So, when they admit you to a PhD program in the humanities, they tell you up front that there are some pretty universal requirements:
  • Coursework - typically one to two years
  • Qualifying Examinations - typically less than one year
  • Dissertation - typically 3-5 chapters, taking two-three years
So that coursework and that dissertation seem like the real meat and potatoes, right?  Right - until you get assigned the reading list for your 16+ hour written and oral examination and realize that you have to read an impossible amount if you are going to schedule that baby in under a year.

But, since people interested in vintagey things are often also interested in history; and since it will be useful to me; I thought it might be neat to share some of the more interesting things I learn in the form of a few choice quotes.

First up, from:
Marvelous Possessions by Stephen Greenblatt
Greenblatt's text discusses the narratives of New World exploration in the context of their European audience.  One of his main arguments is that these narrative forms were both products of and producers of their cultures.  He has a lot to say about how the early explorers used bureaucracy to legitimize their military conquests, and he develops a theory of "blockage" - which is the psychological tool that allows the explorer to refuse to see similarities between themselves and the natives they encounter.  Blockage is aided by wonder - if the entire new world is wonderful, it is also strange, and therefore in need of European assistance (for its own good).

Here's one of my favorite quotes describing how this sense of wonder was then used to validate the explorer's experiences to the wider audience of their texts:

"His work can only be believed if he arouses in his readers something of the wonder that he himself has felt, for that wonder will link whatever is out there with inward conviction.  For the early voyagers, wonder not only marked the new but mediated between outside and inside. .. Hence the ease with which the very words marvel and wonder shift between the designation of a material object and the designation of a response to the object, between intense, almost phantasmagorical inward states and thoroughly externalized objects that can, after the initial moments of astonishment have passed, be touched, cataloged, inventoried, possessed" (22).
There are few things that I like more than sitting on my couch and watching old movies while I knit.  The sonorous tones of 1930's and 40's fellas, that high-falutin' mid-Atlantic accent, and the sweet sound of my cat gently snoring on the cushion next to me are a comfort and joy that makes me smile every time I think of it.

Since I find vintage movies so inspiring, perhaps you will, too!  And most of these are available via Netflix, so you should check them out if you get the chance.

First up, my most recent view:
 Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon [1942]
Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce and Lionel Atwill
For the initiated Holmes-ian, this tale is chock full of the old standbys: secret codes, cutting edge sleuthing technology, Holmes captured (!), Holmes escaping (!!), and that evil academic: Professor Moriarty.  And it's all wrapped up in a lovely little wartime theme:

Watson: Things are looking up, Holmes, this little island's still on the map.
Holmes [with feeling]: Yes ... this fortress built by Nature for herself ... this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."
[Cue patriotic wartime band, fleet of fighter pilots, and credits]

I was convinced that Holmes's final line should be, "... this blessed plot, this [insert other historic empire [Perth? arg!]], this Rome, this England [cue SGK's treatise on colonial imperialism]" but IMDB swears to me that the words are "earth" and "realm."

Pish, that's far less interesting!

But what is interesting is, of course, the movie's wartime politics.  Filmed before the detonation of the atomic bomb, it examines the trouble with the technology of mass destruction: it might be aimed at you.  A fearless Allied scientist has made a breakthrough, but that wicked Moriarty is willing to sell it to the Germans!  The movie's final lines are nothing but confident: we are still standing, and not going anywhere.  Ordained by Nature herself, this fortress is still in control of its own destiny.

But Holmes's words, backed by the sound of war ships and war planes, sound more like a nation gritting its teeth and digging in its heels than a sovereign nation confident upon their throne.  Throughout, the film's tone belies its final confidence.  In shadows, gestures, expressions, a slow but steady question steadily ticks: What if?  What for?  What then?

This isn't one of dear Sherlock's more glamorous adventures, and I find the film's fashion to be run-of-the-mill.  But in its subtleties, and in its dialogue, I think it may just be one of the best of the Rathbone years.

Cheerio, chaps.

So that movie Julie and Julia was inspiring for a few reasons: blogger makes good, and gets book deal; and regular person making stupendous food.  So, like the observant woman that she is, my mother caught on to this kick of mine and got me Julia's Kitchen Wisdom - a much less frightening Julia Child cookbook than the whole art of French cooking tome.

And behold my first creation: Potato and Leek soup.  Isn't it pretty?

Isn't it less pretty, but more delicious once it's been blended?  This recipe could not be more simple, and could not be more delicious.  Simple ingredients that just taste damned good together.  I made this before I acquired my stupendous immersion blender, so I can't wait to make it again with my new handy tool. 

The best part about this book is that it has little inset boxes (like a textbook) that give you instructions on the basic basics, like, how to clean and slice a leek.  Which is great for those of us like myself who grew up thinking leeks were mutated green onions, or if you're like my soon to be husband who thought that leeks were only in pipes.

I go through cravings for soup that I find hard to explain, and yet, am completely comfortable with this fact.  Don't question a good thing, right?