Lacunae. Bane to the existence of anyone who studies the ancient world (or any other world that involves the reading of “elderly” manuscripts and inscriptions.) One minute you’re reading along on your New Testament papyrus, happy as a clam and the next mi
Lacuna…or lacunae as the case may be. That is, places were the text has been lost due to some sort of damage to the manuscript. This one…P.Yale I 3 with its mirroring areas of damage looks to have been accidentally caused. It’s an unfortunate reality that ancient writing materials, like papyrus and vellum, become very brittle over time and handling them in any way often causes damage which obscures the text. Because of lacunae, we are often limited in what we are actually able to make out from what remains of ancient texts, and what has been lost forever. P.Yale I 3 is a relatively complete example…and it is not the only copy of this section of text, so the missing material can be reliably reconstructed for much of the damaged sections. That is not always the case.
There is considerably less preserved of this Latin inscription which was carved in marble. It is clearly a small piece of a larger inscription, and though one can make out some words, any real meaning has been lost. The following is what epigraphers have to say about this fragment:
No earth shattering new information about the Romans to be found here…it is just a frustrating reality of dealing with material that is hundreds or thousands of years old. Lacunae happen.
It’s bad enough when lacunae happen because of accidents of preservation, but somehow it is even worse when we know that the material may have survived intact if it had not been tampered with by someone or another, either ancient or modern. The monuments of the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Hatshepsut were deliberately defaced after her death to obscure her name from the records. The ancient Romans practiced something called damnatio memoriae which was an effort to wipe the history clean of any and all mentions of a certain individual. In more recent times, “erotic” art from the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum was locked away for centuries in the “Secret Cabinet” because it was deemed too racy for public display. Censorship…or attempted censorship…is nothing new. People have been trying to enforce it in varying degrees forever and by it’s very nature, it creates lacunae.
The most recent foray into a brave new electronic world of attempted censorship was pointed out to me by my SpReAd the Love partner in crime, JazzBaby. It’s called CleanReader and it has been causing quite a kerfluffle in the literary community, as evidenced by a simple Google search.
In a nutshell, it is an app available for Android and iDevices that enables one to “clean” a selection of e-books of the dirtiness…you know *those* words. Redacting text is nothing new…readers have always had the ability to take their very own Sharpie and blot out any words they found objectionable…CleanReader takes it into the digital world of the e-book and provides a handy preselected dictionary of replacements for all that nastiness in otherwise great works of literature. Of course it begs the question as to why, if you have an aversion of profanity or obscenity, or human anatomy, you’d want to read a book that is rampant with “swears”, but let’s leave that little wrinkle aside for the time being and take a look at a page of text cleaned by CleanReader:
Do you see what it did right there? It’s CREATED lacunae in an originally complete text. Why the ♦ would we want to do that?! Now granted, if you tap on the little blue button, the app will provide you with a acceptably “clean” replacement for the original word, but do you also see how the deliberate lacunae ultimately break up the original text and inhibit the flow of the language as it was carefully crafted by the author? I just don’t get it.
As a nascent writer, there are any number of things that frost my buns about this whole thing, but I’ll only touch on one or two….One goes back to what I mentioned above…if you can’t bear to read a book without altering it’s original voice to satisfy your need for purity of verbiage, perhaps you should just choose another book. (I have it on good authority that are plenty out there that have no need for CleanReader sanitation). I try to keep the language relatively clean here (which is often a struggle given my ongoing project of compiling a lexicon of creative derivitives of “f♦k” – to the eternal dismay of my mother) but to be plain, if you don’t care for my vulgar language, don’t read my ♦ book. I don’t care to read Fifty Shades of Grey, but I also don’t need to “clean” it to make it more palatable to my personal standards.
The second major issue I have with this whole concept is that some arbitrary someone, in some arbitrary somewhere (the Bible Belt apparently) chose the words that would be used as replacements for all the “naughties.” There is a deliberate agenda at play here that makes me very, very uncomfortable as a writer and as a reader. Should people have a right to choose what they read? Absolutely. Should they have a right to profit from the unsanctioned alteration of what someone else has copyrighted…I don’t think so.
Pigs must be flying somewhere, because I’m suddenly a whole lot less bothered by ancient lacunae. At the very least, they are rarely filled in with scrubbed language. And thank ♦ for that!
Read the ♦ on Armitageworld
For the record…Richard Armitage unwittingly contributed to the “clean” conversation on Twitter while this post was in process…small world. (In which if one’s eyes and ears are that innocent, they probably are very uncomfortable on Twitter on a regular day.)
That’s right – it’s my blogiversary….my SECOND blogiversary!!
Before I go any further I want to say THANK YOU to each and every person who has ever passed through here…even the spammers! I am always mildly surprised to look at my stats…“Well look at that – there are people who come here…and then come back for more!” :) It is a highlight of my day to see new people wander in and look around, and especially to “talk” with friends I’ve made in this virtual world.
Two years, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of things to talk about…I have yet to finish my tour through the Olympian Gods (I’ve been kind of dabbling with Poseidon lately…I wonder if there’s a water hazard coming up on Pilgrimage?) I was looking over the Roman Virtues yesterday and realized there’s plenty more of those to cover. Of course, once I solve my download issues, I will finally tackle the Sophocles-Armitage connection vis-à-vis The Crucible. Things have definitely slowed down here lately as I’ve been trying to adjust to my new career situation. With massive budget cuts looming, I imagine there will be angst on that front for some time. All the more reason to spend more time here….budget cuts I can’t do much about…Richard Armitage and the Classical Tradition? I’m all over that!
So, how to mark the 2nd Blogiversary? I was thinking about it yesterday, and of course I clicked right over to the “Anniversary Gifts by Year” website to investigate. Anniversary two is traditionally marked by gifts of the COTTON variety. Hmmm…what sort of cotton mementos could I come up with?
An appropriately blog themed T-shirt?
What else? Linens maybe?
I thought about it…for about a minute. I already have a king sized pillow that my husband refers to as my “boyfriend” – he’s a pretty good sport, but I’m guessing this might be slightly OTT even for him.
However…with some modification…
I can see it now…my own line of Ancient Armitage cotton apparel and linens!
FELICEM DIEM ANNIVERSARIUM MIHI :D
Three tries, same laptop, different internet servers. Best result: 97% complete…APP CRASH.
I have had no problem streaming – apart from finding the requisite time, but I want that *bleep* download I paid for. I guess I have to bite the bullet and contact Digital Theatre. While I’m sure their technicials will be perfectly polite,
I find IT conversations perfectly excruciating…
But, at least it’s Friday right?!
Happy Weekend Armitageworld!
How does that Shakespeare quote go again? “What’s in a name…would a nipple by any other name still be…um…nipply?”
(Yeah, Yeah…most abject apologies to the bard and all…)
I was complaining to friends on Friday that I was beyond bored and Armitageworld was silent as a crypt with everyone occupied a la Crucible. Then Saturday happened…Nipplegate Saturday (like Fat Tuesday and Black Friday!) The resounding swell of spoofing does my satirical self good. Far be it from me to let an opportunity pass me by, so I bring you a brief chronological survey of some ancient Greco-Roman nippleage? Nipplage?
Late Bronze Age Nipples (2000-1200 BC)
The painted plaster is damaged, but you can still make them out if you look closely…but then again, who notices nipples with that amazing hat?! Too subtle? This next image is one that I use in every survey class I teach:
No class, it’s not her bared breasts or her nipples…it’s the SNAKES people – and maybe the bird perched on her head…and her pomegranate wreath fertility hat. Nipples? Totally mundane here.
Archaic Nipples (750-490 BC)
(there are no Iron Age Nipples…I’ve looked everywhere, but since there is no figured art in Greece from 1100 – 800, alas, no nips)
Originally a grave marker, I have to admit that Kroisos is much more renowned for his thunderous thighs than his rather petite nipples.
My avatar dates to roughly this same period…lo and behold – Nipples!
TRANSITIONAL NIPPLES (~480BC)
Yep he has nipples, but he’s much more important because he is sculpted in a style that clearly marks the transition from the late Archaic to the Early Classical – or Severe Style.
High Classical Nipples (480-400 BC)
The sculptural program of the Athenian Parthenon is considered the epitome of the High Classical Style…yet nipples, human and semi human, abound!
Hellenistic Baroque Nipples (300-30 BC)
Considering that this rendition of Hercules is well over life sized, those are some super huge Hellenistic hero nipples!
Even the Roman’s got into the Nipple Act Nipples
In this, most likely posthumous, depiction of the Augustus, the divine emperor is shown in military garb with an elaborately detailed cuirass or breastplate. The scene on it depicts the diplomatic high point of his long career – The Return of the Parthian Standards. Right above that? Fake nipples to go along with the fake navel which serve to model the natural male form on the cuirass. Here’s the thing. They’re nipples. All mammals have them, and occasionally they peek out of a costume through the deliberate design of the costume designer.
No one will convince me that this particular hole placement was not deliberate and was not designed to produce a particular effect. Frankly, human chests look a little odd without nipples…kind of like faces without eyebrows. In this particular case, with this particular actor, people were intended to notice…intended to react, and it’s neither criminal nor a mark of depravity to do so. People have been noticing the nipples on classical sculpture for centuries, so I’m fairly certain that I have not degraded hundreds of years of classical scholarship by pertly pointing them out here. I am equally certain that the reality of fans noticing, with appreciation, a nipple revealed by a costume gap, has by no means denigrated or desecrated their appreciation of the artist or the gravity of the work he produced. Class dismissed.
I couldn’t agree more, which is one reason that I absolutely LOVE the SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge. Books have always been a big part of my life. I’ve been an avid reader since childhood and I chose a profession that can be decidedly bookish in nature. My bookshelves overfloweth! Not surprisingly, my kids also have tons of books…the one thing that I almost never refuse to purchase when asked. Each of them has a mini library ranging from childhood favorite picture books to age appropriate (and inappropriate – hard to find age appropriate books for a nine year old who reads at the high school level – MiniMe is currently reading Divergent) books of both the fiction and non-fiction variety.
In addition to being active readers, both of my kids are emergent writers with huge imaginations. It’s no wonder that the thought of children without access to books is heartbreaking to me. For kids whose real lives are full of far too many, far too adult realities, a book really can be a dream. A paperback means to escape from that reality and immerse in imagination for awhile. The SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge helps make this possible. My donations this year are a childhood favorite and a slightly sinister selection of award winners which I dropped off this week.
Here’s a really cool bonus that I stumbled on last year…a way to get “more bang” for your donated books:
From March 1-31, Half Price Books (which has locations in several US states) will match donations of children’s titles book for book. The Half Pint Library Book Drive culminates in Giveaway Events held in the month of April where the books are given to schools and non-profit organizations. It’s a great event that puts books into the hands of children who might not otherwise have them. MiniMe had the day off of school on Monday (for some undetermined reason) so we (MiniMe, sleepover buddy and me) headed off to drop off our books. My selections plus a few more that MiniMe and Showbiz parted with, added up to 20 books…which became 40 books when we placed them into the donation bin. It’s a good feeling for sure! The links will take you to more information about the drive. If you are close to a Half Price Books location, it’s definitely worth taking a look.
I also really dig their mascot…what is that? A bookworm?!
Errr..right, not quitting the day job. Of course D-Day in these parts means the long awaited Worldwide Download of the Digital Theatre’s production of The Old Vic’s The Crucible.
I was right there with everyone else…I had a great plan. It’s Spring Break. The campus – and more importantly, the web server – is virtually empty. I hooked my computer to the web via a nice, sturdy Ethernet cable and away I went. When I finally managed to enter my credit card info correctly (after three operator errors on my part) the purchase went smoothly.
There it is…in my Digital Theatre Library – along with my purchase of the “Exclusive Interview” (we’ll pretend that the original audience wasn’t there…more exclusive that way really ;) ) Since I’m not able to devote 3 hours 19 minutes today, I proceeded to the download. The player and some Adobe utility downloaded rapidly and then came the main attraction – The Crucible. (At 6.5GB in HD, I made the right decision to NOT download the file to my iPad…I like you a lot Richard Armitage, but I’m not purging 99.5% of the apps on my 8GB free to me iPad for you. Sorry.)
Here’s where we run into a bit of a snag…I employed the stopwatch app on my phone shortly after the download started and didn’t move from 0% complete. After 1:17:39, it was still only 3% complete (that’s .195GB if you’re keeping score). Speedy…like dial up speedy! Good thing I already knew I wasn’t going to be able to watch…
…or I might still be hoarse from ululating and half bald from tearing my hair in despair! Unlike the ladies above (funeral mourners), I’ll live to download another day (my hair intact, thank you!), so I figured I might as well cancel out of the download and make room on the Digital Theatre server for someone else…You’re welcome! ;)
Best of luck to those still in the queque!
Last year, when I was trying to convince my oldest to write up something for the children’s book challenge, I threw out a couple of titles…one of them being The Bridge to Terabithia, at which point he threw up his hands muttered something about it being a complete mind f#$k and then said clearly…”No way. I’m not promoting ‘Death by Newbery‘”
OK…so I bit.
Me: “Death by Newbery? What is that?”
Him: “The marked regularity that either a sibling, a virtuous best friend, a wise advisor or a beloved pet will meet an untimely death – for which the book wins a prestigious literary prize.” (Yes, he actually talks like that.)
End of conversation – he refused to participate, I posted Everyone Poops on his behalf.
Fast forward one year, and here I am again, hovering around a familiar theme. First, a bit of background excerpted from Wikipedia:
The John Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of theAmerican Library Association (ALA). The award is given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Named for John Newbery, an 18th-century English publisher of juvenile books, the Newbery was proposed by Frederic G. Melcher in 1921, making it the first children’s book award in the world.:1 The medal was designed by Rene Paul Chambellan and depicts an author giving his work (a book) to a boy and a girl to read.
(The British Carnegie Medal is similar and has a similar death toll evidently)
Dating back to 1922, the list of Newbery winners and honorees is a veritible Who’s Who in American juvenile literature, so I thought I’d scan through it and pick out some winners that I’d read and see how the “Death by Newbery” trope held up.
Spoiler alert…if you haven’t read these books…well, you know…
1953 – Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White: I was absolutely gutted when you know who died…and then was gutted again when I read this book to each of my children. Wise advisor dies – reader gutted. Check.
1970 – Sounder by William H. Armstrong. Summed up beautifully by Wallace Wallace in No More Dead Dogs:
“The dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down.”
1978 – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: C’mon! Is this really a kid’s book?!
I was somewhat surprised to find that another of my childhood favorites…the book that started this whole conversation last year, Where the Red Fern Grows by Winston Rawls is not on the Newbery winner list…it certainly fits the bill. It’s a coming of age story about a boy and his two beloved Redbone Coonhounds that culminates in one dog dying protecting the boy from a mountain lion and the other pining away and laying down to die on the grave of her dead companion. The boy buries his dogs and returns later to find a sacred red fern growing on their graves. Reflecting back on it as an adult he says,
“I’m sure the red fern has grown and has completely covered the two little mounds. I know it is still there, hiding its secret beneath those long, red leaves, but it wouldn’t be hidden from me for part of my life is buried there too. Yes, I know it is still there, for in my heart I believe the legend of the sacred red fern.”
Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows
One book from read by 12 year old yours truly takes the cake though…The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – Newbery Medal winner in 1961.
Based on a true story, this book tells the tale of a young Native American girl living on an island off the coast of northern California…she suffers crisis after crisis, loss after loss but remains resilient. She endures the death of companions and is forced to live in complete isolation on an otherwise deserted island for over a decade. Looking back on it now, I realize why the only thing I really remembered was the description of the special garment she made out of the shiny black feathers of the cormorants which were native to the island – it is JUST. SO. GRIM.
So in sum…Where the Red Fern Grows, The Island of the Blue Dolphins and Steinbeck’s The Red Pony? Sixth grade was a real literary horror show! (Is it any wonder I don’t find myself particularly bothered by Hannibal?)
All I can say now is:
Thank you Kate DiCamillo!
Read on Armitageworld
(a copy of each of these deadly Newbery Medal winners will be donated to an unsuspecting child ;) )