UPDATE: Amazingly, the anti-First Amendment crowd fell one vote short. Good news for a change, accompanied by more overblown rhetoric. Bill Frist noted, lamenting the bill's failure, that many soldiers had died for the flag. I hope not! I prefer to think they died for what the flag represents, not the flag itself.
RP 28 is a special issue on war and liberty, 90% of which was guest-edited by Carrie-Ann Biondi and Irfan Khawaja, and it looks great. It predominantly features a symposium on Angelo Codevilla's No Victory, No Peace (and a future issue will include his reply), and it also includes the proceedings of the 2003 AAPSS symposium on war and liberty, which featured papers by myself and by L&P co-blogger Roderick Long (and which I’ve been promising L&P readers I’d make available – now done!) Rounding out the war section is an essay by Timothy Sandefur on the Civil War. RP 28 also includes part 2 of the 2-part Walter Block opus which began in RP 27. The book section features reviews of Roger Kimball’s book on art and Hilary Putnam’s book on the fact/value dichotomy, plus a longer essay by Steven Sanders on Stephen Hicks’ book on postmodernism. While you’ll have to buy the issue to see most of this without waiting, there are a few pieces available for free download now. Big thanks to Stephan Kinsella for mad skillz with the PDFs.
(HT to one of Paul's commenters)
Hat tip: Frank Stephenson at Division of Labour, who has been posting a lot of great stuff the last couple days. (Yes, I'm actually hat-tipping another blogger for reminding me to post links to my own writing.)
First of all, the fact that a professor writes an essay about Seinfeld, or even makes a reference to Seinfeld in class, isn’t the same thing as “teaching Seinfeld.” Now I realize that there are college courses on TV – typically in mass comm., or lit, and even sometimes in philosophy, but I think what’s more prevalent is the incorporation of popular culture reference points into otherwise-standard courses. For instance, if I were teaching a straightforward intro-to-ethics class, using Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and the other usual suspects, I might nevertheless illuminate a particular point by referring to a Seinfeld episode. (Yes, I’ve written on this.)
Second of all, it’s not necessarily bad to teach a course involving a TV show, provided that it’s done responsibly – e.g., by using an analysis of the show as means to hook into the same universal themes and ideas that any fiction does. I myself do this infrequently, but I know folks who do it more regularly, and I can tell from their syllabi that they’re doing real work. Any particular prof could, of course, be an idiot, but that’s not an indictment of an entire methodology. Watman might have been more justified showing how pomo silliness trivializes all literary studies, but it’s not just pomo studies of TV which do this, pomo studies of any art form have this effect. In other words, the proper objection to nihilistic pomo TV studies isn’t that it’s about TV, it’s that it’s nihilistic pomo omphaloskepsis.
Even if Watman is right about this book, why should that mean that college professors should, as a rule, not discuss popular culture in the classroom or write essays about it? Often, the essays on popular culture subjects can be used to introducereaderstomoresubstantiveareasofinquiry. Other times, the popular culture item can be an excellent subject for a particular exploration. Not to get all tu quoque or anything, but Watman’s claim to fame is a book on horse racing – why is there something potentially profound and interesting about horse racing, but not TV?
Again, I haven’t read this book – maybe it’s as bad as Watman says. In that case, he would have done better to pan the book for its own flaws, rather than try to score trendspotting points by lumping together all the recent work on popular culture.
An afterthought – since he’s writing for a conservative magazine, he might have been hoping to hook into some generalized “we don’t like left-wing academics” meme among the readership, but as it happens, many of the people writing on the intersection of their disciplines with popular culture are conservatives or libertarians. So the moral of the story is: review the book you were assigned to review, and don’t think it’s necessarily part of some trend.
Author Meets Critics: Jan Narveson's Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice
Session Chair/Moderator: Tibor R. Machan (Chapman University)
Irfan Khawaja (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)
Carrie-Ann Biondi (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)
Matt Zwolinski (Univ. of San Diego)
Jan Narveson (Univ of Waterloo)
Sounds like an excellent panel, if I do say so myself.
UPDATE: On rereading the NYT obit, I couldn't help but notice that they describe We the Living as"an anti-communist film." It is, of course, but it's anti-fascist as well."Anti-totalitarian" or"anti-collectivist" would be more complete descriptions, and, given the historical use of the expression"anti-communist" in America, less misleading. Just a thought.
UPDATE 2: David Boaz has more here.