Harry Potter seguing to magical universities

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Aug 9 19:11:45 EDT 2000


On Wed, 09 Aug 2000 16:03:22 -0400, Courtney M Eckhardt wrote:

>That was what I meant to say, except that when Melissa says it, you can
>understand it!  <wistful sigh>

I'm glad someone can.  I think I discarded about ten messages on various
topics yesterday because I couldn't understand what I was saying.

>"...whereas the medieval culture depends more on the transmitted knowledge
>of the ancients."  Yes, exactly!  The "dark ages" style of learning has a
>lot to do with learning by rote and copying without really understanding
>the subject matter.  For instance, one might descibe alchemy as the
>intersection of mysticism and experimentation, where one only learns what
>works and what doesn't instead of beginning to understand an area of
>study.  This method of research, which is nonmethodical, highly
>individualistic, often secretive, and possibly "proprietary", does not
>lend itself to the university model.  If one takes this model of research
>along with the pseudo-medieval magical society, one doesn't get
>universities.

Absolutely!  I like that bit about "proprietary knowledge."  An author who
took this to the logical extreme (one of many probably) is P.C. Hodgell,
with the thieves' apprenticeship system in _God Stalk_.  It's a common
fantasy theme, but in that book apprenticeships were practically tradable
coin.  Being apprenticed to a really good thief gave you not only prestige,
but a more valuable knowledge base.  Similarly, if the knowledge of your
master wasn't dilute--if it was proprietary--it was even more valuable to
the apprentice.  Hence the furor over Jame, an outsider to the system, being
handed what were essentially the Crown Jewels of Tai'Tastigon thievery.

In writing this it occurred to me that this model means that increased
secrecy means increased value.  That's *exactly* the opposite of the
university model, where you want knowledge shared so other people can work
on it and test it and make it stronger.  The medieval method says that
openness is dilution, heresy--spreading the knowledge makes it more easily
corrupted (because of course Aristotle knew more than anyone before or since
his time).

So, um...yeah.  What Courtney said.

>>That's just the *perceived* Renaissance and medieval cultures, by the way.
>>If the reality was different from the perception, that's irrelevant.  That
>>idea of the medieval era is just another part of the fantasy idea collective
>>Courtney mentioned.
>
>Oh, I did mean percieved- maybe I should have stated that more explicitly.
>Sorry if that wasn't clear...

It was, but I thought what I wrote took things sufficiently far enough away
that I needed to clarify.

>Courtney (Melissa agreed with me! :)

Aw shucks.  You're making me blush.  :)

Melissa Proffitt
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