Calendar of Regrets
Lance Olsen University of Alabama Press, 2010 Library of Congress PS3565.L777C36 2010 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Calendar of Regrets is a wildly inventive and visually rich collage of twelve interconnected narratives, one for each month of the year, all pertaining to notions of travel—through time, space, narrative, and death.
The poisoning of the painter Hieronymus Bosch; anchorman Dan Rather’s mysterious mugging on Park Avenue as he strolls home alone one October evening; a series of postcard meditations on the idea of travel from a young American journalist visiting Burma; a husband-and-wife team of fundamentalist Christian suicide bombers; the myth of Iphigenia from Agamemnon’s daughter’s point of view—these and other stories form a mosaic, connected through a pattern of musical motifs, transposed scenes, and recurring characters. It is a narrative about narrativity itself, the human obsession with telling ourselves and our worlds over and over again in an attempt to stabilize a truth that, as Nabokov once said, should only exist within quotation marks.
This book is a concise history of the use and interpretation of time, written by one of the foremost medievalists in Europe today.
Arno Borst examines the various ways that time has been calculated by numbers and measured by instruments over several centuries, from the computus—an ancient method of determining times and dates—to the present-day computer. In a wide-ranging discussion, he analyzes the classical Greek concepts of divine, natural, and human time; the universal time of ancient Rome; the Easter cycle of the Middle Ages; the development of the mechanical clock in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; early modern chronology; and twentieth-century data processing.
Borst argues that although many centuries and countless different instruments—sundials, horologia, abaci, astrolabes, calendars, and calculating machines—separate the medieval computus from the modern computer, each generation has had to answer the same question: how can we make the best use of our available time to improve our lives? The computer, he suggests, is merely a new instrument employed for an ancient purpose.
Lively and accessible, The Ordering of Time will be welcomed by students and researchers in social and cultural history, the history of science and mathematics, as well as anyone interested in the history of time and numbers.
Questioning the Millennium
Stephen Jay Gould Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress CB161.G67 2011 | Dewey Decimal 909.83
Gould addresses three questions about the millennium with his typical erudition, warmth, and whimsy: What is the concept of a millennium and how has its meaning shifted over time? How did the projection of Christ’s 1,000-year reign become a secular measure? And when exactly does the millennium begin—January 1, 2000, or January 2, 2001?
Under Seleucid rule, time no longer restarted with each new monarch. Instead, progressively numbered years, identical to the system we use today, became the measure of historical duration. Paul Kosmin shows how this invention of a new kind of time—and resistance to it—transformed the way we organize our thoughts about the past, present, and future.