Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Reason for the Blog

The Great Hall, Library of Congress
This blog will be a place for me to jot down my impressions of the cultural highlights of America from the beginning of May to the end of August 2014. During this time I’ll be based in Washington DC as I work at the Library of Congress. But don’t worry – this is not about all the history books I will read over the next four months. This is instead about the plays I will watch, the art galleries and museums I will visit, and the occasional novels I will read for pleasure.

I was going to name this blog 'My DC Cultural Education,' because my aim here is to put right some of the deficiencies of my original education. This will really be my third attempt; attempt one involved reading lots of books for pleasure in my early 20s. Highbrow, middlebrow, lowbrow, whatever took my fancy. Fun but unreflective. To paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined book is not worth reading (well, it still is, but you’re not making the most of it). The second attempt came in my mid-20s when I started an Open University degree. The very first module was all about the history and culture of fifth century Athens. This opened up a new and exciting world for me and I picked out modules on different periods of history, literature, philosophy and art. The structure and feedback was a massive improvement on my former auto-didacticism, and that education has continued ever since. But as you climb the academic ladder you become more and more specialised and the learning is less and less liberal. So my official education has been taking me further away from the more rounded renaissance idea of the ‘perfect gentleman’ I originally had in mind.

Maintaining diverse cultural interests alongside an intensive course of study can be difficult, especially with young children, but for these four months I am (mostly) child-free and determined not to squander the opportunity. Washington DC will be my school and this blog will provide the structure for my responses. That’s the plan anyway. I'm also going to miss the wee blighters, so this diary should be a good distraction too. The aim is for this trip, as Jebediah Springfield might have put it, to embiggen my soul.

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