Here at Penn Press we are rightly known for the depth and quality of scholarship we publish in book form. But Penn also publishes more than a dozen top-quality scholarly journals. To better highlight all the great work getting done in them, we here at the Penn Press Log are reviving an old feature: Paul's Picks!
Periodically, our journals operations manager, Paul Chase, will select an article from a current issue of one of our journals and make it available for non-subscribers to read for free. This time, it's an article by Fredric Brandfon, appearing in Change Over Time, The Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum: A Case Study of Vandalism and History. Read the abstract below, then click through to read the full article.
The first response to an act of vandalism is to try to repair the vandalism. However, reversing or repairing an act of vandalism is only one response. An equally valid and common response is a new understanding of the past, a new narrative history, and an integration of the vandalism into the process of historiography. There exists a complementary relationship between vandalism and historical narrative that reminds us that our understanding of the past will always be partial. For the historian, vandalism, when it occurs, is not necessarily an impediment to history writing. Nor is it an irritation to be somehow expunged. Rather, the vandal and the historian are linked, and the vandal, wittingly or not, is an integral part of the process of writing history.