wrong and cheating and detrimental to ask him any questions about his work! All you may read is the text." I've always suspected I had a bit of an inner John Calvin; but even I am surprised by the vocal fortitude of this curiously secularizing Martin Luther I never knew existed in my psyche. My inner basic human being, though, the ruins of the Yale freshman who walked into the office of her Spanish literature professor, saw the full bookshelves and the framed manuscript page facsimiles and suddenly realized it was possible to make a living at the two things she loved best in the world — reading and writing — the remains of the human reader from whose head I sprang as a literary critic is dying to ask the author questions about how he understands the subject of his own writing and about his place within the text.

I don't know how I will handle this yet. I suspect that I shall keep our first meeting brief and translate the first chapter keeping careful notes of why I will have made certain decisions in certain ways and others in others and reserving the questions of my inner lay reader until I after I have rendered my own analysis — for that is all translation really is: Interpretation of a text by a congruent idiom. And with a concrete analysis in place, I can safely and deliberately take the postponed decision of how much to include of the author's intention as I revise and edit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mare Nostrum (No, not that one.)

The conceptual framework of my co-taught introductory undergraduate lecture class is "the Iberian Atlantic." For me, the challenge is not about thinking about maritime networks or about the idea of interconnectivity between peoples at opposite ends of a large body of water. Those things are quite natural in my field of study. Rather, for me the challenge come in thinking about integrations towards the West instead of or on top of towards the East; the sea I most often cross in my own work is the Mediterranean. For me it is Cairo and Jerusalem and Fez that are the natural loci of contact rather than Cuzco or Mexico City or Florida. That's the major difference for someone like me in a Spanish department versus someone like me in a Near Eastern Studies department: Which one is the sea that you'll have to teach undergraduates about?

So here is what I have come up with to explain our sea, even if it's not Our Sea. Some version of what follows is what I shall tell the students today about their topic of study, about learning in college, and about expectations. (My co-instructor will tell them some additional stuff about same):

Imagine that you are in a little port on the Atlantic coast of Spain in the beginning of August, 1492. That year, the lunar calendar used in Judaism lined up so that the second of August happened to fall on the anniversary of the destruction of the ancient holy temple in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews in Babylonia. And it could not have been more apt, for that was last day that Jews were allowed to reside in Spain. They had all been expelled, just like their ancient ancestors, and on that final day, those who had chosen not to convert to Catholicism made their way to costal towns like Palos de la Frontera to leave for North Africa and the Middle East, and one or two places even farther than that.

Perhaps by coincidence and perhaps not, some of them would have met an Italian man finalizing his crew for a different kind of sea journey. His name was Christopher Columbus, and he added some of those Jews to his roster. He needed a crew and they needed an escape. The fact that they prayed differently didn’t really matter to either side. It was the practical matters that counted.

There may have also been another Jew on board, one whose inclusion in the voyage had always planned. His name was Luis Torres, and his very best skill was his eloquence in the Arabic language. Columbus brought him along because even though the incipient nation that sponsored his voyage was cracking down on the long-held religious freedoms of the Muslims for whom Arabic was the sacred tongue, it was still the very most important language in Columbus’ view of the world. He assumed that any educated person he might encounter on the other side would at least speak Arabic and that they could communicate that way even if they had no other languages in common.

After a long summer at sea, Columbus and his multiconfessional crew landed in Cuba, where they encountered an indigenous group known as the Taínos whose chief had a special title. And when Christopher Columbus’ men heard the Taíno greeting party talk about their leader and call him the cubanacán, they were overjoyed because they believed themselves to be vindicated. They thought they had heard an Arabic word: Here they were about to be taken to the Taínos’ grand khan! Bring out Luis, the Arabic translator!

The Iberian Atlantic is the ocean that Christopher Columbus, a Christian explorer and conqueror, could traverse with his motley crew of Jewish sailors escaping a worse fate than the unknown at sea. It’s the ocean across which he brought an Arabic translator, probably also a Jew, because what other language would the educated people on the other side possibly speak?

The Iberian Atlantic, in its broader sense, is the place where it makes sense for Jews fleeing religious persecution by one Christian to seek refuge with another Christian. It is a place where Jews and Christians, as well as Muslims, speak Arabic. It’s a place where — and this may surprise you a lot — Spanish is a new, and not especially prestigious language at all. It is a place where religious identity and cultural identity don’t always match up in the way that you, as a college student living in the 21st century, might fairly expect them to. In a way, the Iberian Atlantic is a completely imaginary, made-up place where a common set of very real interactions between people happens.

What do you see here? What don’t  you see?

(Click to enlarge. L: Mappamundi, Juan de La Cosa, 1500, Naval Museum of Madrid; R: Portolan chart of the Mediterranean, Yehudah Even-Zara, 1505, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

This is a world where people were still imagining what was out there and projecting themselves onto it — kind of like we do today with outer space.

What do you see here? What do you recognize?

(Click to enlarge. Map from the Tabula Rogeriana, al-Idrisi, c. 1150)

This is a world that will seem upside-down and backwards to you at first. We’re going to learn about a world where having south up makes really good sense. In a very literal way, this course is going to be disorienting for you. Up is down, down is up, you’re going to be reading texts in lots of languages that aren’t Spanish, and all of that is going to be really disorienting for you at times. This is a really different kind of course, but when you start to feel adrift on that sea, there are big questions that govern this course that you can always come back to in order to find your way: What techniques did people use to create their identities? Did they see themselves primarily as writers, as explorers, or as men and women of faith? What were they writing about? Do their actions and recorded thoughts look similar to or different from those of people from the same time but different places, or the same place but different times. And you can always start by asking yourself: Why am I surprised by this? Why do I like it? Why do I dislike it? Even a very gut reaction like that is cluing you in to something that you’re reacting to and something that you can then analyze in a more critical fashion.

So what does this all mean for our course, in the practical terms that matter?

First of all, let me let you in on a little secret. One of the things that a professor does is edit. If you take a course on the Atlantic Slave Trade, you’re not going to learn everything about the Atlantic Slave Trade. First of all, there’s just not enough time; and second of all, while there are some events that everyone would agree belong in a class on that topic, there are other events that people would disagree about. Offering a big, thematic lecture class is like telling a story. And there are sides to every story. The story that I told you at the beginning? There are at least four other really important versions of what happened. I chose to tell you one of them. So that’s a very long-winded way of saying that a lecture class isn’t meant to tell you everything about a topic; it’s meant to give you an overview. This isn’t the history of everything in all of pre-modern Spain and Latin America. It can’t be. But it’s a really good story about a lot of important and interesting things, and we hope that it’ll pique your curiosity so that you’ll take more classes in the future and have a really good understanding, whether you take more specialized seminars in this earlier period or whether you are more interested in finding out what happens next.

The purpose of the class is to give you the tools to think about this material and about any similar material you will encounter in the content courses you take in the future either as a Spanish major or not. It’s to get you to challenge your assumptions about a part of the world — and I mean part of the world in the temporal sense every bit as much as the geographic one — that’s probably still unfamiliar to you in at least one significant way. For example, I want you to be able to take a course on the Spanish Inquisition, read some of the testimony, and not think to yourself, “Well, that guy has an Arabic name; he must be a secret Muslim.” Instead, I want you to think about the interactions that led to him having an Arabic name, and what that might or might not mean about him.

And as I said, we can’t accomplish that by trying to cover everything, even if it were possible to define what “everything” meant. So we are going to use a series of case studies to give you key historical information, to let you read important and interesting texts, and to give you a good overview of what’s out there. To do that, we had to choose a governing principle to allow us to select a coherent set of case studies. That principle is commodities. We saw commodities, like textile, stone, paper, and corn, as things that many different people interacted with in different ways, and that brought together different groups of people who might have interacted very little outside of their contact related to theses commodities. So, commodities is sort of our theme for the semester, and it’s what allows us to show you a little bit about the lives of the people who used  and thought about and bought and traded all of those things.

The fact that we’re talking about things means that we’re going to be using evidence and primary sources in a way that you might not be used to. If you come into a literature or a history class, you might expect to read lots of texts. And that’s definitely something we’re going to do. We’re going to pay close attention to text in this class. But we’re also going to use the commodities themselves as texts. So for example, we just looked at maps as a way of learning a little bit about how people understood the world, and Professor Vázquez is going to show you some paintings and read the images with you, rather than just looking at them. We’re going to look at images of tapestries and clothing, for example, and see how they can tell stories just as if they were texts, rather than textiles. We’re going to see how you can deduce history from architecture rather than from writing.

This also means that we’re not going to run the class in strictly chronological order. We’re organizing the material thematically rather than chronologically. That doesn’t mean that chronology isn’t important. It definitely is and it is a part of what will let you make sense of all of the material. And so in practical terms, I would very strongly encourage you to keep a running timeline so that you have a sense of where any material we present to you comes relative to other material. It might even be something several of you want to do together, by setting up a wiki or a Google Doc that you can collaborate on. We expect that you’ll do your assignments on your own — in other words, no collaborating on your essays — but we want you study together and to review the material in groups. That’s why we ask if we can put your contact information on a class list, to facilitate your connecting up with each other.

And just like this little preview talk has been, the class is going to be a mix of the very concrete and the very abstract. And what we hope you take away is some information that will let you study these topics in greater detail and know what kinds of questions to ask, but also a kind of broader, abstract thinking and a better sense of how to ask questions. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Someone's In My Library!

In addition to being a perfect illustration of the shock I always feel to find the library crowded after so many weeks of perfect silence, this two-part episode of Doctor Who is properly frightening — well worth a watch.

The Winter Break in Links

First, a very meta link. If you're a regular reader and have never commented before, please de-lurk here. I'm especially curious about who's visiting the site consistently from far-flung places where I don't know anybody:

Happy De-Lurking Day!

One of the difficulties my co-instructor and I had this past semester with our new intro course was in managing student expectations in a lot of areas, including their ideas about what a lecture course should look like, sound like, and cover in terms of breadth and scope. Part of that was on us for not having provided enough of the metanarrative to them — heck, I didn't even realize that that would be a valuable thing to do with undergraduates — and part of it was down to the fact that they expected an introductory lecture course to be rather more like us standing up and reading from some imagined Encyclopaedia of Everything than it was (read: not at all). I'm not sure I'll actually have my students read the following blog post (from the new web site at Stanford's Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, which itself is well worth a visit for all you fellow med-ren types), but I definitely do want to draw some of the details of this particular presentation of the idea of universal history into our introduction to the course next semester; I suspect it will cure many ills:

European History, Civilization, Metahistory and Pedagogy: Some First Thoughts

I also liked this take on teaching and research partnerships:

Straight, Queer or Academic?


I am seriously thinking about handing out these two things on the first day of class, though:

I'm not sure if the second one is weird to hand out pre-emptively, or if it's a good thing to use to nip grade complaints (of which I've very oddly, unexpectedly had zero) and general student malaise (of which we had quite a lot over the course of the semester) in the bud. Thoughts?


I miss having a cathedral for a library, which I confess my true religion.

watching libraries burn is unbearable,

Destruction Alert

Saving Egypt's Firebombed Books

and as such (among other reasons), if this is as big as it could be, hopefully it can be brought out of Afghanistan:

Scholarly World Abuzz Over Jewish Scrolls Find


I need to improve my German. It was never really great to begin with, and it has since fallen into utter, complete, rusty disrepair. It's never been a problem before because only an infinitesimal percentage of the scholarship on Andalusi material was written in German, but it has become one now because I want to incorporate a historiographic element into my book project dealing with a group of scholars known as the Wissenschaft des Judentums. Suffice it to say, their output was all in German. I'm planning to re-take baby German here at NYU either next year or the year after (depending on the outcome of a few things I have in the pipeline) but in the meantime, I think I'm going to try this:

Learning German Online for Free: The Amazing Courses at Deutsche Welle

They had me at "Teutonic Scooby-Doo."


A new online journal (first spotted over at SpanishProf's, where much of my commentary here appears in the comment thread) is devoted to publishing peer-reviewed syllabi, teaching documents and essays about teaching. I'm not sure about the value of such a journal: On the one hand, depending on how it is curated (a word I hate using about a journal but it really is what I mean here) it could be a really useful repository for ideas and tips for syllabi and assignments. On the other hand, that caveat about curation really is a pretty big one; and on that same hand, there are lots of discipline-specific web databases for the same kinds of documents, not to mention the accursed, where people can post same. In other words, given that so many of us already post syllabi online in some fashion, this feels a little like generating prestige for the sake of prestige. (The journal's mission statement talks about taking the preparation of these documents as seriously as research, but the thing is that I, for one, already take making my syllabi very seriously.) If I were to have a syllabus accepted for publication on their site, I don't think I'd even list it in the publication section of my CV; rather, it would be a note in the teaching section appended to the information about the course. In any event, I think that this merits, at a minimum, a hearty wait-and-see:

Syllabus: A Peer-Reviewed Publication of Course Syllabi and Other Teaching Materials


The New York Times published two feature articles on the art and history of the book:

Types with Plenty of Character

A Literary History of Word Processing

And not to be left out, the Guardian has one, too:

World's Largest Qur'an Unveiled in Afghanistan

This was a pretty cool and timely (for me) thing to read, since I made a minor point within an article I just submitted about other medievals appropriating and recasting the image of King David for their own cultural ends:

Henry VIII as King David

More on the new galleries at the Met, this time from a proper historian of art:

What's in a Name?

Looted Iraqi antiquities. Not even getting into it. Just linking:

17 Great Blogs on the Antiquities Trade and Looting That You Should Read

I'm really looking forward to reading this book (and happen to love the writing of the review's author, to boot!):

The Evangelical Brain Trust


I found my way to this blog post when someone from the Islamic Republic of Iran alit upon my profile by way of the post author's profile. I'm not sure how. is very strange. In any event, it was an interesting post, and relevant to my still-inchoate ideas about how best to use the web for scholarly purposes:

Knowledge Translation, Mobilization, and the #MyResearch Hashtag

And a little more on writing for digital media and its place in the classroom:

Blogs vs. Term Papers


I have loads of trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep at night during the semester. When I can finally sleep through the night again is when I know I have recovered from the semester. Here, academics talk about their tips and tricks:

How do you sleep at night?

In a more metaphorical iteration of the above question, how do you define moral turpitude, the standard for firing a tenured professor?:

Tenured UC Riverside Faces Rare Firing Discussions

As someone who writes an attendance policy into her syllabi but would very strongly prefer not to, I find that one of the many problems with this plan is that students don't yet know enough to make these kinds of decisions. Another one is the false definition of consumerism that it employs:

Pay-as-you-go lectures would give us real choice

I thought this was worth linking to because these guys hand out fliers and recruit on the NYU campus, too. I've even seen their posters on bulletin boards in my department:

Traveling to Volunteer, but it Wasn't What They Expected

And for a final, frivolous valedictory, apparently James Franco is not a hack:

What it's like to be James Franco's Professor

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Excuse me while I go retrieve my typewriter.

Using Google Docs to write a syllabus seemed like a very good idea; that way my co-instructor and I could both work in the same document, converse with each other, and always be sure we were working on the most up-to-date version. Imagine my chagrin when I awoke this morning, all set to enter dates for the second half of the course, and found this:

(Click to enlarge to readable size, not that it'll make much of a difference.)

I particularly like the characters that seem to have been turned into a smug smiley face — :1 — in section "iai i a ii." It's okay. I really enjoy teaching vocalic phonology. It'll be great.

Google Docs has also eaten my CV:

Apparently I've earned the degrees of A Yac, A Ctaattu, and Ctaattu, possibly beginning in 1888. I wanted to redo my CV for my annual report anyway, right?

It also seemed like a good idea to keep my CV in Google Docs, again so I could have one up-to-date version in one place rather than worry about keeping track of which electronic file on which computer contained the current one. I'm actually optimistic that since this obviously wasn't just one document that became corrupted, that it's a systemwide hiccup that will be resolved by the time I'm back from the farmers' market and sitting down to my desk to do some actual work.

In case not, the vintage Underwood in my living room is not in great nick

but my Olivetti is a totally viable alternative.

Update at 11am: All is not lost. I can now view my Google Docs, but can't seem to connect in an edit mode; note the error message at the top of the window. I can view and copy — so at least the information is safe, if in need of reformatting in Word if this whole thing doesn't get resolved — but can't click into the window to make changes.

Update at 4:30 pm: Use our browser or else?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Wikipedia Blackout

(Click to enlarge to readable size.)

I'm going to do a complete sidestep of the First Amendment issues here and of the various implications for international law. Rather, I'm going to alight upon the alarmist headline on the Wikipedia blackout page: "Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge." Open access scholarship deserves its own post and its own discussion. But that's not what Wikipedia is. It's not open access scholarship; it is facts and not knowledge. And frankly, my heart is a bit lighter knowing that it's not accessible for twenty-four hours. I only wish they coincided with hours in which I was in the classroom.

This isn't going to be one more predictable rant against the evils of Wikipedia. (Anyone can edit it to say anything! The pope! Star Wars! True, of course, but beside the point here.) No, instead I object to an attitude that I see in a lot of people, including a good number of my students, that has grown up around the ubiquity of Wikipedia. It's the attitude of "oh, I don't have to learn this because I can just look it up on Wikipedia."

Let me begin with the caveat that this is technically not Wikipedia's fault. Folks could bypass Wikipedia when they need to look something up. (I do that.) But by now, Wikipedia is such an established thing and so ubiquitous that by and large, people don't. I'm not sure if very many people even acknowledge the possible value of doing something like that. Using Wikipedia is no longer a choice people make; instead, it's an unquestioned working assumption. We have, to coin an unfortunate-sounding term, a wikipedia culture: You google, the Wikipedia entry is the first search result, and you click.

The result of this is the glorification of the fact. That might be a good thing in the absolute blackest and whitest of worlds, one where the options are politicians who believe in evolution or don't. But the fact of the matter (no pun intended — really!) is that the world isn't black and white. The problem isn't believing in Darwin or not; it's about believing or not believing in the value of expertise. And that's where the reification of fact falls far short. Darwin's conclusion (or any other expert's about anything else) is not the only thing at stake, but so too his powers of patience and observation, his research and the methodology that governed it, the cogency of his argument and his creative ability to connect dots that had previously lain isolated: The way that we have come to understand evolution is as important as the result that we do understand it.

Knowledge does, of course, require the memorization of some facts. If my students don't remember when Don Quijote was published and then randomly decide to declare that the date of the first volume was, say, 1212, then they are going to be severely hampered in their ability to analyze the chapters that contain the story of the Morisco named Ricote, a textual pericope that is heavily dependent on the political, religious and cultural circumstances of the early seventeenth century, when the novel was, in fact, published. This is where Wikipedia does people its first great disservice: It lulls them into a false sense of a secure world in which they don't need to have any facts at their fingers or on the tips of their tongues, because they can just look it up on Wikipedia. And in turn, in these cases, this attitude and a lack of facts hampers thought and discourse.

But knowledge also requires analysis. And that's where the default-to-Wikipedia attitude is especially pernicious. Because I find that many people, especially students who don't necessarily yet have the education or experience to understand fully why this doesn't work, think that they can, in effect, look up analyses on Wikipedia, get the "correct" analysis, and call it  a day. Who needs introductory lecture classes anymore to provide a coherent overview of a topic? Just look it up on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia uses the term "undisputed content" to mark what it considers to unobjectionable sections of potentially controversial entries; this terminology contributes to the idea that whatever the editing down or analysis is that appears their is the only way of understanding it. It doesn't really work that way, though. Much of my value as a teacher is my ability to see the big picture and my judgment as an editor or curator of a course of study: what to include, what to exclude. We always make choices about inclusion and exclusion. There is no platonic form of the encyclopedia. So, sure. My students could get a bare-bones description of the reign of Alfonso X from Wikipedia. But it's unlikely to set them up to be able to ask broad questions about his importance or to pique their curiosity that they might pursue further study.

An article on the LA Times web site confirms to me that this problem of unquestioned assumptions when seeking answers to questions or doing research is very real and exists outside of the academy as well.  It concludes by quoting a screenwriter who explains how he will manage his research needs during the blackout: "If I need to get research, I'll just Google." This quotation illustrates a lack of understanding of the difference between data and databases, between search engines and their results, between the tools of research and the research itself.

The web should not have to be at odds with knowledge and expertise; ideally, the one would open up new avenues of pursuing the other. But in practical day-to-day terms, that's not how it works. Not yet, at least. All is not lost: I do know and know of a number of people who are developing really interesting, dynamic (in the literal sense) and expert web presentations of data, information, and syntheses. But we're not there yet. At present, the wikipedification of knowledge contributes to our broader culture of devaluing intellectualism and learning. Wikipedia could have been a great populist experiment and the democratization of expertise. Instead, it is contributing to its derision and demise.

Let's not forget that it is opposition to the very problematic SOPA and PIPA that have led Wikipedia to black itself out, and that is a noble cause.* But I'm enjoying the world as it is today, without the Wikipedia scourge at everyone's fingertips. Protesting an unjust bill and no Wikipedia? No downside to this very fleeting status quo.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The First Great Law of Translation and its Corollary

Much of my day has been spent with the First Great Law of Translation and the Corollary to the First Great Law of Translation ringing in my mind's ear. That's what tends to happen when one is slogging her way through a medieval lexicographical text written in one language (Hebrew) but heavily influenced by the syntax of another (Arabic). They're worth sharing:

The First Great Law: If it doesn't make sense, you've done something wrong.

Corollary: Just because it makes sense doesn't mean you're doing it right.

An Occupational Hazard

I just picked up my new glasses. The distance correction is the same as in the old pair, but the ophthalmologist increased the correction for the astigmatism in my right eye. I feel like everything to the right of the center of my field of vision has been folded upwards, Inception-style, and that if I lean too far over, I'm going to fall off the edge of the planet. Or vomit. Or possibly both. In the positive column, I'm seeing much better, and I do know that the nausea will disappear in a day or two. And my new glasses look awesome.

Academic Vanity Presses?

For approximately 5,947 reasons (only one of which involves a wealthy Nigerian prince with banking difficulties), I'm not going to reply to this email. Chief among those very many reasons are 1) my dissertation raises some interesting ideas but needs a lot of revision before it's a useful, trenchant, insightful and mature work of scholarship, and 2) it's much better to publish with a university press. But has anyone heard of the sort of thing that's proposed in this email I just received? Or heard of this publishing house or read anything they've published? Is it just some kind of glorified UMI/Proquest?


Dear Sarah Pearce,

I have been informed through the Cornell University's repository, of the paper you submitted in 2011 for your postgraduate degree, entitled "'No achievement but through Arabic': The Ibero-Almohad education of Samuel ibn Tibbon".

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a member of an international group specializing since 2002 in the publication of dissertations and  high-quality theses from respected institutions worldwide.
We would be glad to know whether you would be keen on publishing the above mentioned work with us.
Upon a successful evaluation of your work,  we would make it available in printed form and market it globally through our distributors at no cost to you.

Please let know if you would be interested in receiving a detailed brochure.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Hannah Olsen
Acquisition Editor

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG
Heinrich-Böcking-Str. 6-8
66121, Saarbrücken, Germany

Fon +49 681 3720-310
Fax +49 681 3720-3109 /

Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10752
General unlimited partner: VDM Management GmbH
Managing directors: Thorsten Ohm (CEO), Dr. Wolfgang Philipp Müller, Esther von Krosigk

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Delurking Day!

I've been blogging for almost six months now. I'm still ambivalent about the whole project to the point that I've still not made the blog visible to Google. As such, I don't have a dramatic number of readers. However, I do have some; and based on the counter statistics, I can tell that some are consistent readers. But only a small percentage comment. So, join me in celebrating national delurking day by ceasing your lurking and leaving a comment to say hello and introduce yourself in some way. Happy delurking day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An Observation

I had a minor surgical operation over the winter break that led, indirectly, to a realization about how lay people can understand my work. The day beforehand, when the surgeon was using pen to mark where he would cut, I observed that it was the first time in my life that I could really appreciate what people mean when they say to me of Arabic, "I can't believe those squiggles actually mean something to you." (It's a comment I get more than one might expect.) But there I was, marveling that a few different kinds of pen marks could hold so much meaning for the person making them whereas for me, they were, well, just some squiggles that signified nothing in particular.