- Brief Notices
In 2003 Charles Clarke, the then Secretary of Education in the United Kingdom, publicly declared that in his opinion the government-funded universities of Britain should concentrate upon useful subjects: "I don't mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes,but there is no reason for the state to pay for them." G. R. Evans, a Cambridge medievalist, retorted, "With a philistine thug like that in charge . . . we need to protect the jobs of all the historians of thought and all the wordsmiths we can" (The Guardian, May 9, 2003).
Professor Evans is an astonishingly prolific scholar of medieval theology and intellectual and church history, her books ranging from the patristic era to the central Middle Ages and from Augustine and Gregory the Great to Anselm and Peter Lombard. But she has also written cogently about the challenges facing universities in the English-speaking world (especially in her Calling Academia to Account: Rights and Responsibilities ). Breaking the Bounds draws in equal parts from Evans the medieval scholar and Evans the commentator upon the academic condition.
An Oxbridge inaugural lecture is an occasion when erudition and position-staking publicly intertwine, often in a wittily mischievous way, and Professor Evans's is no exception. Her twin themes are the nature of intellectual endeavor as medieval minds engaged it, and the parallels between that endeavor and the essence of disciplines and interdisciplinarity in the early twenty-first century.Writers in the Middle Ages struggled between pre-existing knowledge and texts, and the principles inherent in certain subjects (mathematics, rhetoric), and the challenge of creating something new. "There are important modern educational lessons in all this, of the need to be well aware of existing work in one's aspirations to innovation and discovery" (p. 12). Likewise today, despite the modishness of interdisciplinary claims, academia is not always well suited institutionally to foster the insights that often emerge only at the interstices of subjects. This may be especially true in the wake of the significant changes in governance and funding that U.K. universities have undergone in the past fifteen years (readers unfamiliar with these may not always follow the frequently acronym-laden allusions here). [End Page 190]
This brief historical sketch presents a popular version of the history and ethnic identity of the Carpatho-Rusyns predominantly located in the Carpathian Mountains. Perhaps the very title and the first page of text entitled, "A People from Nowhere," encapsulates the entire book as it details the struggle of a group of people for an identity. Mogocsi argues his point in a sweeping historical pictorial overview divided into nine chapters: 1. The Geographic Setting of Carpatian Rus'; 2. States and Peoples; 3. The Early History of Rusyns from the Fifth to the Fifteenth Centuries; 4. Politics, Religion, and Identity in the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries; 5. The Rusyn National Awakening (Nineteenth and Beginning of the Twentieth Centuries); 6. Carpatho-Rusyns in the Interwar Years (1920s and 1930s); 7. Carpatho-Rusyns during World War II (1939-1945); 8. Carpatho-Rusyns under Communist Rule 1945-1989; 9. The Third Rusyn National Revival (since 1989). His use of only twenty-three footnotes for the entire work and the lack of a bibliography represent major lacunae. Certainly, the copious, well taken photos, even including those on the book covers, are helpful, but they do not readily assist the inquirer in knowing what scholarly material would be available to complement this work. His argumentation lacks a solid scientific historical critical manner of developing and supporting his thesis. The whole rationale for the book can...