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September 18, 2008


At the risk of drawing on the vocabulary of 'bland mass-media entertainment', this is hard-core stuff, Beth - cogent, coherent and beautifully written. I wonder if the 'meta-essay' was a phenomenon back in the Age of Reason. From limited reading in that area, I can't bring anything of substance to mind (but I bet someone out there can!) With the 10th anniversary of the coining of the word 'blog' coming up next year, there's a real need for a comprehensive 'state-of-the-art' overview on the blog as essay. And what you have provided so far makes a fine abstract.

Seems to me you are not just defining "blog as essay" but re-defining the bounds of academia. Beth, I recall somewhere you wrote that you decided against going into academia - but the intelligent work you are doing here seems to me to be that of an academic who's created a new place for office, new avenues for peer review, and new routes to publication. (says the lab bound biologist walking the halls filled with little office doors)

As for sharing with a larger audience, I have found that huge numbers of people are deeply commited to non-verbal groking. I have seen this with my attemtps to explain meditation more scientifically. Even the Harvard educated can be disinterested - knowing what she feels and sees and lives suffices. Many may prefer their art that way too.

Or, to retell a story my therapist once told me: Her husband once mentioned, "I am an intellectual," to the horror of his young daughter who exclaimed, "I am an emotional!"

Dick, thanks for your appreciation. Some of us (including you!) ought to get together and write "The State of Blogging at 10" - or else others will do it for (and about) us.

Pat, you're outing me! No, seriously, I've always had an attraction to academic inquiry and analysis, as well as to teaching and discussion - I guess that's obvious. At the time of making that choice, it felt too limiting and to isolated from the real world for me. The path I took was probably better for me, but it's also been a struggle to find a way to fit my whole self into regular life outside of academia. And there are limits to talking. I liked your story. My husband, the photographer with the art history degree, would probably add, "And I'm an artist! Why do we have to talk about it at all - let's just DO it." But of course, when your very medium is words, it gets sticky, doesn't it?

My regards to your husband, I've found "let's just not do it" to be the ring I pull the silk through. That leaves me free to think about and to sort things. It's an activity in itself -- it really is!

After reading Teju Cole's piece about Michael Baxandall here, I was quite intrigued. Not having a background in art history beyond the typical humanities courses in college, I had not heard of him. I looked at his work on Amazon and put a couple of his books on my shopping list. I am looking forward to reading them.

My husband tells a story about being kicked out of a basic art history class in college. There was a slide show on the first day of class. The professor showed a slide of a piece of cave art depicting an animal. Each student had to describe what they saw on the slide and guess why it had been drawn. My husband, being a practical, logical, mathematical type, said, "It's an animal. Probably some kind of cow, from the looks of it. I imagine it was raining or something, and the guy who drew this was hungry or wanted to hunt. Or maybe he was just bored."

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.