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Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius...

Michael Berube is now Magister Ludi, world champion of the Glass-Bead Game:

Crooked Timber: Apocrypha Now?: Posted by Scott McLemee:A friend has asked about a story that may be the academic equivalent of an urban legend. I had never heard it. I asked some journalists who cover higher education, and they also say it does not ring a bell. But the thing sounds just plausible enough that it might really have happened. So at my friend’s request, here is a call for leads in case there is anything to it.

I will avoid naming the university in question, leave gender uspecified, and say only that the events in question are supposed to have happened within the past decade. Here is the the gist of it:

A doctoral candidate has finished a dissertation based on the archives of a village in Italy. It has been accepted, the defense has gone well, and all that remains is a little paperwork. A member of the committee (or possibly just someone who knows about the dissertation topic) happens to be on vacation in Italy and decides to visit the village. It’s not clear why—curiosity, time to kill, maybe to explore the archive? In any case, it turns out there is no village.

So there you have it. Does anyone know of a real case like this?

A few years ago, I read around in the literature on “contemporary legend” (the term now preferred by people who study them, rather than “urban legend”). Usually they amount to cautionary tales of some sort, in which some norm or rule is violated and punished. The tale of the faked archive seems to qualify, though I suppose it’s possible that it might be based on something that actually happened. posted on Friday, July 13th, 2007 at 2:36 pm

Princeton History department c. 2000, I believe. I was in grad school there at the time (not in History) and I’m pretty sure I remember the talk about it. Of course I may be wrong. I’ll check with a friend who was in the program. Posted by Kieran Healy · July 13th, 2007 at 2:38 pm

In the archives of the University of Tlön there is a most entertaining special issue of a journal—-its name escapes me at the moment, but I remember it is Volume XI, Number 1—-in which this story is told in admirable detail. The village of Tlön is worth visiting, as well, if you’re in the area. Posted by Michael Bérubé · July 13th, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Princetlön University, then. Posted by Kieran Healy · July 13th, 2007 at 2:54 pm....

If this were a winning-the-thread sort of blog, Michael would win it. Posted by Shelby · July 13th, 2007 at 3:44 pm