U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Tim’s Light Reading (11/25/2009)

1. Christopher Hitchens dissects the anti-intellectualism that surrounds Sarah Palin—I’m no general fan of Hitchens but he points to a number of inexplicable intellectual contradictions surrounding last year’s flavor of a few months.

2. The Fears And Hopes of 1958’s Intellectuals—Courtesy of the University of Chicago’s Law School, the concerns and thoughts of some of 1958’s more eminent intellectuals were preserved in a time capsule. Opened a year and one-half late, the capsule contains letters from: Jacques Maritain; Carl Friedrich; Edward Teller; Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.; and several other Supreme Court Justices. There is a slideshow highlights the opening and some of the contents—as well as conservators in action!

3. A Misleading AP Headline? This AP article sells itself as follows: “Bishops discuss authority over Catholic colleges.” I have been trying to decide whether the lead is sensational. My academic and Catholic reading glasses say yes. I mean, what academic wouldn’t cringe at the thought of a bishop controlling the work of her/his college? But is this what the article’s author, Rachel Zoll, intended or meant? The content gives mixed messages (underscores mine):

—Exhibit A: “Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of the bishops’ conference, revealed this week that he had formed a task force charged with reviewing the issue. Its research included a look at what church law says about bishops’ authority over the schools.”

—Exhibit B: “George said the issue would be taken up at the meeting as part of a broader look at what groups can legitimately call themselves Catholic. ‘If those relationships — which don’t mean control, they mean relationship — are now weakened, then we have to think of ways to enter discussion in order to strengthen them, and to redefine perhaps what are the criteria for a university or any other organization to consider itself Catholic,’ George said in an interview ahead of this week’s meeting.”

So, it seems to be more about identity than control. But hasn’t this issue been in the news for 10-20 years or more? Because it has, I suppose we now need the twist of control and authoritarian bishops to draw us in? Or has identity morphed into different story in light of the recent actions of bishops (e.g. protests over Obama at Notre Dame)? Even so, I don’t think this is a case of twenty-first century anti-Catholicism, per the recent musings of New York’s Bishop Timothy Dolan. But is this headline about changing views of the bishops, or does it have something to do with competition between old and new media. Perhaps AP is feeling some pressure to sensationalize? Or maybe my knowledge of the history of Catholicism is clouding my reading of the story?

4. Messiah College’s John Fea Reflects on what Messiah Students would give up for an iPhone: No, this is not a sensationalist headline. I don’t want to give away Fea’s story, but I’ll tease you with his conclusion: “In the end, those who fear that Christian college students are mounting some sort of assault to overtake the country with their Christian ideals, political virtue or spiritually-inspired disinterestedness seem to have little to worry about.”

5. The Varieties of Public Intellectualism: This post by my friend Michael Kramer, particularly subpoint (3), touches on a number of conceptual issues that will be of interest to those working on the history of public intellectuals.

6. Grover Krantz, His Dog Clyde, Bigfoot, and Remembering Public Intellectuals: One of our faithful readers, Samuel Redman, a history graduate student at Berkeley, meditates in this post on Grover Krantz’s place in America’s pantheon of public intellectuals. According Krantz’s autobiography, Only a Dog, Clyde saved Krantz’s career and personal life. This is why they are exhibited together at the Smithsonian. Krantz made some recognizable contributions to late twentieth-century anthropology. But Redman fears we historians will only remember Krantz’s relationship with Clyde and Krantz’s belief in the existence of Bigfoot (Krantz being one of the few professionals who did not disavow that mountain legend). Perhaps. I can’t reassure him too much on that account, but who kid resist a Bigfoot hook, at least, to draw a few readers in?! – TL