Author Archives: Claire Potter

March 13, 2015, 10:05 am

What We Are Reading: Michael Zakim’s “Paperwork”

048americansteelpensIn this age of electronic delivery, we at Tenured Radical still receive some of our reading by mail (although not The American Historical Review, which now arrives over the interwebz, deducting $12.00 from our annual dues.) One of these items  is Raritan, a physically beautiful humanities journal out of Rutgers University, founded in 1981 and currently edited by Jackson Lears. Raritan is so about the print side of things that it barely has a Wikipedia entry.

Much to my regret, I often fall behind in my reading — which means I have a stack of back issues of Raritan and other journals that I am slowly making my way through. There is poetry, translations, art criticism, book reviews — it’s kind of an old fashioned literary publication, in a good way: the writing is superb, and the paper is lovely you can enjoy just holding it sometimes. Most of Raritan is written by men,…

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March 7, 2015, 11:20 am

How We Make Money From Books

Dollars in the books, isolated on white background, business traI recently had the good fortune and pleasure of signing, and returning, a new book contract. It is only the third one I have ever been offered, and I am happy to say that over time, these documents seem to be getting shorter, less complicated, and easier to understand. This one is about half the length of my first contract, signed about two decades ago; it also designates an advance that is about $500 lower than that first advance.

I want to tell you why that lower advance is OK, and why my negotiations with the press over the terms of this contract were very brief. To do that, I will tell you another story, one that is about how academics that have money made it. It is based on a snapshot I have just gotten of my own savings, a retirement fund that has more or less survived eight years of low wages in grad school; two years of adjunct labor; paying back student loans; having homes in…

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March 3, 2015, 5:53 pm

What Movie Did You See? A Response to Emily Yoffe’s Review of “The Hunting Ground”

Students protesting rape at Dickinson College, Carlyle, PA.

Students protesting rape at Dickinson College, Carlyle, PA.

Last night I went to see The Hunting Ground, a documentary by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering about rape and anti-rape activism on college campuses that debuted in New York and Los Angeles last Friday. Full disclosure: I was interviewed extensively for this movie, and appear in two clips in the first half hour.

Let me begin by saying that it isn’t an easy movie to watch, even if you have heard all these stories before. Maybe especially if you have heard them before. Some of the cases are notorious. For example, there is the Notre Dame football player who played two games and went to practice every day while the Notre Dame police claimed they couldn’t find them. Then there is  the rape and assault accusation against a star FSU quarterback and Heisman…

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February 13, 2015, 4:14 pm

When You Have A Hammer: Social Media Civil Wrongs

hammer_nail_outlineMy attention is drawn today to an ongoing story about a right-wing faculty blogger at Marquette University who is facing unemployment for trashing a graduate instructor on his blog. Bloggers everywhere may wish to take note — and they may also want to make sure their social media style doesn’t violate university policies.

The original incident occurred in November 2014, and the professor, John McAdams was suspended without pay on December 18.  On February 5,  Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Education reported that things have become more serious and McAdams is now fighting termination. Jaschik writes:

The university says [McAdams] behavior was unprofessional and that he misled the public about what happened in a dispute between the graduate instructor and an undergraduate student. The professor, John McAdams, says he is being punished for his free speech. He also maintains that…

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February 5, 2015, 5:52 am

Historians: Beware of Movie Producers Bearing Gifts

the-producers-gene-wilder-zero-mostel-1968

“It’s about mosquitoes, see. But it’s about more than mosquitoes. It’s about life — lived on the edge, unpredictable and with a frisson of colonial erotics!”

In case you did not read it (and I obviously didn’t until I was on a delightful long train ride in the Black Forest en route to a conference in Freiburg), check out J. R. McNeill’s hilarious account of his Hollywood moment in Perspectives on History (December 2014.) You may recall that McNeill won the American Historical Association’s Albert J. Beveridge book prize a few year’s back for Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1640-1914(New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 2010.) McNeill, who as my father used to say is funnier than a crutch on ice, writes:

One afternoon while I was struggling to grade midterm exams in my…

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January 27, 2015, 4:52 pm

Ending It All; Or, Why Not Retire?

Vintage-surfing-inside-pages

Write all morning, surf all afternoon. Oh yeah.

A dear friend and collaborator has just entered a well-deserved retirement. When I wrote to congratulate her and express my senior envy, she replied: “Do the math, Radical. It’s closer than you think.” I hope so. Of course, she was always better at math than I.

I am, like many people, more ambivalent about retirement than that sounds. I love my work, but I love some aspects of it more than others; I find some activities more rewarding than others; and there are other things, that I used to love, that make me grumpy. I can never tell from year to year what those things will be. For example, here’s a big yuck for you: I think committee service has its appeals. Certainly as someone was hired as a mid-career prof by a large urban university, it had been one of the few…

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January 25, 2015, 12:00 pm

On Gay Marriage and the Trouble With Queer

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From left, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, same sex marriage litigants. Paul Sancya/Associated Press

There are plenty of righteous political arguments against LGBT people organizing their lives around marriage and family formation. I say this as someone who was relieved to learn I was a lesbian, even though coming out was tough, because the last thing I wanted was to marry and parent children. I wanted work, and I wanted freedom, and being a person who was legally barred from both parenthood and marriage was a huge relief. I also took it too far, and made myself obnoxious to others. People who knew me when I was young may remember that I could be downright nasty towards the special insights, pleasures and benefits that many of my feminist mentors associated with mothering (whatever afterlife you are in, Sara Ruddick

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January 21, 2015, 12:00 pm

How Tenured Radical Thinks The GOP Will Respond To Obama’s Plan For Free Community College

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January 17, 2015, 1:07 pm

The Mysteries of Facebook: Part II

Anonymous-Mask-01Last night I broke my only New Year’s Resolution: don’t argue, or provoke others to argument, on social media. What I am talking about is what I call “the cycle.” This is a mental feedback loop of incessant open-ended arguing, often with insults and others jumping in and repeating arguments already made.This is accompanied by obsessive checking of Facebook (or Twitter) to see what the latest insult to my personal integrity is. It’s one of several things about Facebook that make me feel bad, just bad. It is also a humungous time waster.

The worst thing is that, when it happens, it is usually entirely my own fault.

Here’s what happens: scrolling through my feed, someone I do not know posts a comment or status update that has elements  that are bound to annoy me. These might include:  a statement that poses as radical, but actually just repeats a well-known political critique; an…

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January 13, 2015, 2:25 pm

The Mysteries of Facebook: Part I

Mark-Zuckerberg_5

You win, Mark Zuckerberg!

During the orientation for a meditation class I signed up to take this winter, the instructor notified us that we would need to make between 40 and 60 minutes a day available for our practice. “You need to figure out where you are going to find that time,” he said, calmly but firmly.

The first thought that popped into my head was: Facebook. Duh.

I spend a lot less time on Facebook now than I have in the past. Sometime last year I removed the Facebook app from my iPhone (by chance, I learned yesterday while listening to NPR that this might have already boosted my creativity by allowing me to be bored while waiting in line at Murray’s Bagels.) I consciously turn Facebook off when I am writing, so that my concentration is not interrupted by unnecessary multitasking. I decided that…

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