For almost a decade, I've talked about this book. I figured it was time to actually read it. An interesting and captivating study in ideas (somethingFor almost a decade, I've talked about this book. I figured it was time to actually read it. An interesting and captivating study in ideas (something I hope to do with my scholarship one day).
Upon finishing it, I'm struck by my mixed feelings. Said's main argument, that Orientalism is a completely fabricated epistemology designed more for Western scholars to reassure themselves about their own Occidental attributes than for any accurate description of the East, is spot on. His explanation of how this all came about, his proposed genealogy, seems reductive. Most disappointingly (and Said himself admits to this defect) is the lack of any foundation of speakers from the Near or Middle East, subaltern or no, who can offer disruptive and different narratives of individual experience that could shatter, once and for all, the hegemony of Orientalism.
I don't think it matters that Said falls short on the how. However, it matters a great deal that only a token paragraph or points to the imperative next step of finding and listening to the voices that can permanently dislodge the false and totalizing ideas endemic to Orientalism. So there's a project. If anyone cares to point me in the direction where that's already started (I imagine I'll need to brush up on my Arabic, Persian, Turkish, etc.), go for it. ...more
I read the original English translation for about half the book, then switched to the Woods translation after scanning some reviews.
Here's the thing.I read the original English translation for about half the book, then switched to the Woods translation after scanning some reviews.
Here's the thing. I liked this book in its stilted century-old translation. I liked it a lot after the switch. But I really had no conception of how much I liked it until I finished the last page this morning. It was one of those epiphany moments when all the diatribes, tangents, bizarre events and intimations all tie back in together and you can't help but nod (and chastise yourself for not being a close enough reader to understand that Mann let you know that was going to happen the whole time).
It's a lovely and bittersweet feeling to finish a long novel like this and realize you're going to have to read the whole thing again. Lovely because of the obvious pleasure that precedes such a realization, and bittersweet because heaven knows when I'm going to sit down with this one again. ...more
What a lovely idea. What utterly hapless execution.
Shepard and Marquardt get the two stars for compiling, to some degree, information not widely knowWhat a lovely idea. What utterly hapless execution.
Shepard and Marquardt get the two stars for compiling, to some degree, information not widely known about figures like Luke and Lyman Johnson and William B. McLellin and for asking important questions about pivotal members in Mormon church history that have been largely forgotten or caricatured. But 2 stars is pushing it.
The writing is horrendous, and Signature Books should fire their editor or, at the very least, send him or her to a basic writing class. Organization, unity, coherence, editorializing at awkward mid-paragraph moments, inserting exceedingly minor characters into the middle of a narrative without any explanation of who they were or why they were connected, endless explanation of the same thing (they were all in Kirtland, I got it)--that's the starting list.
Beyond the interesting information contained in part of the last third of the book, this book treats in facile explanation and superficial history. 20 years ago, this would have been par for the course. But how, in a day and age when we have had a whole host of superb history written, can I even begin to respect this scholarship? It falls well below the bar.
Let's call this a mulligan. Next time, let's do some more digging, some more rigorous contextualizing (no more of the insipid "they had, after all, met one another in the mid-1830s when the national emphasis was Manifest Destiny, small farmer rights, and personal freedom [end of context]"--I can read Wikipedia myself, thanks), and make a call. Is there enough to write a book about an individual (like Luke Johnson, William Smith, or William McLellin)? Excellent. Give them the attention and thoughtfulness they deserve. Is there not (perhaps in the case of John Boynton)? Then keep it article length and publish it in the many appropriate venues available. Do you want to connect all these men? Fine, but determine a coherent narrative organization that doesn't require endless repetition and sloppy writing. ...more
Joanna Brooks baffles me. I would say "us," as in the Mormon "us," but I've long figured out that I don't get to speak for Mormons, let alone for anyJoanna Brooks baffles me. I would say "us," as in the Mormon "us," but I've long figured out that I don't get to speak for Mormons, let alone for any us, including my 2-year old (We'll eat some carrots now..."No, Daddy. Treats.").
Brooks is at her best when she's telling her story. She's at her worst when she intimates an inside knowledge into an "us"--Mormon liberals, Mormon feminists, the unorthodox, the brave.
Her chapter on Proposition 8 resonated strongly with me. I'm still working out and writing down feelings that got tied up in knots during that time, and I wasn't even in California then. Her first chapter masterfully weaves a tale of how our faith and traditions created an almost magical childhood. Even though I couldn't describe my own upbringing that way, her individual experience spoke volumes that touched me on a level more important than the factual.
But my teeth grated as I read chapters about how they (Mormon conservative leaders and their mindlessly obedient followers) did intellectually belittling things that we (enlightened liberal intellectuals) couldn't stand.
I'm a Mormon liberal. I'm a Mormon feminist. But unlike Brooks, I have made it my life's work to work on the church from the inside, showing that liberality and feminism is orthodoxy. To be honest, I'm sometimes unsure which one of our paths is the brave one, but I wonder if my ilk would be considered deluded dreamers by those more vocal (at least to outsiders) and more estranged critical brothers and sisters.
Just writing that paragraph, I felt like I was tussling for first chair in the vanguard of the proletariat. Funny how we frame our closest comrades as our dearest rivals.
I admire Brooks greatly. She almost certainly didn't mean to create an us/them dichotomy. She's much to smart for that, so it may just be that old Mormon defensiveness kicking in that Brooks so aptly and accurately describes.
Even as I write this, I doubt my criticism. Maybe Brooks is a Mormon Richard Wright, and I'm just a little mad she aired all our dramatized dirty laundry in front of the "gentile folks." But confident or no, I am grateful for this book, and I am grateful to Brooks for writing it. I hope the vast army of truth seekers she foresees in her final chapters write volumes and volumes that complement, criticize, contradict, and confirm what we learn here.
Maybe that includes me. Writing workshop, anyone?...more
This is a pretty exhaustive catalog summing up the basic research in instructional psychology that's applicable to faculty across disciplines. While tThis is a pretty exhaustive catalog summing up the basic research in instructional psychology that's applicable to faculty across disciplines. While there are plenty of duh studies (did you know that providing your students with clear expectations for an assignment will motivate them because they won't see grading and evaluation as arbitrary???), this work is particularly useful as a gut-check reference. I used it this semester to make sure I had time built in to my courses to effectively help my students learn the most important concepts and all that entails (mastering constituent skills, observing me or someone else model correct approaches, reflect on the assignment, etc.).
What this book does not do, or only hints at with accomplished subtlety, is the academic culture that denigrates teaching, placing it well below research and even service on the list of important-things-that-define-your-career. This has always struck me as absurd and has led, more than any other factor, to my current situation of masquerading on the fringes of the academy unsure of whether to dedicate my life to a career in a field with such skewed priorities....more