helenic: (scholarly)
[personal profile] helenic

I didn't manage to sleep until 5am last night, and after [livejournal.com profile] yvesilena's 8.30am wake-up call I fell asleep again for an hour. However, other than that today has been reasonably productive: I had a useful conversation this morning, spent some time doing emotion-sorting visualisation techniques in the shower to try to help me focus on work this week, and I finally overcame my fear of the UL enough to actually go inside, find some books and read them. It was much harder than it sounds, trust me. I've had a two-sided reading list for my thesis sitting in my bag for the last three weeks, and every time I've tried to go to the UL I've been waylaid by anxiety, and ended up in the Classics faculty library, Divinity, or even Sainsburys, or just walking past rather than up the steps, and going home again. I'm terrified of it. Today was the first time in three years at Cambridge I've actually gone inside. I filled out the form for computer access, ascertained that I can withdraw books with my university card, and realised I didn't have £1 for a (compulsory) locker - but the library staff let me leave my bag at the desk, so that was alright. And I made notes on three books, got out five more including two I've been trying to get hold of for ages, and generally felt industrious and scholarly.

It's beautiful inside. It reminds me of museums, all marble and high ceilings, but with an essential Britishness to it; all the books hardbacked and dust-jacketless (occasionally including the glossy paperback cover a few pages in), men in shapeless green cardigans and dog collars (I was in the Religion section), the dim sunlight in the South Wing making the spines harder and harder to read the deeper you go. I found vast quantities of books that would have been tremendously helpful to my thesis if only I'd discovered them a fortnight ago, but it's entirely my own fault for not getting up the nerve to explore earlier. After three hours, however, the lack of caffeine (or, in fact, any liquid at all, as they don't let you have even closed bottles of water) was beginning to tell on me, so I went over the road to Clare, where my friend Aleks fed me about five cups of strong black coffee in rapid succession, and we talked about Venice.

After another hours' work to finish the book I was on, I came home to collect the library books that were due back at the Classics faculty, and pick up some money so I could photocopy some articles, but the lack of sleep and caffeine overdose have caught up with me and I didn't end up going back. I've effectively taken the last two hours' off, answering emails, doing a final edit on my entry for the college writing competition (and huge thanks to [livejournal.com profile] the_lady_lily, [livejournal.com profile] smhwpf, [livejournal.com profile] ixwin and [livejournal.com profile] romauld for your comments; if I win, I'll buy you each a drink) and spending time on Useful Things like this interview meme from [livejournal.com profile] thedivineoliver:

1: in the last week how would you estimate your work to masturbation ratio has worked out?

Ooh. Let me think back. Well, on Friday and Saturday nights there was no masturbation for me, as I was drunk and doing the platonic bed/room-sharing thing. But I didn't do any work either. Friday I did loads of work so that probably counts as extra, but then on Tuesday night I got stoned so ... I'd say about 5.5:7.

2: how much of the alleged "classics" you study are actually just pretentious twaddle no matter what language they are written in?

All of them. They're either oh-so-serious and poetic and Big and Important and Oh Tragedy, Woe, (like Aeschylus), or they're crude and vulgar and all about sex and poo and calling various celebrities self-indulgent wankers, BUT with loads of snobby political intellectual in-jokes, and with a general self-satisfied American-esque OH YES, our empire is TEH R0XX0R because it has writers like MEEE (such as Aristophanes and Ovid). Or they're lyrical and posey and OMG, how well read am I, like Callimachus and Copa and Virgil ("did you get those echoes of Propertius and Theocritus there? Didja? Huh? Bet you didn't, dumbass"). Or they're TEH FUNK like Euripides with his modern rap lyrics, yo, tell dat Aeschylus I is overthrowin' da literary convenshuns, ya man, fo real, Sophocles is goin' DOWN, fuck yo momma. Oh, apart from Homer. Homer is the business.

I hasten to add that none of the actual Greek or Latin authors are anywhere near as pretentious as Classicists.

3: what is the most desperate form of entertainment you've ever resorted to in order to avoid conversation with relatives?

Hmm, hard to choose. There's the well-known Volunteering to Walk the Dog tactic, but I've avoided that in recent years since our spaniel went senile. I've been known to play folk music with relatives rather than talk to them, but only immediate family. Or I hide in the interweb like a big goth baby. Or help in the kitchen while playing the radio REALLY REALLY LOUD so as to preclude conversation with my fellow cooks.

4: is it ever acceptable to drink lager in public?

Of course not, heathen. AND NO, MIXING IT WITH LEMONADE DOESN'T MAKE IT OK. Pussy.

5: which greek philosopher talked the most bollocks?

I would like here to quote Philo, On Joseph, XII 58-60.

The man who brought this servant of whom we are speaking is said to have been a eunuch; very naturally, for the multitude which purchases the services of a man skilful in affairs of state is truly a eunuch, having in appearance, indeed, the organs of generation, but being deprived of all the power requisite for generating; just as those persons who have a confused sight though they have eyes, are nevertheless deprived of the active use of them, inasmuch as they are not able to see clearly. What, then, is the resemblance of eunuchs to the multitude? That the multitude too is unable to generate wisdom, but that it studies virtue; for when a multitude of men, brought promiscuously together from all quarters and of different races, meets in the same place, what is said indeed may be proper and becoming, but what is intended and what is done is quite contrary; since the multitude embraces what is spurious in preference to what is genuine, because it is carried away by false opinion, and has not studied what is truly honourable. On which account (though it seems a most unnatural thing), a wife is represented as cohabiting with this eunuch; for the multitudes court desire, as a man courts a woman; for the sake of which it says and does everything, making it its counsellor in everything which should and should not be spoken, trifling or important, being not at all accustomed to attend to considerations of calm wisdom.

... 'Nuff said.

If you really want questions, shout. But only if you're going to answer them. Post them in your own journal, etc; you know the drill.

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