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The Old Voice of Glad and Angry Faith

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“to say nothing of all the stuff I do behind the scenes I can never tell you about.”  Not sure why you're defending the indefensible.  —JustJinxed, commenting on Three Kraters Symposium, Episode 58: Politicon Caves to Twitter Outrage and Pulls Milo from Lineup  I get this kind of comment a lot from my academic colleagues, even those who are otherwise sympathetic to me. They don’t know how much I am in contact with Milo or the kinds of things he and I have been talking about, and they tend to assume that Milo is as he has been portrayed in the mainstream media or by Buzzfeed: an agent provocateur, someone who is outrageous purely for material gain, a grifter, not a serious interlocutor, doing what he does for the sake of publicity and nothing else. How is it possible for me to defend such a person? Surely doing so, as one friend recently put it, is at odds with everything I am as an intellectual.
Well. My first response must be of course, “Have you read much of my blog?” But I kn…

“Get thee to a library!”

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I wrote earlier this week about how senior colleagues keep urging me to get back to my proper work, the scholarship for which I have been trained and on the basis of which I hold the professional position which I do, the implication being that I should not be allowing myself to be distracted with ephemera like, I don’t know, being slanderedby colleaguesin my field, but rather that I should be concentrating on the work that will last for eternity, or at the very least beyond my own lifetime.

I can hear Hamlet now: “Get thee to a library, why wouldst thou be a feeder of liars?”

But that, of course, is exactly what I did thirty years ago at the beginning of my training as a scholar—get to a library.

That is where I found all the lies!


Lies like this one:
In the charming story of “the Annunciation” the angel Gabriel appears to the terrified young girl, announcing that she has been chosen to become the mother of god. Her response to this sudden proposal from the godfather is totaled nonresi…

Report from the Culture Front

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Senior colleagues in my field are worried about me, that I have been spending too much of my time on the front lines of the culture wars and not enough on my scholarship.

This is a bit disingenuous on their part, considering I just published my second major monograph this past year, but they are worried about me and want me to get to work on my third.

“Spend your time on your scholarship. That is what lasts,” one of my former teachers tells me.

“I do hope that you can get all this behind you and get on with your life. It is all a distraction and a burden that no one should have to bear,” one of my long-time supporters urges me.

What should a happy warrior say? 

Part of the problem, if there is one, is that I am having too much fun.

How could I possibly go back to my old life, having tasted the pleasures of battle?

Does Wonder Woman hang up her Lasso of Truth and go home?

I don’t think so!

After all, what could be more invigorating for an intellectual than a life-or-death battle of wits?

Would you sign a letter in my support?

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The National Association of Scholars has written a letter addressed to my university and to the Medieval Academy of America asking them, as institutions, to affirm that I remain a scholar in good standing based on my conduct over the past year while under fire from my own colleagues in academia.

The issue is not about politics so much as it is about the culture that we would like to have in academia: whether it is to be a culture in which we support vigorous academic debate or one in which name-calling (“fascist, neo-Nazi, white supremacist”) is going to be allowed to shut down debate. As Milo put it in his coverage of the NAS appeal,
Although universities generally refrain from taking sides in academic debates, the NAS open letter is asking Chicago and the MAA to do something different, and merely affirm that Fulton Brown is an academic in good professional standing who has not harassed or discriminated against her colleagues. This is a matter of historical record, and should not be …

Mysterium tremendum et fascinans

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What would you do if you found yourself in the presence of the divine? 



Last Friday, my friends from Three Kraters Symposium and I gathered together in a secret location—we rented a house—for a special anniversary episode of our show. To mark the occasion, we decided to dress up—in togas. Our show is, after all, titled after the drinking vessels used in ancient symposia, and we open each episode with a toast to our health (“Ymas!”) and to the truth that we hope to imbibe through our conversation (“In vino veritas!”). Little did my friends know that I had something even more special in store for them than just a chance to meet each other in person!

Only I and a few helpers were in on the secret. As far as most of my friends knew, we were going to be recording that evening, so we would need to spend the day setting up, rearranging the furniture, getting the cameras and lighting ready, making sure everyone would be in costume for when we started filming the show. But then came the crisis:…

Game of Threads

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I don’t play video games.

Yeah, right, who am I kidding?*

It has been quite the week since Milo published his article about the controversy raging in Medieval Studies—much of it swirling around me!

I have been typing my fingers off answering friend requests on Facebook, all the while trying to understand the ins and outs of Twitter. Even now, as I am trying to settle into writing this blogpost, I cannot stop checking my notifications. The dopamine hits (as they say) are addicting!

But what is it about social media that is so addicting?

Back at the beginning of time—around 2009, my first year as a blogger—I wrote a meditation on the wonders of Facebook, how lovely it was to find old friends and classmates with whom I had lost touch, and how such social networking works.

Back then, I had only about 100 Facebook Friends. As of today I have 1,076 Friends—some 125 added in just this past week! I also now have 729 Followers on my Facebook profile, 410 Followers on my Facebook page, and 748 …

Middle Rages

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Three years ago in June 2015, I wrote a blog post in praise of the values that undergird our culture in the West, particularly those which support women. I entitled my post “Three Cheers for White Men” to poke fun at the way “dead white males” had become the villains in modern academic culture, but my purpose was serious: to point to the ways in which women in Western civilization have been protected, supported, and encouraged by men from the Middle Ages to the present.
The response came in forms I had never expected—including in the guise of my champion.
This is his telling of my story and its significance for my academic field.
With thanks to all my colleagues in academia who were willing to go on record talking with Milo, especially Carol, in the hopes that we can put this chapter behind us. 
Fencing Bear salutes—and welcomes the conversation to come. 
Read on...

Galgenhumor

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A few weeks ago, a young woman working as a fact-checker for The New Yorker happened upon a photograph which she described on Twitter as containing actual Nazi imagery. The only problem? The image that she identified as a Nazi “Iron Cross” was tattooed onto the elbow of a combat-wounded U.S. Marine now working as a computer forensics analyst for ICE, in which capacity he helps rescue children who have been sexually abused. The response from the Twitterverse was swift and biting. Talia Lavin removed the offending Tweet “so as not to spread misinformation.” A few days later, Lavin voluntarily resigned from her post at The New Yorker so as (she explained) not to become a target for discrediting her colleagues’ work. 
While at The New Yorker, Lavin had been engaged fact-checking an upcoming article on Berkeley’s adventures over the past year with sponsoring certain kinds of events on campus—or not sponsoring, as the case might be. In this capacity, she had occasion to be working with Milo,…