John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.
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Garry Wills says Obama's legacy can be summarized in one word: Afghanistan.This seems to me flat-out wrong. Health care? Financial reform? The stimulus and edging away (we hope) from an economic meltdown?But then again no one in 1965 thought the Johnson administration's primary legacy would be Vietnam.
Read about them with Tony Judt. Two ideas from the essay I like:1. In the Britain of the 1950s it was difficult to distinguish smart conversationalists from polished ones.2. The rise of obscurantist theory in the humanities has spawned its opposite: ill-informed "experts" chattering away for hours on television.
The New York Review of Books has its distinguished Latin American correspondent, Alma Guillermoprieto, analyzing the extraordinary Maciel story. Ignore Guillermoprieto's dimestore psychological analysis of the priesthood.
Following on Molly's suggestion for reading tips (and stealing an idea from David Brooks in this week's NYT) I wonder if anyone has any favorite articles, in Commonweal or elsewhere, from the year?I'll scan my Commonweals later and see if I can choose a favorite without offending anyone. Another favorite (if a sobering one) is Timothy Snyder's look at how we should view the Holocaust, the Gulag and what he terms the European killing fields of the mid-twentieth century.
A quick correction to Eric's post from the vantage point of an academic dean. The maternity/paternity policy for faculty, at least, is more than Eric implies. Women faculty are generally excused from teaching in the semester they give birth, effectively giving them a four month or so paid leave. Male faculty who are primary caregivers have the option of delaying their tenure clock. Comparable policies assist any faculty person adopting a child.This is not to say Notre Dame shouldn't do more, or do it differently.
A note in honor of Commonweal's just published fiction issue! I recently came across Louis Menand's characteristically witty assessment of creative writing programs in The New Yorker.For a sample: "Writing teachers may therefore cultivate their own legends. Once, on the first day of class, Angela Carter, who taught at Brown, was asked by a student what her own writing was like.
An unlikely suspect: CIA master spy James Jesus Angleton is said to have first mastered the dark arts of counter-intelligence during the Cold War studying.......English literature. The idea is that the close scrutiny of every scrap of intelligence, the willingness to read against the grain, the constant effort to assess ambiguity cumulatively makes for an analytical style equally useful for John Donne and KGB dispatches. See the interesting attempt to make the connectionhere.
Aninteresting piecein the NYT urging compromise on the question of gay marriage/civil unions. One wonders -- given the public opinion data showing very strong support for gay rights, generally, among people under 30 -- if this will be a hot issue at all 20 years from now. In this sense the contrast with abortion -- 36 years after Roe v. Wade -- is striking.
Seeherefor a stimulating review of two art exhibits, one on Marc Chagall at the Jewish Museum in New York City, one on Georges Rouault at the McMullen museum at Boston College. The Rouault show, expertly curated by Steve Schloesser, S.J., from Boston College, firmly locates Rouault within the Parisian Catholic avante-garde of the mid-20th century. New Republic art critic Jed Perl wishes more scholars would explore the links between religion and twentieth century art.