Annals of Bulky & Charming Office Furniture
Mike Madison recently urged readers to consult a profile of Anthony Grafton, well known for his book The Footnote. It’s a great tribute both to humanist learning and the old style of managing information overload:
His home office has an anachronistic feel . . .: It’s dominated by a wooden reading wheel, 6 feet tall and a couple of feet across — think of a small Ferris wheel with shelves instead of seats. It’s a replica of a device used by early modern academics, left over from an exhibition he once curated. From his seat he can rotate any one of eight shelves into view by spinning the wheel. With a tug, Grafton rotates past Greek, Latin, and Hebrew lexicons . . . .
Grafton also has this intriguing observation on the “balance of forces” within the modern university:
“The American university is classically this field of forces,” he says. “Professors are wooing students to spend their time and passion and energy on learning. Coaches are wooing them to spend their time and passion on the athletic field. The arts programs and things like [Theatre] Intime are wooing them to perform and to write and join a chorus line at Triangle.
“And that is as it should be — but if I’m going to be struggling, I can’t say, ‘Yes, let’s have a nice balance,’” he continues. “Because the coaches, believe me, are not doing that.” He adds: “I feel that we [professors] make our contribution by being fairly inelastic about what we care about, which is the intellectual part of the University.”
And here’s one last charming aspect of Grafton from the profile: “he grazes. . . . the most arcane corners of the blogosphere.” You’re a welcome reader here any time, Prof. Grafton.
Picture Credit: Ramelli Book Wheel Model.