The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1021 Thursday, 17 June 1999.
From: Peter S. Donaldson <
Date: Wednesday 16 Jun 1999 09:08:31 +0100
Subject: 10.0967 Paul Oskar Kristeller
Comment: Re: SHK 10.0967 Paul Oskar Kristeller
I will miss Paul Kristeller, though I didn't know him very well. He
discovered the manuscript I edited for my doctoral thesis, the
Ragionamento dell'advenimento delli inglesi et normanni in Britannia
(translated from a lost English original by Bishop Gardiner, who puts in
an appearance in Henry VIII) and published as "A Machiavellian Treatise"
This was at the time of the Columbia strike and its aftermath; my
official advisor in the English department was William Nelson, but I
also worked, mostly by letter, with Kristeller. I learned (some)
editing theory and practice from him; I followed up his leads in
European libraries (where I was usually-no, always -- in over my head
in regard to language skills. Even an introduction by Paul couldn't
make up for poor French and less Spanish when I got to meet the abbots
or librarians he'd referred me to).
Paul was, as is widely known, a very vocal decrier of the student
movement, and the point of this post is to recall a time when a
suspended "radical" graduate student and a conservative senior scholar
could sustain a positive academic relationship despite heated political
passions. Or, to put it perhaps more accurately, could sustain a
meaningful and supportive non-relationship. Paul's advice and support
were never contingent on political compatibility (or sartorial
conformity --- those were the days, my friends, of home-made bell
bottoms and dirty red bandannas). Later, on the few occasions when I
met him at conferences, it was not clear he remembered who I was -- in
fact it WAS clear that he didn't remember, especially when I encumbered
a greeting by including my first name. But when he got it, his eyes
would light up, and he would declare, with relish -- "Donaldson! I've
cited you in the Rocky Mountain Medieval Quarterly! --
(or some such journal). Ah to be cited, and well and truly cited, cited
by such a master scholar.
(I felt cited. )
But for me, life seemed to offer more (or fewer), or at least other
satisfactions, and I switched, in due course, decades after I ought to
have done so, to Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann studies (so to speak).
After such exchanges, Paul would rail-that is the word for it, I think
-- against the student movement-by now long defunct, with all its proper
satisfactions-at dinner. I collaborated by ignoring what he said. I am
putting this badly, but I mean to say how valuable the awkward
separations between politics and scholarship were then; how they
provided what we would now call a "space" for a career for someone who
could not become a follower of the regnant liberal critics, and who was
active in the antiwar movement; how much his way of acting on his
principles meant to me.