Two years ago, I started this blog to comment on an SCS statement about social media and anonymity. In that post, I pointed out how it seemed to be a reaction to a blog post critical of Mary Beard. To be clear, Beard is not to blame if I say that the SCS appeared to be censuring criticism of her. Even if it is not true, the timing was a bad look. I thought about this episode when the SCS released another vague statement about online civility. Will members ever know what impelled the SCS to issue these statements? Who…


I’ve been struggling to decide if I should write about James Kierstead’s (JK) unfair response to Johanna Hanink’s A New Path for Classics. A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that JK is not the sort of writer who can be trusted to represent arguments fairly, a writer who seems more interested in cos-playing reason than using it. A mutual friend suggested I was wrong, that he simply disagrees about the influence of classical Greece and Rome. So, I gave the essay a try: absolutely terrible, full of just the sort of persistent misrepresentations and sophistry that so…


This essay lays out my current thinking about the institutional role of the humanities (and classics). I still have lots of reading and thinking to do, but forcing myself to lay out some basic questions and hypotheses will help focus my continuing research. I am pulling back for a wider view of the question, announced in my title, than current discussions of the best disciplinary shape of the artist formerly known as “classics.” The fundamental questions I am trying to answer for myself are “What exactly is my job? Why should I have it? And, given the answers to the…


I recently read Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms in Italian. I was struck by the texture of the work which has Ginzburg’s academic standard Italian with extensive quotations from the transcripts of the Menocchio trials. For example, Menocchio:

«Credo che chi non fa mal al prossimo non faccia peccato; et perché semo tutti figliuoli di Dio, se non si femo mal l’un l’altro, come per esempio se un padre ha diversi figliuoli, et uno dica “maladetto sia mio padre”, il padre gli perdona, ma s’el rompe la testa ad un figliuol d’un altro non gli può perdonare se…


Barn Burning is classic Murakami (Andrea Lee reads it here): a mysterious woman, an unusual obsession, unfulfilled longing, aging. The story gets its title from the mysterious woman’s boyfriend, who secretly burns down barns every few months without hurting people or animals and without letting the fire spread. Just removes expendable property, he tells the writer. When the woman disappears, there seems to be a symbolic or real (often indistinguishable in Murakami) relationship to the barn burning. Faulkner also wrote a short story about barn burning, although the dynamics are quite different. Faulkner’s barn burnings occur within themes of deep…


I decided to read Zena Hitz’ Lost in Thought because of its subtitle: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life. I was entranced by the book, but as I read, I felt increasing alienated from it. This shift began on page 109: the number of notes filling the margins, increasing in frequency and length, document my growing difficulty. I struggled to finish the book.

Before continuing, there is a relevant aphorism of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg:

When a book and head collide with a hollow sound, is it always from the book? …


More than a few casual internet flâneurs, glancing at the title, have already rolled their eyes in a mixture of superior annoyance and boredom. “Oh dear, another dirty leftist trying to make me feel bad.” Well, put your top-hat back on, dear fellow, and continue your idle stroll.

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In my own online flânerie, I still occasionally stumble upon misunderstandings about the scope and significance of the claim announced in my title, even among well-meaning people (for this reason, not documented). So, I decided to return to the topic.

Yes, I wrote about it before (here). With distance, I can admit…


I was in the process of writing my notes on Adler’s The Battle of Classics (OUP 2020), when I came across Sententiae Antiquae (SA)’s review blog. Now my notes have become a three-legged stool where two legs (Adler, SA) are decidedly longer and sturdier than the short spindly leg that the following notes constitute.

the two-legged stool of Planudes' thoughts

Adler’s main point is that we cannot defend the humanities by talking about skills (e.g. critical thinking); instead, we must focus on content. Adler supports this claim with a series of case studies that make up the majority of the book. …


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Introduction

In April 2019, I started this blog to discuss the Society for Classical Studies’ statement on online anonymity. I used a pseudonym, revealing my “true” name at the end for strategic reasons. I have since removed my name. My main purpose in that blog post and its follow-up was to call attention to the complex nature of anonymity. Although I hinted at some reasons why I am pseudonymous online, I’ve never tried to explain my reasons for it. I’ll remedy that here. Since I don’t like to talk about myself, I will frame my decision within a larger discussion of…


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I recently read an Eidolon piece on Comprehensible Input (CI), which allows me to consider my practice in relation. The essay did not seem to allow for good or even socially responsible language pedagogy outside the CI framework, and I’ve heard rumors of highly contentious disagreements surrounding CI pedagogy, racism, and the American Classical League. I worry that explaining where I part ways with CI will be taken as either (1) taking sides in a controversy that I do not understand or (2) an attack on the pedagogy of pre-college teachers. Neither is my intent, especially since I have and…

Maximus Planudes

The online pseudonym of the other online pseudonym Leopold “Poldy” Bloom. Really, tho, who I am doesn’t matter.

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