Monday, November 19, 2007

Building a Masters Programme: Difficulties and Challenges

(continues from October, 28)

A year later the Department of Classics considered the creation of another Master’s – in Byzantine studies. At first glance it seemed, that the designers have drawn the moral from the experience of the specialty so far. Firstly, the project has been initiated by professors in two specialties – classical and modern Greek philology (the second was created in the beginning of the 90-ies, and is administratively ruled by the Department of Classics). Moreover, the programme had to be run with the cooperation of the Theological Faculty, which had restored its status of a faculty in the University in the beginning of the 90-ies. Previously it had been separated as an independent HEI, called “Spiritual academy” (sic!). Besides, since the very beginning the designers of the programme had invited for elaboration of the conception colleagues from a third faculty – the Philosophical one. Some authoritative retired professors-historians had agreed to participate as well.
The programme was supposed to include in comparatively equal proportions philological, linguistic, historical, theological, philosophical and practical linguistic disciplines. Thus the problem with the enrollment of the master-students seemed to be solved, because for the programme could opt bachelors in theology, classical and modern Greek philology, as well as historians and philosophers. In fact there were no limitations. The candidate could be a humanitarian or other and (s)he was expected merely to possess a diploma for a completed higher education. It was presumed that the number of the optional classes will exceed the number of the obligatory disciplines, and that the professors will be invited from the University and from other places as well. All that encouraged the designers of the programme (I was among them) to believe in the future of the project.
This programme not only didn’t start, but even did not reach a discussion at the Faculty council; what means that the team didn’t manage to formulate a proposal. The initiators of the programme from our Department could not reach an agreement with the partners of the Theological faculty on two kinds of questions.
1. Who will take the administrative and the financial responsibility for the project? Who is going to administer the students and to do the administrative services, connected with their enrollments, fees, exams, marks of the exams etc?
2. How to be solved the problem with the academic persons, who teach similar material (authors, themes)? No one was prepared for that, because there was no concurrence and competition in the previous system, as has been already mentioned. Every professor had his/her secured field in the frames of one’s community, and the different communities (separated even administratively) did not communicate at all. And not only that. The people in them did not know each other personally and often have not heard their names.

Maybe this system for research and education could reach perfection, if only it were possible in one whole state to exist one and only one specialist in each scholar, scientific or educational topic. A “specialist” means a person, who is authorized by the government to speak and write on this topic. I mention “by the government” on purpose. The truth is that till the present day the certificate for the doctoral, the associate professor’s and the professor’s title, is issued by a special institution, entirely independent from the universities, but dependent from the prime minister (because he appoints its president). The ideal situation - every one to know one’s own and no one to know the other’s - had not been achieved during the XX century not because of lack of political will. Simply there is not terrestrial force and reason, which could define and limit once and forever the topics for a scholar enquiry and for a discussion whatsoever. An ancient philosopher would say, that this is due to the eternal and insurmountable chaos in the sublunary part of the universe; or to the inseparability of the primordial ideas themselves. These facts are mentioned by Plato and Aristotle; but even earlier other Greek thinkers had pointed them out and were sorry about them.

3. The curriculum of the Master’s programme Ancient culture and literature

The next year, simultaneously with the of the reform of the curricula, which had to be fit to the European credit transfer system, the collegium of the classicists decided to propose to the faculty a new master’s programme, entitled “Ancient culture and literature”. This is precisely the programme, whose development I have decided to sketch for you today. In the beginning the conception was based on the following conclusions, derived on the already acquired experience.

(to be continued)

(the restaurant "By the Witches" - Shipka str., five minutes on foot from the University)

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Palace of the Knights of Rhodes

The paper* proposes to the readers some impressions from the architecture of the medieval Palace of the Knights of St. John, called also “Palace of the Grand Master”. The text is divided into four chapters, entitled:
1. About the Architecture
2. 2. The Palace of Rhodes
3. 3. The Second Message.
4. 4. The Restorers.
The initial suggestion of the paper is: the architecture of the medieval fortification buildings, together with its practical purposes, evokes some feelings (or emotional dispositions). It is supposed that these feelings could be contradictory.
On the one hand, the dweller or the newcomer (nowadays the visitor) could be struck by the unusual highness and thickness of the walls, the narrowness of the passages and the windows, the lack of some elementary (from the modern point of view) safety and comfort measures; therefore he/she could be pushed to negative sentiments like fear, anxiety, feeling of dependence or helplessness.
On the other hand these severe conditions could evoke in the dweller (here we are thinking firstly about the medieval knights as Christian soldiers) other dispositions – bravery, military discipline, readiness for self-sacrifice or even for martyrdom.
At the last chapter some speculations are proposed about the way this ambiguity of feelings in front of a architectural work could be put in the context of the fascist world-view (the Palace was thoroughly restored by the Italian government of the island at the beginning of the Second World War) and therefore how a modern ideology could use the characteristics of a traditional art for its own purposes.

*the paper is published in:
Mediaevalia Christiana, 1: Power - Image - Imagining. 2005, Iztok-Zapad Publishing House

(Thomas Cole, The Architect's Dream. 1840. Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio)
From Web Gallery of Art -

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Herodotus and the Parts of the World

II. Egypt*

The paper deals with Herodotus' description of Egypt in the second book of the “History”. The Greek view of the Egypt’s civilization, and, more specifically, how the Greeks were impressed by Egypt and how they conceived the Egyptian impact to their own civilization is the main topic discussed. Next, suggestions are made Egypt as a productive object of western cultural imagination and as a symbol of the eastern civilization model with its positive and negative aspects.

The paper is divided into the following chapters:

1. The Description of Egypt and the Meaning of the Word “History”
2. Egypt and the Greeks
3. Plato and Egypt

*the paper is published in:
ORIENTALIA. A Journal for the East. 2005, 2. New Bulgarian University

(Charles Gleyre, Egyptian Temple, 1840. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, English - "Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre")