Showing posts from 2017

Why Dorothy Kim Hates Me

I have never met Dorothy Kim. I do not know why she decided to make me her target in January 2016. Since it is clear that many even in our field of medieval studies do not know – or are refusing to admit that they know – what she has been saying about me on social media, I will show you.

On June 5, 2015, I posted a short blog post, listing three “cheers” that I suggest we talk about as products of Western, a.k.a. European, a.k.a. “white” civilization. I entitled it “Three Cheers for White Men.”

On January 18, 2016, I learned from friends on Facebook that Dorothy Kim had found this post and was encouraging her friends in the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship Facebook group to condemn me for posting it. Here is her initial post:

In response, I wrote a long series of blog posts clarifying what I had meant in praising “white” men for idealizing chivalry, consensual marriage, and women’s full participation in our representative democracy. These posts are linked in the original “Thr…

Black Bear Madonna Diss Track

About that blog post...

Check it.
You saying my side chanting blood and soil But all I got here is my little foil A pair of docs are you and me But mine’s attached to a rosary So watch me drop some theology
I got psalms in my palms And songs on my tongue Got a Virgin for a mother And a jester for a brother So tell me to my face What you got in your digital space?
I see you Savanarollin’ on a quest Givin’ Caucasians that impossible test And I got to know who’s the supremacist nation? See, my queens don’t care about complexion Every piece on their board is gettin’ redemption.
Yo. This ain’t about you and me But about our Blessed Mom, Mary So put down your quill And face the academic skill Then look up to see She will pray for thee.
– DJ Berzerk
The Madonna Scroll, Field Museum, Chicago
No, I am by no means skilled enough in rhyme-speak to have composed these lyrics.  Written for me by a Bear friend as a gift after yesterday’s blogging duel. I understand that they are meant as a kind o…

How to Signal You Are Not a White Supremacist

READ FIRST: Why Dorothy Kim Hates Me

It’s back to class for those of us who teach in medieval studies, and my medievalist colleague Dorothy Kim, Assistant Professor of English at Vassar College (pictured in 2014), wants to make sure you understand the stakes.
The medieval western European Christian past is being weaponized by white supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students.  That does sound bad. But, wait, it gets worse!
Don’t think western European medieval studies is exceptional.... ISIS/ISIL also weaponizes the idea of the pure medieval Islamic past in their recruiting rhetoric for young male Muslims. If the medieval past (globally) is being weaponized for the aims of extreme, violent supremacist groups, what are you doing, medievalists, in your classrooms? Because you are the authorities teaching medieval subjects in the classroom, you are, in fact, ideological arms dealers. So, are you going to be apathetic weapons d…

Bourgeois is the New White

I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages, but my fellow academics Amy Wax and Larry Alexander beat me to it.

I’m sure you’ve heard. On August 9, Professors Wax and Alexander published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which they argued (shock! horror!) that in order to have a successful life, it might be prudent to live virtuously. Okay, no, that is not quite what they said, but it’s close.

In their words:
Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries. The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture. That culture laid …

Bear’s Story

Now that I’m famous like Milo, clearly I need an Instagram account! Come visit me @fencingbear! All are welcome!

Back to School

Education ideally lasts a lifetime. It is a process, not an end in itself. Learning to read is only the first step. It takes decades to master a particular subject, even longer to reach the cutting edge, that point at which you have read the best of what has been written in your particular field and can see just that little bit further ahead.

I have been in school since before I can remember, and every autumn I am eager to return. This autumn I am teaching a new course on towns in the Middle Ages, for which I have just started reading intensively. I have been thinking about the history of Europe in the Middle Ages for over thirty years, and there are still things I do not know. I could write a syllabus about towns in the Middle Ages tomorrow, but I know that there are things still to learn, Alps upon Alps yet to scale.

I wish that I could find some way to share with you this experience of learning as an ongoing adventure. It saddens me to read the things that people are saying on col…

Make the Middle Ages Dark Again

I miss the good old days. You remember. Back when the only thing people knew about the Middle Ages is that they were Dark and filled with evil barons wresting a living off the back of their serfs, not to mention lecherous clergy imprisoning young maidens so as to rape them and then accuse them of witchcraft.

You remember, right? What it was like when the Middle Ages were Dark? The Roman Catholic Church made slaves of everyone, stripped them of their sense of dignity and independence and made social status a matter not of achievement, but birth. The Church hated science and industry and did everything in its power to keep people in chains. It guarded its authority with the sword and the stake, stifled all innovation, and fed the common people lies.

And why were these Ages so Dark? There were no universities, no towns, only castles with dungeons. Monks huddled in their cells thinking dark thoughts about sin, while Vikings stormed across the countryside, raping and pillaging and capturin…

The Witches of Salemville

One day, back in the Dark Ages – I think it was around 1975 – we kids were shown a movie in Social Studies about the witch trials of colonial New England. There was a scene in which the girls making the accusations against their neighbors started acting as if they were choking. As if on cue, sitting in a darkened room of 200 fourth graders, I threw up.

I saw the movie in full some years later, although I am still not sure what it was. It may have been a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953), perhaps one of the ones made for television, but I have an inkling that it was something different. It doesn’t really matter. What stuck with me was the feeling that I had watching all those young women – they were actresses, after all – pretending to be attacked by some invisible enemy. And having everyone in the room – both on- and off-screen – believe them.
Fast forward to the summer of 2017. You all know what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12. A motley group inclu…