I’m a very active presence on Facebook, constantly clogging 650-odd people’s newsfeeds with links and commentary about politics, literature/history/culture, academia, queer issues, and miscellany. Since I have some time this summer, I’m going to try to collate the week’s postings in this space, in a regular feature I’ll be calling “This Week on the Internet.” It will start with some required reading (whose necessity I’m in earnest about), and go from there. There will also be a “Links from Others” section, in which I will credit those who send me items by first name. If you would prefer not to have your first name listed here, or if you would like a link to your blog/site with your credit, just let me know. I hope to make this feature into a bit of a clip-show periodical, and I hope you’ll follow along!
The author’s mother passed on to her Mark Slouka’s article in Harper’s on antagonism towards the humanities in modern U.S. culture and politics, which generated a fair amount of discussion in the comments. The consensus was that, while Slouka’s overall points about the way in which STEM fields are favored as “more useful” at the humanities’ expense are right on, he seemed to also unfairly suggest that STEM fields aren’t important to a well-functioning society in their own right. The enthusiastic conversation that we need both sides of the coin was heartening in terms of ensuring the humanities’ continued survival!
Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate about David Souter’s Harvard commencement speech and the necessity of judicious jurisprudence. It’s a must-read which is well-complemented by Martha Nussbaum’s Globe and Mail plea for the humanities: good justices need to be good close-readers!
Though entirely frivolous, the headline “William Shatner makes plea for B.C.’s wild salmon was the funniest thing I’ve read this week.
Below the fold: American and world politics, Queer/LGBT issues, academia, books, history and literary criticism, culture, links from others, observations on my own reading/research.
American and World Politics
On Monday, I took note of Hendrik Hertzberg’s June 4 blog post about Elena Kagan’s Princeton senior thesis, and observed that there is some merit to pointing out that this is a good undergraduate thesis, a good work of history written by a 21-year-old. Senior theses are necessarily going to be immature, the sort of thing that you read when you’re a grown-up professional and cringe. The takeaway point is not, this thesis suggests something of the kind of jurist Kagan will be (it doesn’t); but rather, oh shit: I have to write something like this in not too long—and yes, for us Princeton history majors, Kagan set a pretty high bar. I also linked to the NYT coverage of the Helen Thomas scandal, while meanwhile in the UK, some controversial proposed legislation about rape defendants drew concern in the comments.
Tuesday began with a Washington Post op-ed in support of marriage equality, which I linked to because it is co-authored by CAP CEO John Podesta—the takeaway being that marriage equality is so unequivocally a center-left-Washington-establishment position. This was promptly followed by Tenured Radical’s take on the Helen Thomas scandal. Since it was the Super Tuesday of the midterm primary season, I also devoted plenty of attention to primary coverage.
Wednesday meant that the primary results were in, and so I took note of one of the most interesting ballot measures to pass in California, and then blogged about it at Campus Progress. Also notable were some coverage of the primary results from across the pond, and the possibility of new limits on executive-branch power.
On Thursday, I enthusiastically noted a NYRB article which, I feel, accurately portrays pro-privatization K-12 education policy as the conservative thing that it is. And Friday featured the pope, and marriage equality in the U.S. (hypothetically) and—thanks to a tip from Michael—Iceland (actually). A NYT article on credit unions made me proud to be a member of two
On Monday, Time reported on a study suggesting that the children of lesbian parents are better-adjusted and higher-achieving than their peers with straight or opposite-sex parents. Some discussion on Facebook centered on possible flaws in the study, which I blogged about at Campus Progress. I also linked to a good post from Tenured Radical which provides some historical context for the issues surrounding Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Tuesday’s big, sad news was that the gay couple from Malawi who had been put on trial for gross indecency and saw their hard-labor sentences commuted split up for safety’s sake, a reasonable move under the circumstances of, you know, not being assaulted and things. There was more dispiriting news, too, from the UK, where an organization which helps Iraqi LGBT refugees expressed concern about the UK’s willingness to accept more refugees.
Thursday morning began with the hope that hearings on the gay blood donors ban would result in the ban’s repeal, but alas, that was not what the HHS committee recommended on Friday, a fact which got me very angry indeed about the continued dismissal of HIV/AIDS as a gay disease. There was also, however, a funny post from the SF Chronicle about gay Republicans and teabags. Need I say more?
Finally, this weekend, Andrew passed on a fascinating interview in the LA Times with Calfornia state senator Roy Ashburn, who was outed rather dramatically recently, and we wished D.C. and Boston, among other cities, a happy Pride!
Yet another Chronicle of Higher Ed blog post questioned the wisdom of going to grad school, to which I responded that there is no harm in spending 7-10 years in grad school, as long as you’re doing it for the grad school and not cause you think you’ll necessarily get a job at the end—though I acknowledged that this is totally Ivy-League privilege talking, and that at the end of the day, wanting it more than anything in the world just isn’t enough. From Canada, the news that (as in the U.S.), faculty bodies are raising concerns about religious colleges’ requirement of statements of faith, which can come into conflict both with academic freedom and with said faculty bodies’ nondiscrimination policies; in the Globe and Mail Martha Nussbaum argued passionately for the teaching of the humanities. And across the pond, more concern about cuts to the humanities at UK universities.
Next week’s Nation has a worth-reading article about the demise of newspapers’ and magazines’ book-review sections; NPR had a nice little list of historical fiction to read this summer. I took issue, however, with Martin Amis’ seemingly-sour-grapes assertion that “only unenjoyable books win literary prizes,” observing that I found Wolf Hall, which I finished recently, very enjoyable. The New Yorker books blog had a totally cute post of books carried by the players in the Nation–New Yorker softball game last weekend. A TNR books post by Jed Perl mused interestingly on modern writers’ relationship to their audience, and I found that as a blogger I could relate to his point of view. The WashPo ran a list of previous decades’ bestsellers, which was interesting.
History and Literary Criticism
A THE review of a book about queer readings of Dickens explained very well to me why I am not a literary critic (I would get too bogged down by historical detail to engage accurately with the theory!). The fantastic historical NYT Sunday magazine blog posted a 1910 article about immigration that was a real plus-ça-change moment.
One of the best discussions the Facebook comment community has ever had was spurred by my inquiry as to what readers made of Lady Gaga’s new video, “Alejandro.” Observations (which went back and forth between mine and my sister’s wall as well) ranged from concern about Nazi imagery to speculation about homoeroticism and references to Walter Benjamin. As a Sephardic Jew, I was entertained to note a NYT article about all Jews’ genetic similarity; I got sarcastic, however, at the NYT coverage of Swedish gender politics. I caught up on Tony Judt’s memoir series in the NYRB, and was very glad I did so. I objected that not all Millenials are tattooed, though Zeitlin pointed out in the comments that many are. And, sadly, Hair is closing after a year-plus run on Broadway, though the NYT asserted that the current generation of teenagers (perhaps influenced by High School Musical and Glee) has made musical theater popular again.
Links from Others
Derek pointed us to a BBC report about the hacker who told on a WikiLeaks military source. Oscar alerted us to an early report about the revelation that the Bush administration conducted what may have amounted to medical experiments on detainees, which the NYT then confirmed. Again from Derek, the results of a study about college students’ empathy, though with its methodological problems. Lily passed on a fascinating chart of writers from Lapham’s Quarterly, which got me reading Lapham’s Quarterly in earnest.
Observations on My Own Reading/Research
On Tuesday, I read Wilde’s “The Portrait of Mr. W.H.,” and thought about gay or proto-gay men’s search for validation in literature, something which strikes me as a consistent pattern. I posted a number of quotes from the story which struck me as important. I also finished Ellmann’s canonical biography of Oscar Wilde, provoking a number of observations—many of which are summarized in this blog post, and I noted that I need to read more things by and about Henry James.