Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In a move of complete narcissism, I would like to encourage people to read the recently published Becoming Byzantine: Children and Childhood in Byzantium, published by Dumbarton Oaks this year. In particular, there is an essay entitled 'Children in Byzantine Monasteries: Innocent Hearts or Vessels in the Harbor of the Devil?' by Professor Richard Greenfield. It argues, that while children were not supposed to be part of monasteries, for their own benefit but mostly because they are temptations sent by the devil, they were more common than the authorities on the matter would have you believe.
I helped Prof. Greenfield with some of his research in 2005, which is why it is entirely narcissistic of me to mention it. But I had some interesting experiences during my first try as a research assistant.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I read through about six saints' lives, combing them for instances of children. The texts were all translated from the original Greek into either English or French. It took me about a month to a month and a half to get through them on top of my school work.
The less enjoyable bit, as it is for most researchers, is the eternal search for funding. Having been turned down for work study because I didn't have enough debt, I went out looking for ways to increase my debt. Once I did I went back to the work study guy to show him my new found debt, he said that he didn't really mean that kind of debt. I may or may not have broke down in tears in front of him I was so angry. I finally went to the professor and said 'well, I can't get work study, but mostly I really want to do this, so if you'll let me, I'll do it for free.' Nice man that he was, he found a different way to pay me. And even nicer, the publication has my name in a footnote. This is the first time my name has appeared in a proper book. I am rather hoping it won't be the last.