Sunday, February 07, 2010

Why Paleography Sucks

The most recent addition to the Medieval Writing website is an essay called Why Paleography Sucks. I have been wanting to write this for some time, but was afraid of being tarred and feathered by the paleographical establishment. However, now that I have passed my 60th birthday, I figure there is nothing anyone can do to me. I'll even paint a target spot on my head.
Actually, anyone who has looked at the website knows that I don't think paleography sucks at all, and that I am quite fascinated by it. I do know that students have hated it, and even postgraduates who had to get into it to approach their manuscript evidence found the muddle and density of the terminology of the subject totally daunting. It is not paleography that sucks, it is the battle to get your head around the subject and the confusing, even conflicting, approaches to it that have appeared over the years.
Please regard this as a little counselling session for all those suffering from Paleographicus terminalis.


Anonymous said...

I suppose I see the force of much of what you're saying, although I worry often that the idea that everything must be in English can only isolate scholarship: actually, the successful student needs to learn languages and there's little point telling them otherwise. Whether that be so or not, though, I can't help but feel that the publication of this piece could be better timed. I wonder whether the KCL hawks will quote you.

Dianne said...

Well I hope that if the evil forces of terminating the teaching of everything medieval (and, believe me, we know about them around here) choose to quote me, they get beyond the ironic title and actually read the piece. It is not actually a diatribe against paleography, but a bit of an explanation as to why students find it so daunting at the beginning. That is all the more reason why it needs to be taught in a formal, but interesting, way. Power on, paleographers!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.