Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Allen Fallout

Disturbingly enough, Allen's article is making a splash elsewhere on the Net. Check out some of the following:

Standing on Shoulders

National Review

History News Network--which ought to know better

Even WMU Repuglican Students

MemeStreams has listed it as "interesting web content".

Eleanor Duckwall-a blog dedicated to current events generally has a take on the Allen piece, a bit negative, will illustrations and pictures. Still interesting viewpoint from a non-medievalist.

Dogfight at Barkstown wants to call us all barbarians.

Michael Burleigh-don't know this person, but he has some books I'd like to read, read through the comments to the post as well.

World on the Web, again the comments are interesting.

Touchstone's Mere Comments, Kalamazoo specific in the third paragraph, but worth reading the preamble.

The Motley Fool forums even get in on the act!

Over on the Mediev-L list, some have noted the article and we've been having a discussion. Unfortunately if you don't subscribe, you can't read it as the list archives don't seem to be being kept up by U of Kansas people. But John Briggs found the article hilarious, as did Nancy Spies who thinks we should all lighten up and found the article not only funny, but in the tradition of the Pythons' send ups of medieval literature and academics etc. E. Metzger of the U of Glasgow found that the point of the article is very important and that all us bloggers arguments (mine in particular) about the piece were weak. The point according to Metger is that postmodern approaches blur the line between bad scholarship and good scholarship so that they are indistinguishable. He thinks this is a vital topic of discussion.

Wow....that's about all I can say, Wow. Outreach I think is needed more now than ever before. Over on Modern Medieval Matthew Gabriele has suggested a discussion of outreach and how to do it to a larger audience.

Now for the Dark Age bit: it is a dark day for us. Not one of the blogs or websites mentioned above bothered to check out the Congress website or catalog or do anything to check out the "facts" of the article. It is indeed a dark age when a journalist's word is taken as gospel and spreads around the world without further thought.

6 comments:

E Metzger said...

You miscite me. My three short posts to Mediev-l:

1. All of the responses to the Allen piece have seemed weak to me. If bad ideas about how to do scholarship are causing damage to the study of the MA, that's a real problem. All this talk about hidden agendas and neocon audiences misses the problem.

2. It's worthwhile being vigilant about methods of scholarship. Good methods ensure that even duller minds can contribute, and that mistakes, even bad ones, can help to spark the right answer in someone else's mind. Bad methods make it hard to distinguish good scholarship from bad, which makes progress in a discipline difficult.

3. Allen's piece, if you take away the exposition and the playfulness, is about postmodernism at Kalamazoo. Her specific judgments are nothing to me, but the larger point, that postmodernism makes good scholarship hard to distinguish from bad, is genuinely important, more important than who she writes for, whether she's a real medievalist, or all the rest of the kitchen sink that the blogs are throwing at her.

theswain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
theswain said...

"You miscite me."

Actually, I didn't cite you at all. I paraphrased the discussion.

I will let readers decide for themselves whether my statement: "that all us bloggers arguments (mine in particular) about the piece were weak." is a mischaracterization of your statement: "All of the responses to the Allen piece have seemed weak to me." This comment btw came after I pointed to Scott Nokes responses and those of other bloggers, and John Dillon pointed to my blog comment. If you didn't mean bloggers specifically, you certainly included them in the "all".

I will also allow readers to decided for themselves whether my statement "The point according to Metzger is that postmodern approaches blur the line between bad scholarship and good scholarship so that they are indistinguishable. He thinks this is a vital topic of discussion." is an inaccurate restatement of your words: "but the larger point, that postmodernism makes good scholarship hard to distinguish from bad, is genuinely important..."

Liam said...

I think also that "postmodernism" doesn't have a great deal of meaning in this context -- it's actually a smokescreen created by conservative critics to cover a wide range of theoretical approaches (feminism, Marxism, post-colonialism, gender studies, queer studies, post-structuralism, etc.). It's much like the old canard "politically correct," which has been used to lump into one heap anecdotal evidence of the attempt to be inclusive. Some of the anecdotes provided in these criticisms are laudable, others laughable. Allen's tactic is the same: she finds what she considers the most absurd examples, generalizes her examples across the field and puts in under the scary rubric "postmodern."

With all do respect to Prof. Metzger, I must disagree that "postmodernism makes good scholarship hard to distinguish from bad." There is good and bad scholarship in all fields. Technical jargon is impossible to avoid, whether you're talking about "bourgeois fecal habitus" or whether you're talking about "allods" or "royal intitulationes." If I'm familiar with a field, I can usually tell what's good and what's bad.

Matthew Gabriele said...

Also very telling, and vs. Prof. Metzger, that all those notes are from blogs/ sites from the political right...

Liam said...

Whoops... typo... "due" respect.