Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Quay (Exeter and UK Trip Day 6)

Today is my second-to-last day in Exeter. It's a bit stressful, because I've just settled in, and then I'll have to be off again, on a whirlwind tour of 5 places, 7 shows. I had another brief meeting at the university today, this time with Prof. Daniel Ogden, who has written a number of books on ancient Greek and Roman religion, including one on necromancy that has been on my reading list. Talking with him was helpful, because he summed up the difference between British and American scholarship: Americans are interdisciplinary, the British aren't. The comparative approaches we prefer in the States don't have many adherents in the UK, and possibly not in Europe. The concern here, of course, is finding someone who can support my own intellectual approach to esoteric material.

After talking to him, I gave some more thought to Antoine Faivre's classification of esotericism, and decided to re-read something on his approach in the library. It seems to me that Exeter adopts what Faivre refers to as the "critical-historical" approach, rather than a "universalist" approach to esoteric topics. This is certainly to be an expected attitude in British academia, and I have noticed it elsewhere. Now the burden is on me to either define my interests in these terms and get going at Exeter, or to look elsewhere for someone who supports a more universalist approach. On the whole, I have done my homework on departments, and I feel Exeter has more to offer me than other programs, so I will have to give the issue some thought. Tomorrow I talk to the international office about what's involved for someone enrolling from abroad, and what my options may be with regard to funding.

Not all of my time here has been "business", and today was no exception. After a post-office stop, I made my way to the White Hart Hotel for a drink. The White Hart has been around since the 14th century, and the well out back was supposedly home to a "cockatrice", which is a cross between a cockerel and a serpent. It was identified by a foul smell. I suspect the foul smell has other origins, but that was a good enough explanation in 1640. It's a wonderful quiet place, with mostly older patrons, which suits me better that noisy pubs overrun by college students. I am something of an old fogey in my own way, or perhaps just "librarianish".

Afterward, I realized that the Quay was just a short walk from the pub. I headed onto the overpass crossing the M5, and went down a series of stairs by the old city wall, and down to the river. The riverfront has many stores and cafes, and I decided to stop for some tea and to sit by the river. After all, there is nothing more British than a cup of tea, even though most everyone seems to drink coffee nowadays. The day was chilly with a breeze, so I imagine they will not be having outside service much longer. There are birds all along the waterfront--swans, seagulls, and pigeons, mostly. An intrepid brown and white pigeon cased my table, so I gave him my crumbs when I finished eating. The afternoon was wearing on, and soon I realized I had to start to head back. If the day had been warmer, I think I would have spent a lot more time walking around, but things were getting quite raw.

In the interest of being frugal with my remaining cash funds, I've chosen to stay in tonight. Tomorrow I won't be able to do much either, though I am hoping to get in one more good walk around the city. It is a bit hard to believe that by week's end, I will have been in Bristol, Manchester, and Liverpool. At that point there will be little discussion of sightseeing, and pretty much all-John-Foxx-all-the-time, as I won't have much time to do anything else until I get to London.

No comments: