Unlucky Days: Rufus Fears Speaks September 13, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Actualite, Ancient , trackback
It’s always fun when academics go off message in the middle of talks. Here is a particularly crazy example from a lecture by Rufus Fears, the celebrated classics professor and editor of Lord Acton, recorded for the Teaching Company, Famous Romans, 3. (The TC, btw, puts some great stuff out there and this series of lectures was particularly worth the listen). SF was, on the basis of these recordings, more a story-teller than an academic in the classroom. The recordings show him, in fact, an outstanding raconteur with a theatrical southern drawl to match. Unfortunately, he passed about a year ago: commiserations to any relatives or friends who end up reading this, his absence will surely be a painful one.
If I can digress for a minute the Romans also believed in unlucky days, and the unlucky day was marked on the calendar in black. You were not supposed to do anything in that day. Red was the day that you could go ahead and do things. I think Tuesday is an unlucky day. I think bad things happen to me on Tuesday. I was travelling in Europe with Mrs Fears and it was a Tuesday and we went out to get in our car and we were in England and the tire was flat. Now I said that’s a pretty good sign that we should go back and go to bed. Oh no drive on drive on [said Mrs Fears]. We were roaring down the highway. This man drives in front of us and drives us into the other lane of traffic, we were nearly killed. Next Tuesday I say I think we should stay in the hotel today. No, no, let’s go out and climb Hadrian’s Wall, well I fall and break my arm. So we go back, I was a guest professor in Germany at the time, getting ready to go home to America. She brings in these airline tickets. They are Tuesday. What are you doing? I’m not going on Tuesday. She said I’ve already paid for them, we can’t change them. So we are driving to the airport and a hearse, a funeral procession goes by. Now I say let’s go home, no, no and we fly and we arrive at our airport and she said look your mind has been turned to cottage cheese by studying these ancient Romans. We are walking out on the crosswalk and I’m run over by a bus. So I tell you Tuesday is a bad day.
Lots of scholars, in Beach’s experience, pick up on weird little things from out of the worlds they study. The present blogger lives in a village where his first academic study was carried out and touches iron keys when he goes across the local troll bridge at night (not that he believes in trolls you understand, but…). Beach has also come across professors who party on the birthdays of those they study, who wear objects once owned by the same individuals and who carry out Carthaginian child sacrifices. OK the last one isn’t true but other examples of academics going native? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com