Category Archives: the Radical Strolls Down Memory Lane

April 8, 2013, 9:53 am

What A World Without Women’s Studies Looked Like


Before women’s studies, these signs were invisible.

Mariam Chamberlain, one of the founding mothers of women’s studies, died last week at the age of 94.  A Ph.D. in economics, as a program officer at the Ford Foundation she disbursed around $5 million in grants to identify key areas for curricular change, as well to establish research on women through institutes like the Center for Women Policy Studies.

It’s easy to forget how important women’s studies was to reshaping what knowledge looked like. In part this is because there are fewer and fewer of us who remember what universities that were almost entirely run by and for men looked like. But the success of women’s studies has led to its transformation — into feminist studies, gender studies, queer studies — and to inevitable (as well as important)…

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November 22, 2012, 10:41 am

Why Did The Pilgrims Establish A Day Of Thanksgiving?

To get a long weekend for catching up on their grading, of course.

Oh yeah, Thanksgiving has a bunch of origin stories, but this is the one no one knows. See, in 1621 the Pilgrims had assigned a bunch of papers and got backed up, as is not uncommon even for really conscientious faculty. But the Pilgrims had been staking out a new empire and purifying the Anglican church. They were simply overcommitted, and had not yet “learned to say no” as so many of us are now usefully instructed to do by senior colleagues.

The Wampanoags, however, were concerned about their grades, particularly since it was well past midterms. They came over and were like, “Yo! When are we getting our papers back?” In a classic feint that had first been used at Oxford back in 1321, the Puritan forefathers said, “We are almost done grading but in the meantime, why don’t you come to dinner and bring the main…

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September 10, 2012, 10:35 pm

Join Tenured Radical In New York

Illustration credit: Alex Spector, “The Sun”, 2002 Library of Congress

Tomorrow will be the first time I have been in New York on September 11 since before the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. Furthermore, I now live in a building that not only looks out over Lower Manhattan, but has a clear view of where the World Trade Center used to be and the Freedom Tower has arisen. This morning I woke up to a blue, cloudless sky and was overwhelmed with…dread.

Although I knew that life would change that day as the two tallest buildings in New York burned, twisted, and dissolved, I never could have predicted that this country would be at war for more than a decade. This was just as inconceivable as the idea that dedicated terrorists would learn to drive jetliners so that they could steer them into buildings full of…

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June 19, 2011, 4:08 pm

A Radical History Review: A Perhaps Unnecessary, But Overdue, Tribute To My Dad

We at Tenured Radical no longer have a father to give presents to, or buy cards for, on Father’s Day.  When we did have a father, this is who he was.  He probably had as many flaws as the next 1960s and 1970s Dad, but he was a very nice person, a widely admired physician, and a hard worker.  He went out of his way to make a nice life for his family and to provide the resources that made it possible for both of his daughters to have an excellent education.

Although I don’t think he would have described himself this way, he was an organic intellectual who had tremendous curiosity about the natural, social, cultural and political world.  He was the Oliver Saks of internal medicine, collecting and collating information with what I can only describe as pleasure, putting it together like a puzzle until all the pieces fit. In practical terms, this meant he was a very good and thorough doctor, a…

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January 2, 2011, 3:47 pm

I Killed My Book: And Other Highly Personal Thoughts On Writing To Begin the New Year

What would life be like if you started over again?

Sometime last fall I made decision to kill a book that I had worked on for a long, long time, a book that people still ask me about.  This is how it went.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I began Tenured Radical back in 2006 because I was in a Bad Way and trying to Work Out $ome $hit.  At the time,  I had gone through a major institutional trauma and survived it, just barely, and at a high cost to those close to me.   Central to this institutional trauma was a rather profound and vicious trashing of The Book.  Blogging became a way of returning to the book, a project that had become so utterly soiled by its use as a vehicle for expressing contempt for me that I couldn’t look at it without becoming enraged or suffering a profound sense of loss.

For a time, blogging worked to jump start what constituted a rescue operation rather than …

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June 27, 2010, 12:14 pm

Sunday Radical Roundup: Gay Supreme Court Pride Edition

After our busy, busy week here at Tenured Radical, we think it is time for a calm and genteel set of items to keep you busy this Sunday. To wit:

Kagan Hearings Kick Off On Monday: Thanks to Prawfs Blawg, a group blog maintained by a bunch of guys teaching in law schools around the United States, we have the witness list for the Elena Kagan hearings that start tomorrow at 12:30 (hat tip.). While they will begin with the senators going on record at tedious length (“life begins at conception, yack, yack, yack“) as if we and their constituents did not already know what they thought, testimonies to tune in for might be Lily Ledbetter, the litigant in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire (2007), called by the majority; and Stephen Presser, legal historian from Northwestern, called by the minority. Presser, who mostly writes about corporate law, can also be expected to speculate on how Kagan’s

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August 28, 2009, 8:04 pm

On Sin, Forgiveness and Redemption: A Few Thoughts On The Loss Of My Friend, Senator Kennedy

On July 19, 1969, Edward M. Kennedy drove off the Dike Bridge connecting Edgartown, MA to Chappaquiddick Island; the car overturned and filled with water. Kennedy managed to free himself and swim to shore, while his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to the slain Robert F. Kennedy, did not escape. She drowned, and perhaps suffered terribly as Kennedy ran and failed to call the police or an ambulance, or even to tell anyone who might have helped Kopechne, until the next day. Whether she might have been saved or not is an open question, and because of this Kopechne is forever seared in our collective historical memory as a victim of Kennedy’s recklessness, wealth and self-destructiveness. Her death resulted from a kind of privileged, masculine disdain for women that was so common that it was culturally invisible prior to the feminist activism of the 1970s. While the Senator…

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February 16, 2009, 3:27 pm

The Radical Is Reminded Of A Time When Intellectuals Were Witty And Television Talk Shows Were Smart

Because I have no time to post today; and because the pace of the semester has been ramped up to a new level of insanity this week; and because I think everything has been said about the last post that can possibly be said; and because the best way to stop a comments thread is to put up a new post to distract everyone; and because I am not feeling in the least witty, I would like to re-publish this wonderful 1971 clip from the Dick Cavett Show:

I would like to point out that it is not just the lefties (Cavett and Vidal) who are acute and funny (Mailer, although on the left, I know, was just such an ass I don’t know why any of his wives didn’t stab him before he got to one of them.) But Midge Decter’s intervention reminds me that in 1971 conservatives had razor wits too, not to mention good manners and gender politics, which is why in high school I used to subscribe to what became…

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January 8, 2009, 2:38 pm

The Radical’s History Reviewed: When I Was Bad, I Was Horrid

Mostly because they have been linked by my history colleague Historiann, I have of late been drawn to the luridly enraged and cruelly hilarious posts at Rate Your Students. A blog response to the notorious, RYS, from my point of view, is a kind of academic pornography: it’s outrageous, and it relies on cruel caricatures of students that have enough truth in them to make them universally recognizable — the terrible students described at this blog can be found at a community college, an Ivy, or any stop in between. It doesn’t stop at pillorying undergraduates, but produces the occasional post that skewers graduate students for being whining, careless little piss-ants.

You will notice that RYS is not on the list of blogs I follow regularly (see widget on the left), but in fact I do follow it regularly from a bookmarked link in my Safari navbar. While there are many …

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January 3, 2009, 12:05 pm

Wrap-up of AHA Day 1: The Radical Hasn’t Been To A Session Yet

And doesn’t really expect to. I’ll be lucky to make the book exhibit. Much as I would like to see some scholars perform their scholarship in groups, this year I am fated to see them do it one at a time in hotel rooms. Which is interesting, but not exactly the community experience one expects of a scholarly meeting. However, since Zenith seems to be one of the few schools that did not cancel its searches, it makes us minor celebrities. Thanks, (Not So) New President.

Yesterday’s highlights outside of the hotel room where my search committee was meeting included brisk walks up and down the Avenue of the Americas (quickest cutover to the Doubletree, where our interviews are being held, is on 47th street – that way you exchange the clots of tourists on Broadway who stop and take pictures of each other in front of the ESPN studios for the not much lighter, but moving crowds on Sixth…

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