Private Eye

I’m currently thinking about tensions between the public and the private, and the ethics of privacy and conscience.

I wonder if a language of privacy evolved, or an acceptance of it. And what of public as well, which is not simply the opposite of private.

It reads interestingly in Milton’s Samson Agonistes: ‘That grounded maxim so rife and celebrated in the mouths of wisest men; that to the public good private respects must yield.’

Defining privacy needs a lot of care, and it’s no surprise that a collection of essays on ‘privacy’ involves contributions from sociologists, philosophers, psychologists and experts in law.

Words connected with privacy involve solitude, secrecy, autonomy, anonymity, censorship and confidentiality.

Privacy relates closely to the modern day. This ‘information age’ has become the closest revolution in the distribution of news and information since the formation of cheap print in the seventeenth century.

Autograph from Dr. Adam Fox

Last Wednesday, upon a hunch, I travelled up to Edinburgh to see Adam Fox, Professor of Social History. I found him a most wonderful man – courteous, unassuming, very interested and extremely helpful.

I explained how this crop of ideas had emerged, and asked a few small questions from which quite a lot materialised. It was particularly illuminating on the topic of the public sphere.

On my hopes to build a PhD topic out of the current project, he aspired confidence, and even signed an essay print-out for me. How I relish academic paraphernalia.

3 thoughts on “Private Eye

  1. Aye, I bet that on some level he was flattered to sign it, though probably confused as well! Maybe I’ll get Stephen to sign something, and Tom and Dave as well (The Big Three, as far as I’m concerned). But hmm, maybe Stephen J., as well.

    1. And so! Despite you telling me how this was ‘not cool’ – ‘not the done thing’ – you have cottoned on to the idea 😉

      I remember telling David H. at the leavers party that I had acquired a copy of his Poets on Poets, and would very much like it signing – noting how sad it would have been to bring it along to the party for that purpose. He told me it would be a pleasure and to bring it along sometime. Obviously, that being right at the end of Pentad, that was always going to be a problem. One day, the chance may re-emerge. Thank you for reminding me: I should get into touch with the good Dr. S.C. I can apply for Royal Holloway online, and referees are notified electronically for their submittals – it would be polite to offer a little advance warning/acknowledgement. Have a fun time away: look forward to seeing you on Saturday!

      1. My mind is awash with things ‘academic’ (‘Endemic’? ‘Epidemic’?’) at the moment. Am set to hear from the second graduate uni I applied to before Friday, and it is now Wednesday evening. Then, since I am home at the moment, I’ve had all the parental questioning about money and fees and living for next year. It’s complicated by the fact I didn’t tell them about the second application – they can’t understand why I’m dawdling about such a firm offer as Bristol (in their eyes, my sole offer). All of this just to be going there anyway when t’other place decides they’d rather not risk a mediocre student. I don’t mean to sound, of course, like Bristol is a second rate option; the fact I got in makes me happy. I think spending 3 years there has nulled my sense of how amazing and prestigious it actually is. Seeing the inner workings and becoming accustomed to being a Bristol student, I forget the sense of ‘wow’ I first had when offered a place. I’m now used to walking around the buildings, knowing the staff — yet sometimes I still tell people I’m at Bristol and they look impressed, and I’m like ‘Yeh… I guess’. So must drum that in.

        Last essay for DH completley bummed, I’m afraid – we’re talking 2.2-hood here. It was a minority, though, so that’s something.

        Must go, computer has to be switched off

        Much love


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.