Sunday, September 29, 2013

Father Brag

My son's first touchdown. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Killer-Barney Effect

In some of the Icelandic sagas in which he appears, Bjarni Brodd-Helgason is a generally peaceful man, even though he got the nickname Víga-Bjarni (Killer-Barney) when he had to kill some of his relatives at Bodvarsdalr. In Vápnfirðinga Saga he is reluctant to take revenge; he is eager to reconcile in Voðu-Brands þáttr; and he’s clever and honorable in Þorsteins þattr stangarhoggs. So the nickname is somewhat at odds with the character, especially in these sagas that come from the East, where Bjarni was from. The disjunction between name and personality seems to be the point, especially in Thorstein the Staff-struck. 

 Víga-Bjarni’s name, however, appears to have overpowered his character in later sagas from the West, where people either had not known Bjarni Brodd-Helgason, or the transmitted knowledge of his personality was forgotten. In this material, Killer-Barney is now a blood-loving, death-dealing maniac.

I hate you, 
you hate me, 
I had to slaughter members of my family....

 We can call this phenomenon, in which a traditional referent, like Víga-Bjarni's name, loses the link with its original extra-textual and contextual meaning and instead develops as part of a new, intra-textual tradition,  The Killer-Barney Effect.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value

I have a new lecture course out from Recorded Books' Modern Scholar series:
How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value

It's an 8-lecture course:

1. The Liberal Arts: Where did they come from?
2. Separating Science
3. Tools to Rule
4. Can the Liberal Arts Make you a Better Person?
5. The Best Reasons: Solving Complex Problems, Preserving and Transmitting Culture
6. Beowulf: A Case Study of the Richness of the Liberal Arts Tradition
7. What's Wrong with the Liberal Arts? (And How to Fix it).
8. A Defense and Celebration of the Liberal Arts.

The CD set is available from Amazon here at this link.
The direct link to all of my courses on Recorded Books is here.

John Alexander, the founder of The Modern Scholar and my producer for all 12 courses, has formed Scholarly Sojourns: beautiful, flawless educational tours throughout the world. In Summer 2014 I am leading tours to Anglo-Saxon Britain, Iceland and Tolkien's England. We could meet up!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Wisdom from Neal Stephenson

Some people try to communicate "out of a conviction that the world must be amenable to human understanding, and that if you can understand something, you can explain it in words: fancy words if that helps, plain words if possible. But in any case you can reach out to other minds through the medium of words." And by doing this, you are saying "here is something cool that I want to share with you for not other reason than making a spark jump between minds."

From the Foreword to David Foster Wallace's Everything and More.