Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Noise of Solemn Assemblies

Today the inaugural Mass marking the beginning of the academic year at Catholic U. took place, the first event in which I marched in procession as a faculty member. I very much enjoy the pageantry of this sort of thing, to say nothing of the doxological aspect. I have a liking for the heraldry of the event, with all the faculty in doctoral robes from a hundred different universities, the procession of a hundred concelebrating priests, the monks and nuns, austere but distinctive in the habits of their several orders. It's like a meeting of the Justice League of America, combined with the Avengers, but holier.

Unfortunately my own finery was completely borrowed, since I do not own the UCLA regalia. The Office of the Provost made some spare robes available, and mine was a plain black thing, although with the requisite three stripes and front panels of the Philosophiae Doctor. However, I regret to say that my borrowed hood proclaimed me only a Master. I am determined by the next convocation to acquire (somehow) the attractive plumage of the over-educated Bruin. But dang: it's expensive.

Tell me, readers who are faculty — do you have your own regalia? How in the world did you afford it? And what is your favorite academic costume? Or: Who has the worst?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Catching Up

Sorry I've been gone so long (sounds like a Dylan song). I've been moving across 3 states and doing all the things that that entails, as well as organizing some classes for the fall. I hope to check in a little bit more often into the blogosphere.

There have been a lot of interesting things going on out there. Some of the most interesting are these:

A new Zincirli inscription. Of all the recent discoveries, this one looks like the most interesting. I look forward to Pardee's presentation in Boston. Save me a seat.

A new seal.

More discussion on the Vision of Gabriel — more than I have time to summarize. However, I gather that the crux of Israel Knohl's philological argument is reading a certain word in line 80 as ‏חאיה, and understanding it as the Qal imperative of the root ‏חיי, translated "live!" But we would not normally expect aleph to serve as a mater lectionis for a reduced or zero vowel, which is what we would expect in the first syllable. It seems pretty far-fetched to me. You have one scholar arguing on the basis of a disputed reading for a philologically unlikely verb found in an inscription of questionable provenance. I think Christianity is safe.

On the non-philological front, Adam Gopnik has written a very good article on G. K. Chesterton in The New Yorker. Unfortunately only the abstract is available on-line. There are any number of things I might take issue with Gopnik here, but in one case I think he is (regrettably) dead right, and that is the issue of Chesterton's anti-Semitism. I don't think any objective reader, even one who loves GKC (as I do), could deny that he was anti-Semitic. This doesn't mar every one of his books (here I disagree with Gopnik), and the great ones, like Orthodoxy, are free of it. But no one can read, say, The New Jerusalem, without being saddened by the vile things he occasionally uttered. For this reason, a defense such as this one at Ignatius Press Insight, is misconceived.