Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Life of the Mind

My neighbours have a dog I sometimes walk and in return they give me old copies of the London Review of Books. My brother says this makes me the world's cheapest dog walker, but what he doesn't understand is that I am getting free access to some of the best comedy being written today. Take this example, rich with academic envy and inter-institutional rivalry,  from the letters column of the 22 April 2010 edition (I did mention they were old copies, didn't I?):

Richard Evans suspects that I haven't read Lutz Raphael's Die Erben von Bloch and Febvre, though it is cited in the bibiliography of my book, The Annales School: an Intellectual History (LRB, 3 December 2009). I can only say that such a practice is perhaps admitted in Cambridge, but not in Paris. I would like to reassure him: I do read and speak German, and I did read Raphael's book. Nevertheless, his approach to the Annales School's evolution since the 1950s, by focusing on its institutional task and development, did not fit the analysis I was making in my book.
I am not sure, however, that Professor Evans read my book properly. Leaving aside the memory of his own encounter with the works of the Annales School when he was a young scholar, his piece is a not uninteresting survey of the academic expansion of the Annales School since the foundation of the Sixth Section of the Ecole Pratique, drawn largely from Raphael's book. But he does not refer to the main topic of my book: the historiographical destiny of the concept of mentalites.
Andre Burguiere, Paris"

I love that 'not uninteresting' - and the 'perhaps'. As for not referring to "the historiographical destiny of the concept of mentalites", shame on the man.


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  2. I've been a Literary Review man up 'til now but this is tempting me to give the LRB a whirl.

    Sorry, I can't offer any mind control tips though.

  3. What if you already have the existence you desire, Camilyn?
    Parrot - the important thing is to age the issues carefully before reading (and, ideally, to walk your neighbour's dog first as well [or their parrot, if you prefer])

  4. That is precious, zmkc ... you had me spluttering. Keep up the wonderful language-oriented posts.