Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Historian

I came across an interesting quote in the novel "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova which I think relevant to our discussions about e-learning vs learning on traditional campuses.
..."One of the few pieces of research I'm sure I'll never finish. I have a theory, however, that this ghastly trail of scholarship, like so many less awful ones, is merely something one person makes a little progress on, then another, each contributing a bit in his own lifetime. ...Again he hesitated. 'Scholarship must go on. For good or for evil, but inevitably in every field.'"

In this novel, 4 scholars at various times receive ancient books with blank pages except for a wood carving print of a dragon in the centerfold. If you found such a book, you became an unfortunate successor who would be searching out clues around to world to find the exact location of the grave of Vlad Tepes of Dracula legend. The book comes to the scholar in a library. It wasn't there before he took a break but mysteriously has been left either where he was working or where he will return a book to the stacks. Librarians in this novel are extremely knowledgable about the location of everything ever published on Dracula and more often than not have the bite marks to show that Dracula has taken an interest in them as well.

I suppose if this becomes a movie, the characters would be running around with mobile devices but much of the creepiness would be lost without the musty books and ancient libraries with their most unusual librarians. The story itself reminds me of the movie "National Treasure" with the obsession of discovering the clues spanning generations and aborting whatever scholarship would have happened if the book hadn't appeared in their lives. However I'm not sure an e-book would be as compelling as holding the ancient leather-bound book in one's hands.

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