Thursday 13 November 2014


I like pirates. Who doesn't? 

One of the contributors to the current edition of the Times Literary Supplement is an academic named Grace Moore, and I can't resist typing out her Contributor's Note:

Grace Moore is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence of the History of Emotions. She is the editor of Pirates and Mutineers of the Nineteenth Century: Swashbucklers and Swindlers, 2011, and is working on a study of bush fires in nineteenth-century Australian settler literature.

I like the sound of all of this, so I looked up the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence of the History of Emotions - surely never abbreviated as the ARCCEHE - and I'm sorry to have to report that they have a Vision, and a Mission Statement, and all the associated management balls attached to what otherwise seems to be an admirable organisation. 

With a plaguey nip o'grog and a brisk yo-ho-ho I peer yet closer through me one good eye . . .

Their aim, they say, is: "to provide leadership in humanities research worldwide into how societies thought, felt and functioned in Europe, 1100 - 1800, and how this long history continues to impact on present day Australia."

Apart from the barbarous verbal use of 'impact' this all seems above board and ship-shape (me hearties) and, if you can stomach the disappointingly unpiratical language in which much of their stuff is couched, you can find out more here. Ms Moore is I am sure a high-minded academic, but I expect in her dreams she swings from the rigging, a cutlass between her teeth, roaring profanities. I hope she is not seen by her humourless peers as an unreliable swashbuckling gadabout who would be better employed studying (say) the penal colonies or the Great Barrier Reef. 

I always flinch at the phrase 'Centre of Excellence', that sibilant indicator of gormless management values, sent up years ago (when it first came into vogue) by the comedians Fry and Laurie at the expense of the sinister and preposterous education minister, Rhodes Boyson (1925 - 2012): Watch it here. Boyson's no-nonsense mutton-chopp'd Lancashire schoolmaster act is neatly skewered. His posthumous reputation is in free-fall, as a quick skim of the internet will confirm.

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