James M. Blythe
Report on Professional Development Assignment, Fall 2004
My Professional Development Assignment in Fall 2004 was enormously productive. As I stated in my grant proposal, I asked for it in order to complete much of the writing of a book on the life and ideas of the Dominican writer Ptolemy of Lucca (Tolomeo da Lucca)
(c.1236-c.1327), one of the most remarkable political thinkers of the Middle Ages, about whom little has been written. Initially, I planned to do some final research in Italy during the summer, but decided later that the best use of my time would be to spend the entire summer and fall completing a first draft of my book, and then going to Italy in May 2005 to wrap up some loose ends. This proved to be a wise decision, since only this long uninterrupted stretch of time enabled me to conceptualize the structure of what is a very complex project, and helped to ensure that I would not miss something essential when I did go to Italy.
The result is that I completed the first draft ahead of schedule in mid-November, and was able to put the remaining two months to good use in beginning the process of corporating new material within the draft. As I mentioned in my proposal, I expected that if I also got a grant for the Spring 2005 semester, I would be able to send proposals to publishers and a manuscript to those that are interested at the end of Summer 2005, that I expected to have a finished manuscript about one year later, and that the University of Pennsylvania Press previously expressed interest in publishing this book. Unfortunately, I was not able to take the whole year off, so completion will be delayed by about one year. I now plan to send out a proposal at the end of Summer 2006, but I am hopeful that I got so much accomplished this Fall that I will have a complete or near-complete manuscript at that time.
During the period of the grant, I also had one article accepted for publication by History of Political Thought, "Was Ptolemy of Lucca a Civic Humanist? Reflections on a Newly-Discovered Manuscript of Hans Baron" and submitted another one, "Did Ptolemy of Lucca Revise Thomas Aquinas's Treatise on Kingship? Further Reflections on a Newly-Discovered Manuscript of Hans Baron." Both were directly related to the book, which will incorporate their conclusions and some of their arguments.
The stimulus for this project is my feeling that Ptolemy of Lucca has been vastly underappreciated, especially in terms of his contribution to medieval, early modern, and, ultimately, modern political thought, but also in terms of the development of historical writing and theology. I believe that the draft that I completed during my leave demonstrates this, as well as shedding light on the events and influences of Ptolemy's life. I am grateful to the University of Memphis for giving me a period of uninterrupted research to shape what I hope will be an important book in the field of intellectual history.