Ann Geneva

Ann Geneva is a doctoral candidate in English history and the history of science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is also publicity manager of Yale University Press in London.

Diary: Celestial Lunacy

Ann Geneva, 26 November 1987

As I took a break not long ago from putting the first draft of my dissertation on an Amstrad, I turned on BBC Television and saw my country cruising for a bruising in the Gulf. And yet on the same day I received a letter from America solemnly informing me of a spectacular line-up of planets in the astrological sign of Leo which was to herald a new era of world peace. The writer added that the day also marked the end of the Mayan calendar – how the remnant Mayans are now expected to date their letters she did not volunteer. The reason, I conjecture, why a sober-minded academic should be moved to alert me to these revolutions has to do with her knowledge that for the past four years my scholarly interests have centred on the political prognostications of the English Civil War’s astrologers. It could be worse. Another American academic once responded to the dissertation topic by remarking that he had recently had his ‘biorhythms’ done. Herbert Butterfield, whose notion of Whiggishness continues to provoke among English historians even more examinations of conscience than St Benedict recommended, warned against historians like me. Those who specialise in fields such as alchemy ‘seem to become tinctured with the kind of lunacy they set out to describe’. With this in mind, I scan my psyche periodically for evidence of taint. Here colleagues are of little use, since my choice of topic long ago rendered them incapable of discerning the fine shades indicative of the onset of celestial lunacy.’


Upward Bound

26 March 1992

Alan Ryan (LRB, 26 March) confirms my suspicion that the view from Princeton is often a myopic one. Of his many sweeping statements about American black students (with no evidence he has spoken to any) I wish to respond only to one. Ryan pontificates: ‘Well-meant programmes to help black students through college only add to the pressures on those students.’ Part of the legacy of Lyndon Johnson’s...


8 November 1979

SIR: As a common reader with the usual limited book-purchasing power, I read with anticipation D.J. Enright’s review of John McGahern’s latest novel, The Pornographer, in your last issue (LRB, 8 November). McGahern’s previous work, The Leavetaking, had impressed me as second only to Sons and Lovers in its ability to transmit childhood memory. I am indebted to Mr Enright for the knowledge that...

Close Cozenage

David Wootton, 23 May 1996

William Lilly was the first to produce a major textbook of astrology in the English language, at a time when the truth of astrology was almost universally recognised. At their peak in the 1650s...

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