Thursday, May 18, 2006

How Tradition Works

My ten-year labor of hell love is finally available. Some of you saw the book at Kalamazoo, but at that point you couldn't get it. Now you can here, via Amazon.

I tried to write How Tradition Works in such a way that it would be understandable by intelligent laypeople while at the same time making a technical contribution to both Anglo-Saxon scholarship and theories of memetics. This was much harder than it sounds, and I'm pretty sure I didn't succeed at every level, but I can give you the testimonials of an English Ph.D. student, a mathematician and a biologist who all claim to have enjoyed it (or to be in the process of enjoying it).

HTW is an attempt to take an interdisciplinary look at how traditions are created, transmitted and modified. I try to develop a general theory of tradition and then test it against traditions from the tenth century. Texts examined include the Rule of St Benedict and the Regularis Concordia, the Old English wills, the Old English translation of the Enlarged Rule of Chrodegang (and if that doesn't make you want to run out and buy it, you have a heart of stone, you do), and the "wisdom poems" of the Exeter Book. There is a historical argument (about the tenth-century Benedictine Reform), a theoretical argument (about how to use "memes" to explain traditions), and a literary argument (about the meanings of various tenth-century texts). Most importantly, the book has a really cool cover illustration, done by my student, the artist Jennifer Schuman, with secret symbolic messages in it. See:



Of course I wish the price ($47) were lower, but the publisher does need to make back their investment to pay my amazing editor. I will also try my best to get gratis copies for any publication that wants to be review the book, and, if you really are so inclined, I will happily sell you an inscribed copy. I am particularly interested in the opinions of scientists, mathematicians and theorists in addition to medievalists, and I will post links to all reviews (or complete reviews if you'll allow me) at the How Tradition Works website. There will also be an errata page (which I desperately hope will be very short)

I tried my best in the years spent writing this book to get a handle on a lot of ideas from biology and math as well as from literature. One very kind anonymous reviewer called it "genuinely interdisciplinary." I'm really interested in entering into a discussion with people who are approaching problems of tradition from different angles. And since I'm just starting in on a new book (From Tradition to Culture: The Exeter Book and the Tenth Century), I'd like to get as much feedback and criticism as possible.

And if nothing else, I'm sure HTW could work as an effective sleep aid--and I guarantee that it won't make you drive around semi-comatose or eat entire packages of hamburger buns while you slumber.

12 comments:

Jeff said...

Congrats on getting the book out there--and with such highly appropriate cover art, too. The monk wrapping himself in a scroll, presumably to indicate his acceptance of (in his case, Benedictine) tradition, is a nice touch.

J said...

The Amazon page says it's only available from a third-party seller (and there's only one copy, at that)...

Tiruncula said...

Congratulations! I can't wait to read it!

Ian Myles Slater said...

The "third party" seller on Amazon is given as "acmrs," which certainly looks like the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the publisher.

Perhaps someone there needs to straighten out their relationship with Amazon in a hurry; or make sure that a dealer isn't using their initials!

Derek the ├ćnglican said...

Correct me if I'm wrong but the cover art seems to be a nice adaptation of the sketch of Dunstan, Aethelwold, and King Edgar on one of the surviving copies of the Regularis Concordia...

Congrats! And you've provided me with one more book to read before I finish my next chapter... :-D

Ecce Equus Pallidus said...

Congratulations on getting your book published! I can't wait to read it.

Dr. Lisa said...

Yay!!! Congratulations.

Frank said...

Congrats! It must feel really good to see it in print and on sale after so many years.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

Congrats!

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Congratulations. I hope that I can afford a copy way over here in South Korea. It sounds worth the pricey price.

Jeffery Hodges

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Steve Muhlberger said...

$47 pricey? Sadly, no!

For something anchored in the 10th century, such a price indicates publisher confidence that all sorts of people not interested in the 10th century will want to read it...at least after the reviews come in.

Hope it works it out that way!

Emma Goldman said...

I'd actually like to read it (especially given the book I keep thinking i should write in my copious free time, and, given that I'm no longer affiliated with the academy, I couldn't get published anyway, about embodied knowledge)! Alas, croissant-makers only get $9/hour, so you'll have to wait until I get a few more free-lance gigs or something. But congrats! It really sounds interesting.