Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, etc., has a voice that sounds just like Sterling Holloway, who voiced Winnie the Pooh for Disney for many years. Does it mean anything? I don't think Greenspan is taking his cues from either Disney or Milne, nor has he ever described the economy as"blustery." Nonetheless, when I hear his voice, I think of a Disney animation. NPR reports a Kaiser study that shows.... Advertising Works! And it's not good for kids, either.
And Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, which purports to be a Gospel-faithful account, includes at least one detail which isn't in the original sources: Satan, either in Gethsemane or at the crucifixion (the review wasn't entirely clear and I'm not going to pay good money to see this film), and portrayed by a woman. It's not bad enough that Jews are unhappy: he had to go and make Satan a woman? He's either culturally tone-deaf or really playing to the lowest impulses, or both.
P.S. I just listened to David Edelstein's review of Gibson's film in which he says Gibson is calling critics of the film agents or dupes of Satan and sums up the movie itself as"the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre." I haven't seen a single positive review of the movie yet in secular press. If anyone has run across one, I'd like to hear about it.
P.P.S. The Iowa City gay marriage protest went about as expected. 39 couples applied for and were were denied marriage licenses. Interesting, the County Recorder in question is openly gay, but nonetheless chose to follow the law rather than stage a SF-style challenge.
The delegates of the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly (UHPA) voted by a 70-5 margin on Sunday to authorize the Board to notify the Hawai'i Labor Relations Board of our intent to strike, and the union has duly notified HLRB and the state of our intent to strike [PDF] on or after April 5th. OK, it's not terrorism (by the way, I don't want Paige to resign: I want him to stay on and drag the story out as long as humanly possible! Seriously though, you have to feel a little sorry for a non-security portfolio Secretary in this administration, and understand, if not forgive, the attempt to hijack [ok, not the best choice of words] some of that national security interest), but for those of us with salaries on the line and without the thin veil of tenure, it's certainly an attention-grabber. Some of my students have started following the story, too: yes, I might have mentioned it to a few history majors in the break room, and now the word has spread. Of course, they're concerned about their semester.
On that score, I think they're pretty safe, unless the Governor is channeling Margaret"Iron Maiden" Thatcher or Ronald"Who Needs Air Traffic Controllers?" Reagan. Two years ago, when every teachers' union in Hawai'i was on strike, the state waited until a day before student tuition refunds would be required, then settled. The public school teachers held out longer: the state had no financial incentive to budge, but they eventually did come to some agreement. After the settlement, class days missed had to be made up on weekends: some of my colleagues report that it was a painful and difficult end to an unpleasant semester (as well as reporting suspicions that not all of our colleagues fulfilled that obligation).
The informational meeting a few weeks back was, well, informative. If you want, you can view the PDF version of what was presented by UHPA's President and Executive Director. Two interesting statistics: 3.95% and 1.8%. The former is the percentage that our"peer institution" salaries are projected to rise this contract year, so if our salaries don't match that then we will be further behind our Governor and system President's stated objective of reaching and exceeding peer medians. The latter is the projected increase in cost of living for Hawai'i this year. To be fair, my institution (UH-Hilo) is closer to the median than the rest of the system, and assistant professors are closer to the median than the rest of the system, and honestly, I would favor a contract that did more for the associate and full professors, community college faculty and instructors than it did for me.
The Q/A discussion after the presentation was also worthwhile. We are not negotiating in a vacuum. Although teachers don't have a binding arbitration option, other government employee unions do, and our leadership believes that the state is waiting to see what kind of results it gets back from the largest public employee union arbitration before it makes another offer to us. That would be late March. And there is strong support within the union for a strike unless the salary raises offered are substantial: we're asking for 6% this year, 8% next year (which gets us closer to that peer median), and the membership clearly (according to an internal survey) won't settle for less than 5% and 5%.
p.s. Friends in Iowa report plans afoot to stage a substantial pro-gay-marriage protest by having same-sex couples request marriage licences from County Recorder offices. The scale of the event is unclear at this point (dozens, possibly scores or hundreds), but the Iowa media is watching closely. Allan Lichtman's new HNN blog is off to a slow start, but guest blogger Karyn Strickler's essay "The Do Nothing Strategy" is worth skimming (it's long). I'm largely in agreement with her, that action is more powerful than inaction, but there are times when quiescence is a tactical necessity. Nonetheless, timidity in politics, both electoral and activist, is troubling and should be the exception, not the rule.
The Historical Society will hold its 2004 conference on 3-6 June at Spruce Point Inn near Boothbay Harbor, Maine. I wrote about The Historical Society here (scroll down to 31 May 2003). Appealing to the disaffected among us, it was organized about five years ago as an alternative to both the AHA and the OAH. Led initially by Eugene D. Genovese, it rejected the politicization of the profession and reasserted a central role for traditional forms of historical inquiry. In the intervening years, The Historical Society has had successes and failures. On the positive side, it publishes a lively The Journal of the Historical Society, edited by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, and has sponsored a number of regional historical conferences. On the downside, The Historical Society has failed to meet several of its initial promises. It was to be a bottom-up organization, whose work would be largely conducted by strong regional organizations of historians, but it exists largely only at the top. If at all, its regional organizations survive only on the east and west coasts. Even they have no announced activities in 2004. In January 2003, The Historical Society launched a new blog, Historicale. Edited by Jeff Vanke of Guilford College, Historicale relied on submissions of"Prototype" of major projects, op-eds"For Historical Reasons," and"Critical History" reviews. The blog has not been updated since July 2003. The Historical Society was to hold its conferences on university campuses in order to make inexpensive housing available to graduate students. Graduate students, like everyone else, will pay $95 to $186 per night at the Spruce Point Inn. Nonetheless, considering this program, departmental budgets of professional friends of Gene and Betsy will do so.
When reading this, it occurred to me that the problems with the History Channel doing good history sheds light on some of the debate on the public and history that Ralph Luker and Tim Burke have encouraged.
What follows is a slightly polished version of the response I put on Reeve’s Blog.
The problem of having a decent history cable channel may shed light on the problems of popular history (and making good history popular). Here are some observations based upon what the History Channel puts out.
1. More people like the celebration of heritage than like their history straight. Therefore the classic topics of American heritage dominate. Many of the better documentaries succeed by exploring heritage topics honestly, but it helps if the documentary partially confirms the “heritage interpretation.”
2. The worse documentaries pander to heritage. This is most clear in the sub-genre of Biblical History. Many of these slide in and out of assuming Biblical inerrancy with an awe-inspiring casualness. The result provides an aura of scholarship to Cecil B. DeMille influenced faith. Unfortunately, there are whole generations so influenced.
3. Some of the better documentaries make it by pretending to pander. (If you think about it, that’s really depressing.) The opening and conclusion are sensationalist as are the segues to commercials, while the good stuff is packed in between. I think this may relate to the current vogue in history subtitles. ("How the Irish saved Western Civilization";"How the Greeks guarded us from being idiots." That sort of thing)
4. Lots of people think"wars are neat." They will watch anything that shares that vision. Some of these same people dress up in period garb and hold demonstrations in which they reenact ancient fighting prowess. When these people are combined with the heritage people (some of whom know that wars aren't neat but see them as central to their heritage), one gets a steady audience for war documentaries in general and ones related to our history in particular.
The re-enactors also provide cheap extras for the battle scenes. That helps to keep costs down.
5. Conspiracies are good theater. They play like Aristotelian tragedies, providing both terror and pity.
The Kennedy assassination is the current high water mark of this confluence of history and theater. We watch the Zapruder film like the Greeks watched Agamemnon going inside to bathe.
Here, the History Channel and others are dabbling in myth when they run Kennedy conspiracy programs. In an odd way we may be watching how different versions of myths emerged, clustered ever more distantly around a core of truth.
Thinking about it, that's historical.
The discussion of historiography provoked by Simon Schama and taken up here by Tim Burke continued in contributions by Invisible Adjunct and Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber. Like the best of conversations, it continues, most recently in posts by the University of Chicago's Amy Lamboley at Crescat Sententia and the University of Wisconsin's Brian Ulrich at Brian's Study Breaks.
At Oxblog, Josh Chafetz has been counting declared noses (hmm, what would a"declared nose" be?) in the United States Senate on the Federal Marriage Amendment. It seems unlikely to receive the required 67 votes there. According to Chafetz's most recent count of 66 senators, 28 (27 Republicans and 1 Democrat) are likely to vote in favor of it; 33 are likely to vote against it (27 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 1 Independent); and 5 are playing hooky on this one. Actually, the hooky pucks may be the key to it, Josh Marshall suggests. Divisive, single issue politics are high risk, bring out the public's instinct to vote against, and likely to create more enemies than friends for politicians. Who needs it?
Meanwhile, over at Liberty & Power, ordinarily the more pacific of the blogosphere's Libertarian dominions, Naomi Wolf's high profile allegations against Harold Bloom have set off a donnybrook. It is fed by the criticism of Wolf by Camile Paglia, Anne Applebaum, and Sheila O'Malley, but Gene Healy and Rod Long are determined not to let the women have all the fun. Let's see, first there was Afghanistan; then there was Iraq; now there's Haiti. Don't anyone tell George Bush what's going on at L & P.
Thanks to the Invisible Adjunct, I ran across this article from Academe on unionization in higher education. The author, Daniel Julius, is quite bold in his predictions, but there's no question that unionization must effect changes in institutional practices. At the very least, as he suggests,"traditional" practices that are vague about whether participants in these institutions are working for themselves (research, athletics), for students (teaching, RA, tutors), or for the institution (committees, student supervision, teaching) and the blending of compensation and community status, will need to be clarified. Liability law alone demands clarification of the position of RAs in the university community/hierarchy.
I am one of the first to defend tradition and vagueness: our culture's drive to quantify and classify everything passed into pathology ages ago. But there's an element of"speed-up" in academia today: administrations and super-administrative bodies (boards, regents, state legislatures) are asking more of faculty -- technologically, pedagogically, productively, collegially -- and returning less, or at least no more than before. The use of contingent labor (and the not-so-subtle rises in tenure standards which result in higher untenured turnover, an as-yet unacknowledged form of contingent labor) is a part of that process, too, in ways both obvious and complex (and if you're not sure what I mean, you're not reading Invisible Adjunct).
This is not an abstract subject to me this week: the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly (UHPA) is about to declare an impasse in negotiations with the state of Hawai'i. Actually, we've been in limbo for over half a year now: we ratified our current contract without an agreement on salary, so that our health benefits wouldn't get held up, but the grace period we agreed to for continued negotiation has passed without any movement, on either side. The state is offering a two year contract with no raise this year (which is what we've had for the last six months anyway) and a piddling 2% for next year; the union is asking for 5% this year (retroactivity negotiable) and 7% next year. The union position is based on the University administration's stated goals of raising our salary to, then beyond, the median for our"peer institutions"; the state position is based on a blanket refusal to consider raises (except for a few that they did raise) under" current fiscal conditions" (translation:"we don't want to have to work too hard at that messy budget stuff"). Irony Alert: UHPA endorsed the election campaign of the current Republican governor, after polling membership.
My feelings on the matter are decidedly mixed. I don't feel that most faculty here are paid particularly well, based on the work they do (our class sizes here at UH-Hilo have been creeping up for years as enrollments outstrip faculty hires; all the lower-division and most of the upper-division courses taught in history are at or near full enrollment; full and associate professors are grossly underpaid relative to peer institutions) and the value of the education provided to the state (not to mention the cost of living). The strike is a blunt instrument in education, a Weapon of Mass Negotiation, which affects the strikers and (mostly) innocent students much more than it affects the employer. Given that the only issue on the table is money, it's a little hard to justify drastic disruption of educational life, but money certainly is important, both practically and symbolically. No raise at all, when cost of living continues to rise, is essentially a pay cut, and it's hard to stomach, particularly when administrative salaries continue to rise and new administrative positions are being created, all on the backs of faculty accomplishments. Makes you wonder whether their committment to us is anything like our committment to them.
So there'll be meetings, including one on Wednesday to discuss whether the union should file"intent to strike" notification with the appropriate authorities. There's a few more steps after that: union board decides strike is a good idea; union membership authorizes strike including specific start date; strike actually begins. At any moment along the way, of course, negotiations might get serious. But there's a huge gap to bridge, and neither side seems inclined to split the difference.
I will post updates here, starting with the meeting Wednesday. My question, going into the meeting, is"are we being reasonable, in our negotiating position or our expectations?" I don't know if I'll bother asking it out loud, because the official answer will be a reiteration of our negotiating points, but it's what I'm listening for.
Adbusters magazine embarrasses itself by identifying the Jews. It is, at the least, in bad taste. Among others, Michael Totten, Tim Blair, Oxblog and the Volokhs are calling them out on it. Does it deserve contempt, disdain, or mockery? How about this?
These persons are suspected of conspiring on history's behalf. We have identified the male historians among them. The others are suspect of being fellow travelers.I found Adbusters' pigeonholing annoying, in part, because I belong to the same denomination and ethnicity as both Bush and Cheney. They might also find that coincidence annoying.
*Ralph E. Luker
*Wilson J. Moses
*Thomas G. Palaima
This has been a public service announcement by the AdCouncil.
If you thought Clayton Cramer doesn't love his guns, you haven't seen his mailbox. From such places, dispassionate scholarship is fired off to [ed: perhaps I should say"at"] publishers.
Leaving aside both the argument that what we have always done we must always continue to do and any of the merits or demerits of gay marriage, the basic factual claim being offered is hugely false in a number of ways. If we really were bound by the commonality of historical precedent in human history, our marriage statutes would look quite radically different than they do today, and quite different from what the Federal Marriage Amendment proposes.
For one, to make contemporary marriage continguous with the generality of historical precedent, we'd absolutely need to have a provision for polygamy. Over the broad span of human experience, it's a much more common form of marriage arrangement, and often has been legally or quasi-legally sanctioned and defined.
We'd probably need some statutes recognizing legal or contractual arrangements like concubinage, which have also been somewhat common.
We'd need some provisions for eunuchs and their relationship to married households--reasonably though not universally common.
We'd probably need some statutes regulating bridewealth and dowry options: very common in the past 5,000 years.
I don't think there would be a huge amount of precedent for dealing with exclusively homosexual marriages or contracts in that 5,000 years of history, but certainly many societies, including classical Greece, somewhat formally or quasi-legally recognized male-male relations as legitimate and even approved. Lesbians, as far as formal precedent in past human societies go, are kind of out of luck: there's far fewer structural or institutional forms relating to female-female bonds or contracts. (Though lesbian acts and relations have probably been as common or more common than male homosexual acts or relations over the past 5,000 years.)
If the supporters of the FMA want to be clear that they are defending the modern, Western innovation of the exclusively heterosexual companionate marriage, then I have no factual quibbles. If they want to assert that the general norm of human sexuality over the longue duree is heterosexual, I might be able to agree, as long as they'll agree to the proviso that homosexual acts have been a part of every society I know of and have often not been stigmatized or suppressed. But they can't possibly claim that the long-term history of marriage in every human society is one man to one woman, till death do they part. Marriage and its associated practices (divorce, inheritance, household structure) is one of the more variable social forms in human experience. The FMA has little to do with 5,000 years of human history: this is a distinctively modern debate, being fought about the terms of modern life.
Being a great fan of Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men I wanted to point out this interview with Browning at the Atlantic Online. And on a completely different note, doing a Ralph-style round-up only less organized (I'm short on time), there is a very interesting discussion of speech act theory and its relation to political smears at Crooked Timber. Chris Bertram points out (or, if you don't agree with him, says, or claims - speech act theory in action, so to speak) that just saying a given smear is true doesn't necessarily make it not a smear (because it can be true but selective, for example). All of which leads (or can lead, seems to lead) into further questions of how entrenched ideological positions can distort the truth, and whether people can change their minds.
In the first place, the notion that Gibbon, Macaulay, and Carlisle addressed some mass public audience seems to me to be highly suspect. That they gave shape to history as a practice in the English-speaking world, I grant. But, honestly, how many people do you imagine have read Gibbon's six volumes of The Decline and Fall ... in the 225 or so years since they were published? Don't everybody raise your hands at once! As Healy points out, history sections in book stores are generally much larger than sections for political science or sociology, so some contemporary historians are meeting a substantial public demand.
In the second place, the notion of monographic building blocks to some larger structure seems to me no longer very useful as a way of explaining what we do. That metaphor fails because the thousands of blocks we produce are not cut to fit together. They shouldn't be because you'd have to know what you were going to find before you did your research in order to make it so.
Thirdly, so prolific have we become that we all have some difficulty"keeping up," even in our little sub-specialties. I can tell you where I know Taylor Branch's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Parting the Waters, is unreliable. It gives me grave doubts about its reliability elsewhere, but no generalist can be able to distinguish the gold from the dross in it. That some generalist has actually worked through and is capable of critical use of all the"building blocks" we have produced seems highly doubtful.
Finally, Tim's call for graduate education in history to include a portfolio of work addressed to a significant public audience strikes me as very sensible. And it ought not be shunted off into some program called"public history." The portfolio's rigorous scholarly article might point toward a monograph, but dissertations as"pre-monograph" are a dreary capstone experience. And, too often, they are riddled with the cramped, tortured prose from which Schama wants us liberated. Yes, I know, I've almost thrown out the baby with the bathwater, but don't let it hit you ... on its way out.
By the way, John Halbo and Belle Waring are guest blogging over at Crooked Timber this week and John has a terrific piece there, "Ecce Holbo", which posits a"golden age" of blogging. It's a terrific read. Poor man should have been a historian.
I just found out this morning that Disney has bought the Muppets. Not all of them: some of the signature Sesame Street characters are actually owned by CTW. But Kermit and Miss Piggy, and the"Bear in the Big Blue House" are now Mouseketeers. I could go on about media concentration and Frankfurt School writhings about capitalism and culture. But mostly I'm just saddened by the way in which creative and interesting culture is being dragged down by the decidedly uncreative bottom-liners at Disney. Kathi Maio, one of Fantasy and Science Fiction's film reviewers, has nominated Disney Studios for an environmental award, for their relentless recycling of material. Look at what's happened to the A.A.Milne characters under the Magic Mountain regime: patheticly written, poorly produced, and desperately overexposed because the Disney characters are so stale they may not be revivable.
OK, I'm something of a purist. But not really. I know that Jim Henson and his descendants are money-makers. Walt Disney was a businessman in addition to being a creative force. I was fine with that as long as they were making money off of substantial creativity. There comes a point, though, when marketing replaces quality: Mickey Mouse has been living on residual good will since Fantasia, while Henson's children and collaborators are still producing interesting and fun material. Now that the Henson characters are under Disney's control, I'm afraid that the same old tired formulas that Disney has used in every animated movie of the last decade-plus will now be applied to the barely-controlled comic mania of the muppets, that the cloying shallowness of"Pooh and Friends" will destroy the sometimes deeply satirical mirror the muppets held up to our world, and that the one-dimensionality of Disney's characterizations will smooth over the internal tensions which often drove Henson's characters to attempt the absurd and achieve entertainment.
And I just found out that the warehouse store CostCo is selling fine art in its stores and via its website. While there's something to be said for reducing markup costs, what is not being said is that those markups support the intellectual infrastructure of the art world, subsidizing the experts and exhibits that make art available, comprehensible and, therefore, valuable. I'd love to be able to buy, say Yoshitoshi and Hiroshige prints for a third less than current market prices, but I'd be undercutting the expertise and institutions that make them available and interesting. This is one of those cases where market forces alone will produce work that is popular (largely because of the lack of alternatives), but not necessarily interesting, and into which new artists will be unlikely to gain substantial notice. Imagine the music industry without thousands of small clubs and coffeehouses, open mikes and festivals. Worthless.
Don't get me wrong. I tell my students every semester that great works of art and literature are remembered mostly because they were popular, money-makers, and that the great artists and writers were doing it at least partly because it was a great way to earn a living. Opera was Fox, or maybe NBC; ballet was a night at the movies; the Mona Lisa was a commissioned portrait; Don Quixote sold tens of thousands of copies, and part II was written partially in response to all the other people making money off of unauthorized sequels. Art needs viewers and buyers; culture needs listerners, readers, viewers; success should bring some reward. But there comes a point (or perhaps a large gray zone) where the money is driving the production, not creative intellectual energy.
The only caveat I have is that the existence of a broadly communicative, publically engaged rhetoric of history is dependent upon the existence of a body of much more meticulous scholarship. Schama couldn't have written Citizens if there hadn't been a large historiography to write about, and the same goes for any of the successful public-sphere historians of recent years.
In that respect, we can't simply press a button and revert to being Macaulay. There are things to know that require specialized forms of inquiry and research, and historiographies that have depth and detail to them that require respectful treatment.
There is a value to the monograph, and we should not be too careful to throw the baby with the bathwater. One of the functions of academic research institutions should be to subsidize the work that does not and cannot seek a public audience,
But Schama and Ferguson and others are right that this is now what drives historical research and historical writing completely, that this is the standard by which the relative merit of historical knowledge is judged within the academy, by the smallness of its professionalized craft rather than the breadth of its communicative ambitions.
I do not accept that this is an inevitable consequence of graduate training, either. We could train historians to write well, to seek audiences outside the academy, to stretch their powers of persuasion. Richard Slotkin, for example, once imaginatively suggested that doctoral students in history should all be required to write one work of historical fiction. You could add on to that one op-ed essay, one article for a popular magazine on history, one radio interview with an NPR show about their research, and one scholarly journal article that aims to pick a historically informed fight in the public sphere. The training need not be purely gestural: it could be a literal, concretized pedagogy. But it would take recognizing that what Schama asks for is not an optional extra, but part and parcel of the basic ambitions of academic history.
Penn State’s case against Gerard is embarrassingly thin: she spoke out—vociferously and bluntly—against an experimental new degree program and she staged a play with frank talk about sexuality that drew the ire of a major donor. For that, she went through the Star Chamber of university “judicial” committees, which rendered a split verdict that dismissed part of the university’s case but nonetheless upheld the decision to dismiss Gerard.
Gerard’s is the second case of a violation of academic freedom within the Penn State system. Perhaps it’s time to spend less time firing professors and more asking what sort of institutional culture the administration is sponsoring. I am certainly going to take up Erin’s suggestion of communicating with PSU president John Spanier to urge him to uphold, rather than suppress, academic freedom.
Update: Here is the Naomi Wolf article with the allegations against Harold Bloom. It is well worth reading. Unfortunately, it includes allegations against one of my former research assistants. It's been a fertile week. There is still more scandal over at Critical Mass.
Scribbling Woman and Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber recommend Tim Burke's Quicksilver and Foucault. The appeal of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver is its attempt to occupy that space between history and fiction as alternative histories. Burke allows that the result may be neither a great modern novel nor good history. Yet, it is stimulating as genealogy, raising fascinating questions about our relationship with early modern Europe as the reader shifts between the strangely familiar and the intimately other.
Update: Scribbling Woman recommends this interview with Stephenson.
Thanks to Steve Horwitz at Liberty & Power, check out this cool graphic, the online version of the Visual Thesaurus. As Steve says:"It gives you a spatial ‘map' of words similar in meaning to the one you've entered. You have to see it to see just how cool it is. It's a great teaching tool also, especially for students who are visual learners."
Andrew Bayer is Dreaming of China and David at Academy of Harvested Discourse, take note: Cliopatria now has an RSS feed. I don't really know what this means, but it is said to be a good thing. I suppose it depends on what you're being fed.
Cliopatria welcomes Thomas C. Reeves to the roster of HNN blogs. A professor of history, emeritus, at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, and Senior Fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, he is the author of Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur, The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography, A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy, The Empty Church: The Suicide of Liberal Christianity, America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen, and Twentieth Century America: A Brief History. Professor Reeves is not lacking in opinions, can be tough in debate, and may offer much with which to agree and disagree.
Yes, it's true. AP reports"After watching TV images of gay weddings in San Francisco, Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk said Friday that homosexual couples should be allowed to get married." And this is confirmed by the King's website, which posts his handwritten notes in French, complete with editorial marks. My French skills are vestigial: I am 98% sure that the note does start the way AP says it does, but I'd be grateful if someone who actually reads the language with some facility would either post here or forward to me a translation of the whole note, which seems to go into some detail about the justification for legalizing gay marriage and general sexual identity tolerance in a liberal democracy.
As the AP points out, he's a constitutional monarch with no actual authority, but apparently no restraint, either.
The handwritten notes, most of which appear to be formal greetings and traditional monarchical proclamations of pride and attention, had a charm, a warmth, that surprised me. I think I've gotten too used to computer texts, particularly the blog form, which is starting to run together. Sure, people use different backgrounds, they have different blogrolls, but fundamentally the blog is a very limited form. If you could combine the handwritten image with an embedded searchable text, the blog could be a truly personal creation, but still take advantage of the searchable-linkable technology of the web. I suppose I'm thinking of the amazing variety of book-design work being done by artists (which the National Museum of Women in the Arts showcases regularly) as a model for a more powerful union of author, text and aesthetic. Of course, my handwriting isn't anything anyone would want to read a lot of, but it's pretty distinctively my own. Perhaps if I were king of something.....
And I ran across a quotation today, which I'm surprised I've never run across before. I'm a collector of quotations about history (not quite as focused as the Szasz collection; I include more general interest quotations) which I sprinkle on my class handouts, sometimes as counterpoint, but mostly just because. Anyway, I'm surprised that I'd never run across "Omnia mutantur; nihil interit." [All things are changed; nothing dies] -- Ovid (Metamorphoses 15,165), though in the source I read it was translated as"Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost." It captures the essence of the flaw in the anti-gay-marriage arguments. More about that later.
Yet, O'Connor does not strengthen her case by citing a case involving Horowitz. He's been on the Emory campus recently, so there isn't any question about his being allowed to speak there. The question is whether common funds should be used for a return appearance. Frankly, both Stanley Fish and the Chronicle of Higher Education do higher education a disservice by giving Horowitz a platform. Despite his claim to being one of the top 100"public intellectuals" in the United States, the man is a demagogue who has little regard for the truth. He told Emory University students that they were getting only"half an education" because the University's faculty was uniformly leftist. Are Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Harvey Klehr chopped liver? No. They are among the most prominent academic conservatives in the United States. Just don't bother Horowitz with facts that don't fit his schtick.
I may suffer from in loco parentis nostalgia, but I wish that Fox-Genovese and Klehr would take the campus Republicans aside and suggest other speakers: David Brooks, Harvey Mansfield, Richard Posner, Andrew Sullivan, and many others. There are any number of worthy speakers who can represent the conservative temperament very well. Gaudy demagogues like Ann Coulter or David Horowitz don't. In moments of better judgment, Erin O'Connor knows that. Whatever edit-genie got into her account of College Republican chairman Edward Thayer's words and substituted"Hoodwink" for"Horowitz" got it right.
Update: Erin O'Connor replies here. Unlike O'Connor, I would argue that academic communities should make qualitative choices among the speakers it invites. Michael Moore, David Horowitz, Al Sharpton, and Ann Coulter don't make the qualitative cut, as far as I'm concerned.
Incidentally, if you are skeptical of the possibility of consensus from such diverse perspectives about such matters, I cite you an instance of it on the net. Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, Invisible Adjunct, and Jacob Levy at The Volokh Conspiracy all recommend that you read John Holbo on"This Whole Conservatives in Academia Thing" and Belle Waring on"The Story of C." at John and Belle Have a Blog. And, mirabile dictu, both Chun the Unavoidable and the Angry Clam are involved in reasonable conversation over there. Do you have any idea how unlikely that is? The Invisible Crooked Conspiracy says: Take up your mouse and read!
Where were such people when I left graduate school, expecting to participate in tough, high-minded debate with faculty colleagues about the great issues of the day? Instead, I recall a French department chairperson rather much too loudly passing gas while a Religious Studies professor ranted on at nauseating length about not having an opinion about the matter under discussion. Fleeing that faculty meeting, I returned to my office, only to find the Biology department's alcoholic chairperson passed out in the stairwell. My wife didn't even object when I brought him in through the back of the house and stretched him out on the livingroom floor to dry out before taking him to the hospital.
My point is that this is a fairly rare opportunity to hear two keen intellects engaged in tough, respectful debate about a central issue in contemporary American academic life. It is too rare an opportunity to miss.