April 2, 2018

The University of Oklahoma course modeled on a University of Michigan course taught by W.H. Auden in 1941.

Auden's course, "Fate and the Individual in European Literature," had 6,000 pages of reading, writes Mark Bauerlein in The Chronicle of Higher Education...
The Divine Comedy in full, four Shakespeares, Pascal’s Pensées, Horace’s odes, Volpone, Racine, Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Moby-Dick, The Brothers Karamazov, Faust, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, Kafka, Rilke, T.S. Eliot. Auden even included nine operas. Opera in the 1940s was a popular art form, with millions of people tuning in each week to the Met’s Saturday broadcast, but it’s hard to imagine anything less consonant with millennials’ attention span than one of Wagner’s Teutonic enormities. Auden assigned three of them....

The Auden-based course at Oklahoma is a small but significant instance of how it may be done. Western-canon talk offends many people in the humanities these days, the few faculty traditionalists often contesting the progressive orthodoxy....

I advise the traditionalists to try the Oklahoma way. Design your Western-civ or Great Books course and ramp it up to Auden levels. Be frank about the reading challenge. Boast of the aged, uncontemporary nature of the materials. Highlight the old-fashioned themes of greatness, heroism and villainy, love and betrayal, God and Truth, and say nothing against intersectionality and other currencies. Your antagonists are mediocrity, youth culture, presentism, and the disengagement of professors and students. You occupy a competitive terrain, and your brand is Achilles, Narcissus, the Wyf of Bath, Isolde, and Bigger. Let’s see what happens. Let the undergrads decide.
Quite aside from traditionalists, I'd like to talk to the kind of progressives who are outraged that the Brooklyn Museum hired a white woman as its curator and historian of African arts and architecture. I presume the woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, studied very hard to acquire the credentials that won her this position. Yes, here, read about it:
Trained in all periods of African art and architectural history, she specializes in the early modern period, with a focus on Christian Ethiopian. Her research centers on cross-cultural exchange, early globalization, transcultural art, and the depiction of non-Western cultures in museums and popular media.

In September 2016, she successfully defended her dissertation Building Faith: Ethiopian Art and Architecture during the Jesuit Interlude, 1557-1632. Based on research conducted in Ethiopia, Italy, and Portugal, the project considers the relationship between Roman Catholic and Ethiopian Orthodox art and architecture in early modern Ethiopia. She is currently at work on several new projects, including a revision of her dissertation and a project on the links between Ethiopian Orthodox painting and the global textile trade. She is also completing an article on the relationship between foreign design, native labor, and local agency in early modern Christian Ethiopian architecture....
I imagine that Kristen Windmuller-Luna believed that she was embracing the very best progressive values, and yet now she finds herself treated with hostility for taking this path.

What is the message to the next Kristen Windmuller-Luna, who wants to become an excellent scholar within the humanities? Would you advise her to specialize in African art?

The unintended (I think unintended) consequence of the criticism of the Brooklyn Museum is to tell white students who want a career in the humanities to specialize in the European tradition and take courses like W.H. Auden's.

The traditionalists will win with the assistance of the anti-appropriation progressives, and the universities will wake up from their dream of multi-culturalism and diversity. With progressive support, white students can feel that they should concentrate on the culture of white people.

I'm putting that bluntly not because I like it, but because the progressives who are participating in this dynamic don't seem to notice or to want to talk about it.

98 comments:

rehajm said...

...because the progressives who are participating in this dynamic don't seem to notice or to want to talk about it

It's the first one. Hadn't really thought that one through. Despite the credentials, not really deep thinkers.

Mr Wibble said...


The unintended (I think unintended) consequence of the criticism of the Brooklyn Museum is to tell white students who want a career in the humanities to specialize in the European tradition and take courses like W.H. Auden's.

The traditionalists will win with the assistance of the anti-appropriation progressives, and the universities will wake up from their dream of multi-culturalism and diversity. With progressive support, white students can feel that they should concentrate on the culture of white people.

I'm putting that bluntly not because I like it, but because the progressives who are participating in this dynamic don't seem to notice or to want to talk about it.


Something similar was said about Trump's victory. The left has spent decades telling racial groups that they should vote as racial groups, while attacking whites and European culture, and are then shocked when whites start voting as a racial group for the guy who doesn't seem to hate them.

rcocean said...

Sorry, but what is wrong with African-Americans wanting an African American for their art museum?

This white woman was the only one available? There were NO people of color who applied?

Ridiculous. I thought we had AA in this country.

Nonapod said...

Wagner’s Teutonic enormities

lol

The unintended (I think unintended) consequence of the criticism of the Brooklyn Museum is to tell white students who want a career in the humanities to specialize in the European tradition and take courses like W.H. Auden's.

The traditionalists will win with the assistance of the anti-appropriation progressives, and the universities will wake up from their dream of multi-culturalism and diversity. With progressive support, white students can feel that they should concentrate on the culture of white people.


I have no idea if this will happen. But the cognitive dissonance of worshiping at the alter of cultural diversity while being disallowed from worshiping at said alter certainly seems untenable. But such paradoxes seem to be surprising resilient in the progressive universe.

Henry said...

In September 2016, she successfully defended her dissertation...

I'm struck again by how young she is. Young people work cheap. Museums don't pay much for curators. Of course she seems quite accomplished.

Take a look at the Brooklyn Museum Staff. Looks pretty diverse to me. But apparently, Ms. Windmuller-Luna and Ms. James should switch jobs, specialities be damned.

* * *

Here's something else. The past is a foreign country. The do things differently there. You might read that in the Auden course.

Rob said...

People objecting to her being the curator are tilting at Windmuller.

Fernandistien said...

"He's working himself into a juju."

Fernandistien said...

"Fate and the Individual in European Europe" was pretty interesting in 1941.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Why read all this crap? Doesn't Joyce's Ulysees contain them all?

Balfegor said...

I feel like a course like the Auden course really depends on the students having a pretty solid grounding before they take the course. If that's your first time encountering all of that, you're going to be lost and come out -- at best -- with a pretty thin appreciation of what you're reading (and listening to). That just jumps over so many time periods and styles.

re: rcocean:

Sorry, but what is wrong with African-Americans wanting an African American for their art museum?

Problem is if it's inappropriate for a White American, it's also going to be inappropriate for an African American, since it's not their cultural tradition either. It's an African art collection, not an African-American art collection. An African American claiming that as "his" heritage would be like me claiming Tibetan sand mandalas as part of my heritage (because while I am half-Asian, I am 0% Tibetan). Of course, this sort of thing quickly breaks down into nonsense. Can I claim Baekche and Shilla history as my own (because their territory overlapped with my ancestors' land), but not the history of Buyeo (a proto-Korean kingdom based in Manchuria)? Can Oromo serves as curators for Tigrinya art? Can Igbo serve as curators for Khoikhoi art? Their lineages may have diverged 150,00 years ago -- more remote than the divergence between Bantus and Western Europeans (although there is considerable uncertainty about dating any of these splits, and there was a lot of recombination between long-isolated human populations early in our history, just as there has been more recently).

YoungHegelian said...

Honestly, with Ms Windmuller-Lana's emphasis on Ethiopian Christian art, I was surprised that she was considered at all.

Is Ethiopia in Africa? Sure. But the folks who want to talk about African (as opposed to art of a specific country or tribal region) generally work with western or central Sub-saharan countries. Ethiopia not only has a very different history than those countries, it also has a modern culture that is profoundly resistant to be labeled as "African". They're "Ethiopian", not "African", just like your old timey Briton was British & not "European".

If she had specialized in e.g. Yoruban art, then she'd fit with the program. While I think that she is "qualified", I think that, judging from her doctoral work, something's a little strange here.

Mike said...

Sorry, but what is wrong with African-Americans wanting an African American for their art museum? This white woman was the only one available? There were NO people of color who applied?

I hope this is satire because if not it reveals noxious thinking. No job is the exclusive domain of ANY particular color of person. The man and the woman called out by people like you (Althouse only highlighted the woman but a white man is also under fire for the same thing there) for being the wrong race for the job are the people who worked hardest to GET that job, according to the museum. History is the story of the human race and the sooner you recognize that and drop your silly racist color-of-skin categorizations the better!

buster said...

A good start would be to restore Latin to the high school curriculum

Rick said...

The traditionalists will win with the assistance of the anti-appropriation progressives,

This is a wrongly negative view of traditionalists. Their desire to focus on the excellence from Western Civilization does not preclude recognizing and studying excellence in other cultures. It only rejects ignoring excellence which doesn't fit the progressives political preferences.

Ann Althouse said...

"I have no idea if this will happen. But the cognitive dissonance of worshiping at the alter of cultural diversity while being disallowed from worshiping at said alter certainly seems untenable. But such paradoxes seem to be surprising resilient in the progressive universe."

An alternative is — if you're looking for a career — is stay the hell out of the humanities.

But there will always be some students who feel genuinely called to a career as a professor in the humanities — art, literature, history. For these people, who face a lot of competition getting the good jobs, they should be selective, and what are they currently hearing about what selection to make? It's hard to do well in Art History — a famously risky major, career-wise.

And if the white students believe it's a mistake to study the art of non-white people, then there will be fewer students for the non-white professors to teach and fewer of of the careers that the anti-appropriation progressives are trying to reserve for non-white people. Look at the big picture!

Ann Althouse said...

The 10:20 and 10:22 comments make a good combination.

Tommy Duncan said...

Bridging races and cultures is no longer in vogue. Racial and cultural interaction tends to break down the identity groups that together form the progressive base. Identity is integral to victim status. Without victims there is no progressive movement.

Confused said...

Balfegor's excellent comment reminded me of this story (from the Guardian):

"Actor Daniel Dae Kim has thanked Ed Skrein for “championing the notion that Asian characters should be played by Asian or Asian American actors” by dropping out of a role in the new Hellboy film."

The character in the comic is Japanese-American, and Kim is obviously not Japanese-American, but somehow it's a step forward to have someone from Asia, anywhere in Asia, play this character. To me it's an indication of how superficial all of this is. We just want things to look right (e.g. a curator of African art should be black, regardless of his or her connection to the actual content) and we are asking people to make career and life choices based off of these skin-deep concerns. It strikes me that this attitude is extremely racist.

buwaya said...

This seems topical -

Cited in Instapundit -

https://www.mindingthecampus.org/2016/02/how-a-generation-lost-its-common-culture/

"My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture."

Note - he cites E.D. Hirsch and Alan Bloom, and he is correct to do so, as this is an ongoing disaster. This is not new, its just that the process advances.

My personal experience is that you can see this very clearly in California public high schools, and the fault is in the teachers, who for the most part are pleasant and kindly enough, but uneducated and uninterested in the subject they are teaching. Worse, this is also the case in universities. Our daughter did Liberal Arts in a premier UC campus, and was severely disappointed by the emptiness of the material and the disinterest of both students and teachers.

Sebastian said...

"With progressive support, white students can feel that they should concentrate on the culture of white people."

This assumes progs do logic. They support no such thing: black culture, African or African-American, is a black preserve, and don't you appropriate it, but at the same time whites should also be forced to show proper interest and respect, as reparation for white supremacy. Withdrawing into white enclaves is "segregation," don't you know, and racist.

tcrosse said...

Kristen Windmuller-Luna has the obligatory hyphen of a female academic. Those things don't grow on trees.

Mike said...

I thought the common origin story was that we all come from Africa, right? If so, then no matter from what point on Earth you are from in the present age, to study history is to study that arc. And if you follow the arc back to the beginning then we are all African histories right? Isn't there DNA that shows this in scientific disciplines that are not yet infected by progressive thought-crime advocates?

Ann Althouse said...

"This is a wrongly negative view of traditionalists. Their desire to focus on the excellence from Western Civilization does not preclude recognizing and studying excellence in other cultures. It only rejects ignoring excellence which doesn't fit the progressives political preferences."

It doesn't matter that the theory and motivation are completely different. These are 2 forces pushing in the same direction.

It reminds me of the anti-pornography feminists of the 1980s. It was apparent to me that they could prevail, but only with the assistance of social conservatives. Completely different theory and motivation, but it didn't matter, other than perhaps the feminists might think: If I can only win because I've bizarrely joined forces with the social cons, I don't want to win.

I was there at the time, in a pretty much Ground Zero place, and I can tell you the radical feminists did not think like that.

buwaya said...

"we are asking people to make career and life choices based off of these skin-deep concerns. It strikes me that this attitude is extremely racist."

Its not even that - it matters mainly because the poor kids have nothing else in their brains but "racist" or not. They have nothing else to think about. They have no material with which to work.

Sebastian said...

I wonder, did Auden's students read the 6000 pages? More than 400 pages per week, for one course?

Ken B said...

Competition for a positional good is a zero-sum game. That's what progressiveism is, competition for most virtuous.

buwaya said...

Without social conservatism there is, in the end, nothing.
We are social animals with an enormous amount hard-coded, though we can pretend it isn't. But we end up paying for that fantasy.
We have the modern wasteland of disconnection.
Something will have to change, or we will just stop.

Rick said...

It doesn't matter that the theory and motivation is completely different. These are 2 forces pushing in the same direction.

This is not accurate. The theory and motivation are not all that is different, so are the goals. Traditionalists don't want whites only to study the great Western works, they believe those works are great for everyone. Nor do they object to having other great works studied by whites. They object only to (1) excluding great works because the makers don't satisfy the progressive political agenda (2) defining works as great simply by meeting that criteria.

n.n said...

The children of a black father and white mother, or a white father and black mother, and a progressive color gradient will be neither here, there, nor anywhere. The native African who is white, the African-American half-breeds. Eventually, the traditional judgment of character may, will, must prevail.

buwaya said...

Studying foreign cultures is an integral part of western culture. Especially the systematic survey and preservation of material. Other cultures, even imperial ones, were not so interested in the foreign.

This all goes back to the Greeks. As far as we know there was no Chinese or Indian or Persian Herodotus.

To the extent that there is some appreciation, anywhere else, for the foreign, it is the result of being westernized.

Gahrie said...

the universities will wake up from their dream of multi-culturalism and diversity.

I would call it a nightmare, or a hallucination, and I'm not sure they will wake up from it.

With progressive support, white students can feel that they should concentrate on the culture of white people.

Sadly I agree.

The last thing that the Progressives should want is to finally convince the majority of White people that race matters and defines who we are and our role in the world.

n.n said...

Ironically, sort of, kind of, predictably, [color] diversity is an apartheid regime. The Progressive Perspective would be to open an abortion field and clear the black and white resistance, then establish [color] diversity, including racism, sexism, congruence, as the highest law of the land. One step forward. Two steps backward. Progress... monotonic change. As for conservatism, it's a law of Nature, principles matter.

buwaya said...

In the US anyway western culture is not being replaced by something else, but by nothing at all. Its not that Plato is giving way to Confucius.

But there is no Plato, and no Confucius.

Richard Dolan said...

"An alternative is — if you're looking for a career — is stay the hell out of the humanities."

To everything there is a season, and the lefty craziness in academia is no exception. There will always be younger scholars eager to show that the older generation missed the Main Point (and that too changes over time). And the Newest Thing! (even when it's not so new, like this Auden-themed course) has a way of attracting an audience.

As for the fuss at the Brooklyn Museum, the headlines are striving to create a story out of very little. There isn't "outrage" in the "black community" about the hiring of a curator or two at the BM. The "black community" in Brooklyn isn't a unified whole on anything, and the BM is hardly at the top of the list for any of those subgroups. There are a few complaints on social media from the usual suspects. That's all.

Gahrie said...

Sorry, but what is wrong with African-Americans wanting an African American for their art museum?

Why is it "their" museum?

Does that mean the Met belongs to White people?

Comanche Voter said...

With an inspiring teacher, students will read 6,000 pages for a single three unit course. 50 plus years ago as a freshman in college I "lucked out". I had advanced placement and enrolled in an Upper Division English American Literature class with a Professor Hinkle. I say "lucked out" because he was a new hire in the English Department (as a transfer from the Ohio State faculty) and the class was small--30 students or so. I credit Professor Hinkle as the first instructor who truly forced critical thinking on my part.

Two years later his reputation on campus had spread. My future wife took one of his classes--by then he was teaching in a 200 seat auditorium. And yes his reading list ran to 6,000 plus pages. Try reading an 800 page Theodore Dreiser novel over a four day period between a Thursday and a Tuesday (class met twice a week). Hinkle got his students to do it.

Could it happen today when most young people limit their thinking to no more than 142 characters in a Tweet? With a good teacher--yes, but then teachers of Hinkle's caliber may be as rare as unicorns.

Freeman Hunt said...

The course should be called, "Skim the Classics," because that's all anyone will have time to do.

buwaya said...

I think the situation is terminal. There is no sign at all of those "younger scholars". And nowhere for them to come from, the whole system is structured to shut them down from K-12 onward.

Leslie Graves said...

It is possible that 6-8 years ago, when Kristen Windmuller-Luna was deciding what to specialize in, she decided to specialize in African art because she could see that attention to this sphere of art was growing. She may have thought, "Tough to get a job in this field, but if I specialize in African art, I improve my odds considerably."

I think that 6-8 years ago was when it made sense to think that, but before anyone realized that the next wave was going to be, "You have to be somehow robustly related to a particular culture in order for us to take you seriously as a scholar of it."

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I feel like a course like the Auden course really depends on the students having a pretty solid grounding before they take the course. If that's your first time encountering all of that, you're going to be lost and come out -- at best -- with a pretty thin appreciation of what you're reading (and listening to). That just jumps over so many time periods and styles.

Way back when, I had to take a Western Civ class. It was a requirement to graduate college, which tells you something about how far back this was. It was a survey course. We had to read some books, be able to identify some works of art and who had created them, when, and the style. Was something baroque, rococo, modern, etc? We also listened to music, symphonies, folk music, opera, etc and had to be able to identify similar things, such as what kind of music, who wrote it, etc. It was all pretty superficial but at least it was something. Students today seem to sincerely believe that slavery was an isolated instance of Europeans enslaving Africans and that was the first and only instance of it happening in human history. And it seems it is possible for a Christian to be raised in the faith, be active in the church, and make into college and not be aware of the belief that Christ was physically raised from the dead. Wonder what they talked about at her church on Easter Sunday?

Gahrie said...

My personal experience is that you can see this very clearly in California public high schools, and the fault is in the teachers, who for the most part are pleasant and kindly enough, but uneducated and uninterested in the subject they are teaching.

This.

I am appalled at the ignorance and the lack of intellectual curiosity and honesty of many of my co-workers (I teach high school). I am considered some sort of idiot savant because of my knowledge and political leanings.

Freeman Hunt said...

The college I went to had a two term required Western Civ course called Western Intellectual Traditions. Years later they changed it to Global Civ. Now it's one term of The Engaged Citizen and one term of Explorations: Liberal Arts for Life.

The cost of going there has quadrupled, so perhaps one pays more for the piece of paper because it's easier to get.

Bad Lieutenant said...

I'm putting that bluntly not because I like it, but because the progressives who are participating in this dynamic don't seem to notice or to want to talk about it.


But that's you half the time, hands over ears when exposed to harsh truths vs 'what you prefer to believe.'

Michael said...

I would advise any white person to study European history, art and music and to leave Africa to the Africans, especially as an Academic specialty. Why spend the next decades walking across trap door after trap door. There not being much in the way of written literature south of the Sahara, nor transcribed music the continents history is mainly of white oppression ending in ruinous self rule. Better steer clear and keep your mouth shut. Also, the art is primitive crap.

traditionalguy said...

Ethnic cleansing Museums is a start. Separate but equal museums is an end.

Traditionalists hired the white guy/gal for the needed expertise and experience to get the work done and added a Black guy/gal to be the boss and take credit for the work done.

So it is better. She can work at a McDonalds in Ethiopia.

Matt said...

Kristen Windmuller-Luna represents the best the humanities have to offer - a scholar who spends their career immersed in a foreign culture, who has studied it with rigor, and wants to show it to the rest of us. If she studied in Portugal, Italy and Ethiopia, I'd be willing to bet she can read Portuguese, Italian, Latin and Ge'ez (maybe Amharic, too).

Those criticizing her represent the worst - people who spend their whole careers looking at themselves in the mirror.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@Freeman Hunt

Yeah, we had Western Civ I and II. Both required. A quick look at the online catalog now shows World Humanities I and II. I will give them this, they also require Introduction to American Government and you can take some American History to complete your social sciences requirement.

Balfegor said...

Re: Michael:

I do wonder, though, how much of ancient sub-Saharan African history has simply been lost. In the New World, stone age peoples developed complex states and polities which we know today largely because they left behind monumental stone art. In the case of the Maya, they even developed their own complete writing systems. In the US, the Cahokia complex evidences a complex society which, by the time of European exploration, had shrunk or regressed to a small remnant. Were there similar ancient civilisations in Africa, lost to us simply because wood and plant material decay in that sub-Saharan environment? There were certainly huge population replacements in African history after 1 AD -- what was the culture and organisation and accompanied them?

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

AA: I'm putting that bluntly not because I like it, but because the progressives who are participating in this dynamic don't seem to notice or to want to talk about it.

The fundamental motivation of the progressives isn't "diversity" or "multiculturalism" or whatever other buzzwords they throw around. They don't know "diversity" from a Coke commercial, and aren't cultured people, "multi" or otherwise.

What they want is to wreck the object that they think is standing in the way of their gratification and happiness, as ignorant, spoiled children do. Progs decided a while ago that this object was "Western civ", and they've been hell bent on wrecking it ever since. That what they *say* they want is a hot mess of incoherence and contradiction is irrelevant. What they *do* is "tear it down".

Clear, straightforward action. They won't be happy when they get what they think they want, of course, but that won't be because they weren't alert to "the contradictions inherent in their system". That was all just window-dressing, anyway.

rhhardin said...

White people shouldn't concentrate on anything at all. They're too smart already. Leave room for blacks.

Anthony said...

Balfegor: Try these:

Stone Age Sub-Saharan Africa.

Also search around for the Great Zimbabwe. Gertrude Caton-Thompson, a really fine and generally under-appreciated female archaeologist in the early-mid parts of the 20th century, did some pioneering work there. I know her because she also did a lot of good work in Egypt's Fayum Depression.

A lot of it is just lack of widespread interest due to lack of big cool-looking monuments and such.

buwaya said...

There were significant polities in Sub-Saharan Africa even into historical times. The European expansion into the area came very late, as disease made it very expensive to operate outposts. Only the most lucrative coastal trading posts were worthwhile and European influence did not go inland very far. The native coastal trade would have been very limited anyway, Europeans or no Europeans. The first explorers of the West African coast certainly didn't find much of it. Contrast South East Asia or the Indian Ocean where even the earliest European explorers found a thriving trade.

Given the state of the untainted native cultures when Europeans eventually did explore Sub-Saharan Africa, I don't see why anyone can hold out hope for some lost high civilization. The sort of thing Rider Haggards readers loved to imagine did not exist. It was all as imaginary as Burroughs Martians.

Balfegor said...

RE: Anthony --

Yeah, I appreciate the Great Zimbabwe for its size, but as an artifact of high civilization, it's distinctly underwhelming, particularly compared to the monumental artifacts left behind by the Pre-Columbian civilisations in Central and South America.

Re: buwaya:

Given the state of the untainted native cultures when Europeans eventually did explore Sub-Saharan Africa, I don't see why anyone can hold out hope for some lost high civilization.

There certainly wasn't one active when Europeans were exploring in the 19th century -- if there had been one, it had collapsed long ago, to the point that even their native guides seem to have had difficulty navigating the patchwork of tribal territories they were passing through. But you had the same thing in the Amazonian rainforest, and satellite imaging has now shown us that there were urban agglomerations deep in the Amazon, long ago. We're not talking about "high" civilisations -- we're still probably talking about stone-age societies. But stone age societies still had the potential to be a lot more complex than isolated tribes scrabbling about for sustenance in the wilderness, fighting with their neighbours, and killing any outsider who chanced on them.

jimbino said...

Most Ethiopians are of the Caucasian race, not unlike the White woman.

Achilles said...

because the progressives who are participating in this dynamic don't seem to notice or to want to talk about it

The average progressive maybe. The wealthy elite that confer prestige and income and pull the strings are trying to turn the US into a plantation state again like the south pre-civil war.

Lets see how far California gets in it's succession attempt to replace it's current population with that of Mexico.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Balfegor said...

I guess the other thing about sub-Saharan states is that most of the big ones (e.g. Mali and Songhai) were basically artifacts of Islamic conquest and conversion, as opposed to European conquest and conversion. So not really part of an indigenous tradition. Still. It's a bit place, and we were there for a long, long time. Hard to believe there's no rich history of illiterate kingdoms and petty princes running back through the millenia. I guess it's not attested in the histories of other peoples who dealt with sub-Saharan Africa, like Aksum or Egypt. But still.

Bad Lieutenant said...

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-university-of-oklahoma-course.html

The highest achievement of ancient "Zimbabwe" and "Gondwana" was the Miles Davis tunes by the same name.

Roughcoat said...

Next thing you know, we'll have a black man playing the part of Achilles in a movie of the Iliad.

Oh, wait -- Netflix has done just that.

Okay. So, a blond Scandinavian or redhead Celt playing Shaka Zulu?

What? Not happening?

gspencer said...

So if you slog through 6,000 pages in 3 months, what's retained? And that's my point, it's a slog, not an education.

Almost seems like reading just to say the material has had a set of eyeballs go over it. Those chosen titles require contemplation. Someone's not using good judgment.

Bad Lieutenant said...

You're closer to a Conan novella now.

Balfegor said...

Re: gspencer:

Almost seems like reading just to say the material has had a set of eyeballs go over it. Those chosen titles require contemplation. Someone's not using good judgment.

Yeah, if you're coming to it fresh, it just doesn't seem like it would work. But if you know Horace and are familiar with the Shakespeare and Moby Dick and so on, and are only encountering a fraction of it for the first time, I think it would be a great course.

Biff said...

Might there be a corollary consequence of non-whites being discouraged from studying (and, most especially, criticizing) Western/European culture as a career choice, or is this one of those situations that only apply to white folks because of "structural" issues, e.g. "by virtue of hegemonic structures and power dynamics, people of color, by definition, cannot be racist."

tcrosse said...

So if you slog through 6,000 pages in 3 months, what's retained?

Once on SNL Fr. Guido Sarducci did a bit about the 5-minute university, which teaches everything the average college graduate remembers 5 years after graduation.

mccullough said...

Auden’s reading list was too long. Moby Dick was decent but needed an editor. The chapters on the whaling industry were pointless.

TS Eliot is overrated. Stevens and Frost best work is far superior to Eliot’s wannabe important British poetry. The guy was more phoned than Madonna.

Auden learned that Europeans were only important insofar as they influenced Americans. And Melville and Eliot aren’t influential Americans. Neither is Henry James.

Whitman, Twain, Frost, Stevens, and Faulkner are the only Americans worth reading before 1940.

mandrewa said...

Balfegor said, I do wonder, though, how much of ancient sub-Saharan African history has simply been lost. In the New World, stone age peoples developed complex states and polities which we know today largely because they left behind monumental stone art. In the case of the Maya, they even developed their own complete writing systems.

The great majority of human history has been lost. It isn't just sub-Saharan Africa. Basically, if we don't have written texts, there isn't much to say about past peoples. And there are a lot of cultures that had no writing.

Even if we do have written texts, we still may not be able to say much. The Mayan texts are pretty specialized and possibly there was only a small group of people that ever read or wrote it. (Even so that means we know vastly more about the Mayans than their contemporaries that did not have a written language.) And it's surprising how limited in topic much of early Chinese writing is.

mockturtle said...

Three hearty cheers for the U. of Oklahoma! Losing sight of our cultural roots [and America was founded on Western cultural values] we are finished.

Balfegor said...

Re: Biff:

Might there be a corollary consequence of non-whites being discouraged from studying (and, most especially, criticizing) Western/European culture as a career choice, or is this one of those situations that only apply to white folks because of "structural" issues, e.g. "by virtue of hegemonic structures and power dynamics, people of color, by definition, cannot be racist."

There's a strong push to try and make lily-White European history seem less White. It's mostly a bit ridiculous right now, but there will probably come a day when schoolchildren imagine the African Emperors as sub-Saharan Africans, more or less as schoolchildren today are sometimes taught that the Egyptian Pharoahs were Black.

Michael said...

Balfegor
"I do wonder, though, how much of ancient sub-Saharan African history has simply been lost."

It is better for all concerned to view the histories of these vast and complex civilizations as being "lost."

mockturtle said...

Once on SNL Fr. Guido Sarducci did a bit about the 5-minute university, which teaches everything the average college graduate remembers 5 years after graduation.

Loved it, tcrosse!

Balfegor said...

Re: mandrewa:

And it's surprising how limited in topic much of early Chinese writing is.

Depends how early you go, but yeah, it's basically, histories, poems/songs, rituals, and philosophising about how important it is to revive the old rituals. By the time of the Former Han, though, you get other, more interesting stuff, like Huan Kuan's record of the discourses on salt and iron, which is all about state policy and whether there should be state-owned monopolies on products like salt and iron (among others). But general, Chinese literature centers around the concerns of the official class -- the 8th century Tang poet Du Fu has a poem about how it's summer, but he's stuck in his hot, stuffy office reviewing paperwork. I think it's excerpted in his wikipedia article:

I am about to scream madly in the office
Especially when they bring more papers to pile higher on my desk.


A rare poetic voice articulating universal human experiences! I may never have fought a monster for the King of the Danes, but I've worked on paperwork in a hot office in the summer.

Gahrie said...

The great majority of human history has been lost.

The great majority of human existence is pre-historic. Modern man first appeared 200,000 to 300,000 years ago. (The accepted figure used to be 200,000 years ago, but recent developments have potentially pushed that back 100,000 years) For the vast majority of that time (190,000 or 290,000 years) we wandered as tribes of hunter-gatherers. History is only 5,000 or so years old.

Archaic Sub Saharan history hasn't been lost...it never existed.

Gahrie said...

We read two Shakespeare plays a year when I was in high school. At my current high school the English department teaches none of them in their entirety.

I tried to discuss the similarity between Julius Caesar and the death of John Snow in the staff room once, but no one had read Julius Caesar, let alone memorized Anthony's speech.

Gahrie said...


Yeah, I appreciate the Great Zimbabwe for its size, but as an artifact of high civilization, it's distinctly underwhelming,

What? You don't believe in the ancient Zimbabwean jet planes?

buwaya said...

Gahrie,

I once had a teacher for an honors English class tell me that Dickens was too complex for High School.

William said...

My heart goes out to those Okie students. This course took place in the era before Cliff Notes. Those poor bastards were blindsided by the experience. Many probably suffered PTSD and were never again able to enter a library without undergoing violent tremors.......Auden's erudition might have made him a better poet, but there is scant evidence that it made him a better man.

William said...

They say the last people to be civilized in Europe were the Scots. A few years later there was the Scottish Enlightenment where many of the best ideas in western civ were introduced and promulgated. I don't see anything wrong with coming from a primitive civilization, but there's a problem when you start viewing cattle raids and bagpipes as the apogee of civilization.

Roughcoat said...

They say the last people to be civilized in Europe were the Scots.

The Irish are, arguably, still in transition.

William said...

When a white collector purchases African art isn't he almost literally appropriating African art?......If the French hadn't invaded Egypt, there would have been no Rosetta Stone and hence no Egyptian history. Egyptian history is an outgrowth of French imperialism.

Balfegor said...

Re: William:

I was recently at the Korean National Museum, and some of the exhibits (particularly the oldest ones) note that artifacts were excavated or obtained in the 1910's and 1920's. In other words, they were acquired by the Japanese authorities for the collection of the General Government Museum. Honestly, I'm surprised they didn't do more to conceal that piece of information.

buwaya said...

" Egyptian history is an outgrowth of French imperialism."

Its amazing really how many things came from imperialism/colonialism.
Its time for a revival.

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

Egyptian history was well known to educated world long before the French invasion. Egyptian history is not African (i.e., sub-Saharan) history. The Egyptians were not sub-Saharan (i.e., Negroid/black); nor were the peoples of the Maghreb (North Africa west of Egypt), e.g. Berbers/Numidians, Libu, etc. Black Africa, from the standpoint of the ancient Egyptians, started south of the Second Cataract (at Abu Simbel/Wadi Halfa) in what was then known as Nubia. The history of ancient Egypt was well known, after a fashion, and studied by the ancients. Herodotus, the "Father of History," popularized it for the Greeks and Romans, and there is much useful and accurate information in his narratives. For that matter, the Old Testament provided quasi-historical accounts of the ancient Egypt, many of which contain more than just a kernel of truth, some much more. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone was important insofar as it allowed us to translate Egyptian documents and in doing so provide us with a deep and complex look into the history of ancient Egypt. But it is not correct to say that without the French invasion (specifically, without Jean-François Champollions efforts), there would be no Egyptian history.

buwaya said...

"Egyptian history was well known to educated world long before the French invasion"

A very limited version of Egyptian history, as in very scattered references in Greco-Roman and Hebrew sources. A rather mythological sort of business also.

Mike Sylwester said...

... the cognitive dissonance of worshiping at the alter of cultural diversity while being disallowed from worshiping at said alter certainly seems untenablethe cognitive dissonance of worshiping at the alter of cultural diversity while being disallowed from worshiping at said alter certainly seems untenable.

Altar

Todd Galle said...

The museum field is by and large a left/liberal environment, so this is no surprise at all. The big push this year is 'inclusivity', a broad enough term to mean whatever any particular institution needs it to mean. One aspect is the 'Museums for All' program, where a visitor presenting an EBT card gets a reduced entrance fee. Now, I am fine with this as a program, 'culture' shouldn't just be for those who can afford it. BUT, if our museum seeds even 4 instances of such a usage I will be amazed. The interest just doesn't seem to be there. My last curatorial job was at a large multiple discipline state museum, next to the Capitol building downtown, with unique architecture. A study was commissioned to inquire of passersby whether they knew the museum was there, and that it had no admission charge (true then, not now). Over 50% of the local population didn't know that the museum was there or free, and wasn't particularly interested in coming in either. This is a problem that has been around forever, with no adequate remedy.

Roughcoat said...

Don't forget Manetho, author of Aegyptiaca, written in the 3rd century B.C., roughly one century after Herodotus. It was Manetho who identified and numbered(more or less accurately) the Egyptian dynasties. We still use his numbering/identification system.

The histories of ancient Egypt on offer from writers like Herodotus and Menetho, and the Bible, provided much, much more than "scattered references."

What you call "mythological" I call incomplete information. Which is true of all history. The historians of antiquity thought they were providing accurate historical accounts, interpretations, and analyses. Just historians of recent times like, say, Howard Zinn or Karl Marx.

Nonapod said...

@Mike Sylwester, yeah I noticed that one too late. I still wish blogger had a basic edit function.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

Balfegor: There's a strong push to try and make lily-White European history seem less White. It's mostly a bit ridiculous right now, but there will probably come a day when schoolchildren imagine the African Emperors as sub-Saharan Africans, more or less as schoolchildren today are sometimes taught that the Egyptian Pharoahs were Black.

There's a deliberate effort to make the uninformed (including schoolchildren) not understand the cultural, historical, and population-genetic differences between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. It's funny, because in their dishonest sleight-of-hand usage of "African", they come off sounding an awful lot like some old "wogs begin at Calais" British xenophobe. (N.N. Taleb has some fun with this in his twitter slap-fest with Mary Beard.)

I recommend your links to anyone not up on current trends in cack-handed academic propaganda.

For my money, though, nobody has yet beat this effort in Clown World comedy, visual one-liners division. Though David Brooks is a contender in the written category for a recent gem: ("How does being Latina influence how you read a black writer like St. Augustine?")

mockturtle said...

Though David Brooks is a contender in the written category for a recent gem: ("How does being Latina influence how you read a black writer like St. Augustine?")

Wow, I knew Brooks was stupid but didn't realize just how stupid. What I'm wondering is: Will the propagandized kids find out, at some point in the future, that they've been lied to? If so, how will they react?

mockturtle said...

As a boy in Colorado, my father collected Indian [Native American] relics. They are now mine, although I don't have them on the premises. I supposed they are now illegal to own, as they represent cultural appropriation but my father intended respect for the implements when he collected them.

Roughcoat said...

If so, how will they react?

With indifference, probably. They won't care. Why would they, they're scarcely sentient. My border collies are more engaged with the world and more interested in learning from their experiences than most millennials. They've got an awesome work ethic too.

Luke Lea said...

Ann writes: "The traditionalists will win with the assistance of the anti-appropriation progressives, and the universities will wake up from their dream of multi-culturalism and diversity."

I hope she's not dreaming, even if she thinks that would be a nightmare. Multiculturalism, like transgenderism, is a personality disorder. At least in my view.

n.n said...

Traditionalists were open and actively sought to disseminate their culture, naively believing that their character offered redemption for humanity. The progressive sect of wicked solutions fame will not find safe harbor with traditionalists of the white, brown, yellow, or black skin orders outside of the Pro-Choice Church.

mockturtle said...

Multiculturalism, like transgenderism, is a personality disorder. At least in my view.

You may be right. Certainly, there can be multiracial cultures and it's possible to have, as in fact we do, subcultures. But an overriding, dominant culture will always be necessary to a nation's identity.

Patrick Prescott said...

Professor Althouse, This reminds me of my undergraduate major at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Humanities and Catholic Culture. It blew my mind and changed my life.

https://www.franciscan.edu/HumanitiesAndCatholicCulture/

You can scroll down to see the courses.

Zach said...

6000 pages in 90 days is probably too much. You want the students to engage with the material, not just glance over it.

That said, I think there's an untapped market for a humanities course that's *hard.* The only magical thing about STEM courses for people who aren't going to end up working in STEM is that the introductory courses are hard enough to wash out the lazy students. There's no reason you can't do that with the humanities, it's just not the fashion right now.

There really ought to be a way for a student to signal that s/he's hard working and intelligent that doesn't require math. There are a lot of jobs that require hard work and intelligence that don't involve math at all.

Ken said...

I've always said that when the Progressive Vanguard gets going, the best response is to give 'em a bigger megaphone.