Yesterday’s entry carries a title—a toilet in the loony bin—that relates remotely to its content. These several weeks of relative isolation in Europe have afforded an opportunity to reflect on my brilliant career, forty-years in the saddle teaching, among other things, architectural history. As I ponder carrying on or stepping aside (or some other middle course), I hear encouraging words from friends and colleagues, positive assessments of past performance and and hints that a change of status might be hasty. While I’m grateful for their support, you know me: some see the glass half full, some see it half empty; I notice a chip in the rim and bring new dimension to the notion of cynicism.
Forty-plus years of doing whatever I do have inevitably touched many lives—some, no doubt, with inelegance or ineptitude. They, of course, are not the ones offering positive support. I hear, for example, appraisals of my career that reckon me a fixture at the department, an institution in my own right. Both of these are well-intentioned, honorific, generous.
My house is replete with fixtures. There is one in stained glass hanging above the dining table, but there’s also a porcelain one in the little room down the hall. And as an historian of architecture, institutions are my stock in trade: without them—feudalism and monasticism, for example, noble institutions founded by Charlemagne—the Middle Ages would have been really chaotic.
But the State Hospital at Jamestown is an institution, too.