Saturday, 22 August 2009

Lucky in my teachers

I had a meeting with my PhD supervisor; it was the first time we have discussed my work since I was actually doing my PhD, and we didn't meet up that often then. It was very kind of him to make time to talk to me about it, but it was utterly emotionally draining. I had forgotten how good he is at making me feel stupid, though I don't know that he does it on purpose. The problem is that he's very very intelligent, and at the same time he has a habit of being dismissive of other people's work, work that I rate, in a way which makes me profoundly uneasy. I suppose as a PhD student I was always trying to get his approval, which is a bit pathetic, but also entirely natural; I never worked out whether or not I had it. He tends to be nicest to me when I was doing badly at life, and least nice when other people are being pleasant to me. His rudeness about other people's work is usually directed against his peers, or at least the well-established. I have heardly ever heard him being rude about the young or unestablished. The big exception to this is young men who go out with his pupils (who are almost without exception female). Not a straightforward man, but academically brilliant.

He was very rude about a forthcoming book I'm involved in, saying it will be a joke. Has he forgotten that I'm contributing to it? Maybe. Maybe not, since the reason I was asked to contribute was that he was sacked from it (he refused to cut down an article that was four times over length).

Anyway, the best bit was when we were discussing a manuscript I'm writing something about. It has extensive glosses mostly from Cassiodorus on the Psalms. He was saying that it should be in the later medieval library catalogue of Canterbury if it was there at the time. I argued that it could have been in someone's private possession because the gloss would be quite a useful thing for someone wanting to do some serious reading on the Psalms, and added that I had read Cassiodorus on the Psalms over Lent. He shook his head and muttered loudly "Bloody Christians". This made me perversely happy. I can imagine any one of the other three intellectual giants who taught me saying exactly the same thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment