No grant from the Arts Council to translate Methodius from Old Slavonic

Last summer I wrote to the Arts Council, enquiring whether they would sponsor a translation of a couple of long works by Methodius of Olympus from Old Slavonic.  I usually pay for translations myself, but in this case the cost was beyond what I can reasonably afford myself. I was willing to pay a significant part of it, however.  But it would be a permanent benefit to the world.  So I thought I’d try.  The response was encouraging, and stated that they do fund translations.  So I set things up, and a couple of weeks ago I applied.

Today I received a letter telling me that my application was rejected on the grounds that it was unclear that the objective was an artistic work.  The letter made clear that the application had basically gone unread, and not even been subjected to examination or formal decision – i.e. that a box-ticker had rejected it.

This reason contradicts what I was told. Naturally I have written an email of enquiry to the person who invited me to apply.  I will make a telephone call next week as well.  But I suspect that I will just get fobbed off.

We live in an age where the individual can rarely break through.  The internet has given people like myself a way to contribute.  But once we enter the world of the official body, the real truth is probably that only corporate bodies and professional fundraisers, paid to do it, can hope to navigate the shoals and extract any money; and that these are the only applicants they really deal with.

I have always felt sympathy for the way that academics are forced to waste their time on these sorts of process; and that sympathy is not abated by this experience.  What I regret, really, is the time and energy wasted.  It is characteristic of a pointless application that you hear different things from different officials, because – in essence – you don’t matter to any of them.

It has to be said, though, that I don’t find dealing with bureaucracy enjoyable or productive.  For this reason I was reluctant to expose myself to that world in the first place.  The process of applying to the Arts Council itself pretty much excludes 99% of possible applicants, since it requires them to plough through a 50-page manual.  Another requirement, that funding must be found from more than one grant-making body, pretty much excludes everyone other than the organisations with access to databases of such people.  (I was going to just pay a proportion myself).  I do wish that my application had actually been read tho, rather than rejected by a box-ticker.

It is rather disappointing.  But probably people like us simply can’t get any money out of that system.  (Which leads one to ask: what is the point of it?)  I was willing to take on the burden of driving and editing the Methodius project, which would have been considerable.  I was willing to do it, pro bono publico, and because nobody else would.  It needs to be done.  But … evidently it will not be done by me.

Anyway, unless I can think of anything else, Methodius will have to remain untranslated unless or until some Old Slavonic scholar with an interest in patristics decides to do something on his own initiative.  This may be some distance away: for even the text has never been printed.

On the other hand, in all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to working within an unnecessary straightjacket of timescales and milestones.  So there is that consolation, that I won’t have to!

UPDATE: 2 Feb 2016.  I sent in my enquiry as to why they solicited an application that they dismissed as ineligible without reading it.  As I rather expected, I got an insulting email back, consisting of a single paragraph pasting the same “ineligible” message, followed by many paragraphs, all boilerplate, from the guide.  The whole did not actually answer the question, except to say “you aren’t important enough for us to even reply to”.  I fear that the Arts Council is just another group of elitists giving public money to their friends.  “Not our sort of people, dahlink”, before firing off the form rejection.

16 thoughts on “No grant from the Arts Council to translate Methodius from Old Slavonic

  1. Roger, I’m not really sure what amounts you are looking for, but have you considered “crowd funding”. Then guys like me who feel you are doing a noble work could contribute. I’ve seen different uses of this method. One I’ve seen did crowd funding to get help attending a conference. Something to think about. Craig

  2. Interesting – it’s not something I know much about. Although I suspect that my interest is simply too fringe for most people. But what sites would one use?

  3. Just use a fundraising site and then I will spam all the professors of early Christianity. The interest is there, the money is too I suspect.

  4. Here’s one site that I have seen used before: https://www.gofundme.com/ Here is a listing of ten crowdfunding sites: http://crowdfundi.ng/?utm_medium=google&utm_source=Adwords&utm_campaign=GGCrowdfunding&utm_content=HowtodoCrowdfunding&gclid=CjwKEAiA27G1BRCEopST9M39gykSJADQyqAlkABPjUH3VzByE02Di1502Jf8jt2Yw0BmOByeh0CF0hoCdmHw_wcB I was not aware until looking at this that the sites charge a percentage to use their site, so I’m not sure whether you’d want to get involved in something like this. I see these used for all kinds of issues from “help me go to a scholarly conference” to ” my child is sick and I need help.” One guy in Oregon who was the hero in a mass shooting received something like $500,000 from a crowdfunding site.

  5. If you decide to pursue crowdfunding please post a comment here. Then I will get an email notification. Otherwise I’m likely not to learn about it.

  6. Right. Roger, your work on searching out texts and having them translated is well respected and appreciated, and quite unique.

    You might be surprised at the response when the ability to contribute is easy. However is crowdfunding better than Paypal? Most support will be people who are familiar with your efforts.
    (Edited)

  7. Dear Roger, Thank you for your fantastic job of making Methodius of Olympus available for us. Do you happen to know if there have been any editing work done on his Old Slavonic texts by now? I’m a Ukrainian patristics scholar and I work with the patristic texts that were translated into Old Slavonic (curreting editing Athanasius’ Orationes contra Aranos). If Methodius has not been edited yet, perhaps I could fill in the gap at some point, and we could start with the two MSS that you mention in Troitskaja lavra. Thanks, Slavik.

  8. Dear Slavik,

    Thank you so much for writing. Of the works of Methodius in Old Slavonic, only one has been properly edited – “On free will” or “De autexusio”, which was edited by Vaillant in the Patrologia Orientalis. The four short works (for which there are English translations here) and the long “On the resurrection / De resurrectione” have not even been printed. There is no edition. There are Greek fragments for De Lepra; and long Greek fragments for De resurrectione. If you wanted to edit some Methodius, start with the 3 short works for which there is no edition, and no Greek either. It would be a good project! I expect Ralph Cleminson would be interested in your work if you did.

    But if you click on this link, you will find all my Methodius posts, and these will give you more details.

    I am very interested in your work on patristic translations in Old Slavonic. Please tell me more about it.

    What I don’t know is what exists in Old Slavonic. What patristic works were translated into Old Slavonic? Is there an easy way to find out?

    All the best,

    Roger Pearse

  9. Dear Roger,

    Thank you for giving me a brief update on Methodius. You and Ralph Cleminson have done a fabulous work, and I am sure many people appreciate it. I plan to finish my edition of Athanasius’ Oratio II contra Arianos for Patrologia Orientalis by the end of this year, and I’ll start thinking about Methodius between now and then. I’m glad I would be able to build on your excellent work if I ever launch a new editing project, and I would love to stay in touch. Do you ever travel to Europe (or anywhere near Prague where I live)? I met Ralph Cleminson at the Slavistics conference in Regensburg, Germany a few months ago, but I didn’t realize he was involved in translating Methodius for you.

    Regarding your question as to what patristic works have been translated into Old Slavonic, the best resource to check with is a catalogue of the Old Slavonic texts prepared by a group of Russian scholars two years ago: Katalog Pam’jatnikov drevnerusskoj pismennosti XI-XIV vv. (rukopisnyje knigi), Studiorum Slavicorum Orbis (Saint Petersburg: Bulanin, 2014). This work covers XI-XIV centuries and includes one section on Scripture and one section on patristic texts with a list of MSS for each particular writing. There are also other similar works, but none of them provides anything like Clavis patrum Graecorum or similar claves, and many patristic titles (or even authors, not to mention the manuscripts) are missing there. For example, we don’t find Methodius in Katalog Pam’jatnikov, and there is no mention of Athanasius’ Orationes contra Arianos either. A lot of times, such catalogues reflect an interest in the national literature (such as Russian, Bulgarian, and Serbian) than translated patristic texts. Nevertheless, such catalogues are a helpful starting point, and after having consulted them an editor is supposed to explore more specialized studies, manuscript descriptions, and archival materials.

    Starting in 2012 there was announced a project VERSIONES SLAVICAE initiated by Dr. Yavor Miltenov (http://alinsuciu.com/2012/05/18/guest-post-yavor-miltenov-the-versiones-slavicae-project-an-electronic-corpus-of-medieval-slavic-translations-is-under-construction/) (I think your blog gives a reference to this project somewhere). It was aimed at creating an electronic database of patristic texts translated into Old Slavonic (starting with John of Chrysostom) and had a working title: Operum patrum Graecorum versiones slavicae. It’s a fantastic project, but there doesn’t seem to be any updates on it anywhere. There is nothing like Sources Chrétiennes or Corpus Christianorus for the Old Slavonic patristic texts, and to find whether a particular Church father was either edited or being edited is often a frustrating task.

    My own work with Athanasius grew out of my Ph.D. research (2010-14), which had nothing to do with the Old Slavonic manuscripts. But after I discovered that his main work Orationes contra Arianos was translated into Old Slavonic, I shifted my focus and have been doing editing work since then.

    Slavik.

  10. Thank you so much for all this fascinating information! (Yes, Versiones Slavicae seems to be dead)

    I don’t suppose you have a PDF of “Katalog Pam’jatnikov”? The only way that any of us could read this, would be to scan it in and OCR it, and then use Google Translate.

    What other “similar works” with lists exist, if you wouldn’t mind? This whole area of knowledge is one that nobody seems to know much about.

  11. Dear Roger,

    There are hundreds of other catalogs but “Katalog Pam’jatnikov” is the only one with the patristic focus.

    Slavik.

  12. Roger,

    I was doing some research and the translations of Methodius of Olympus that you commissioned have been a wonderful help. I thank you again for your labors – they are neither unnoticed nor in vain!

    Do you have other translations commissioned, or did you ever find grants to translate more of Methodius’ works?

    Also, is there an index of translations that you have commissioned? I am finding helpful information on archive.org but I was unsure if that is the totality of your work.

  13. The two remaining works are big. I felt, in the end, that I ought not to spend so much money – the price of a new small car.

    Translations I have commissioned… I have no list myself, to be honest. Archive will have most of the more recent ones, I think. Tertullian.org/fathers will have others from longer ago. I probably ought to have a list. Just too busy…

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