Michael Austin

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I am an English professor who became an administrator who dreams of being a political pundit. After eleven years teaching English and writing books like this, I accepted a position as the Provost and Academic Vice President at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas. All the while, though, I dreamed of being a talking head. Soon after moving into administration, I started to write the Founderstein Blog, which examines contemporary politics from a historical perspective. My most recent book is That's Not What They Meant Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wing, a 75,000 word op-ed piece that treats the misuse of history by conservative politicians and media personalities.

Euripides, Eumenides: What Marriage-Equality Advocates Can Learn From Aeschylus

One of the strange, yet non-negotiable principles upon which I base my life is that poetry actually matters. This bizarre quirk of mine got a big boost this week when Dr. Christopher P. Long came to Newman to talk about the liberal arts, and, specifically, Aeschylus’s great tragedy The Eumenidies—a presentation that, quite by coincidence, took place on the very day that the Supreme Court heard... Read more of this blog post »
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Published on March 29, 2013 09:23
Average rating: 4.27 · 2,480 ratings · 494 reviews · 39 distinct worksSimilar authors
That's Not What They Meant!...

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Re-reading Job Understandin...

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Reading the World: Ideas Th...

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Useful Fictions: Evolution,...

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Look Homeward, An...
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A Place for Us
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Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
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Our Little Secret by Kevin   Flynn
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The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz
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A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
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Death Comes As Epiphany by Sharan Newman
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A solid, well-plotted, and mystery with interesting characters and lucid prose. And with Héloïse and Abelard thrown in to make it all really compelling.
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Death Before Compline by Sharan Newman
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Good Night, Mr. Holmes by Carole Nelson Douglas
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The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
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Bread in the Wilderness by Thomas Merton
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Your Sister in the Gospel by Quincy D Newell
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“None of us wants to reject our core assumptions about the universe and start all over again. It is hard work, and it deprives us of nearly everything that makes us feel secure.”
Michael Austin, Re-reading Job Understanding the Ancient World s Greatest Poem

“Why did the best Jewish poet of the post-exile generation choose the (probably) Persian fable of Job as the basis for his greatest work? What does the obviously Hebrew poet want to accomplish by presenting Job as an “Everyman” character rather than as a Jew? What does this suggest about the way that the Abrahamic Covenant was understood by at least some people during the Babylonian captivity? What different perspectives do Job’s Comforters represent? Who in the poet’s culture held the views attributed to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar? Why do Job’s friends hold so firmly to their belief in Job’s guilt? Why are they willing to condemn the man that they came to comfort? What do they consider more important than friendship? Do we ever act like they do? How does the poet want us to answer the question, “Why do people suffer?” How does he not want us to answer this question? Why does the poet represent God at the end of Job as an asker of questions rather than as a giver of answers? Does the God that the poet presents at the end of the poem deserve our respect, or just our fear? Is there a difference? Does the final prose segment of Job undercut the poem? Or does the poem’s rebuttal undercut its ideology so effectively that it becomes ironic? Is it possible to believe in a God of rewards and punishments after reading Job?”
Michael Austin, Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem

“Consider Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven.” Here we have a first-person narrator whose wife or lover, Lenore, has recently died. He is in his library searching through his books to find a way to make her death meaningful—or even understandable. When a raven enters the library, the narrator takes it as a sign and asks a series of increasingly desperate questions. The raven, of course, has long been a symbol for death, and the questions that the narrator asks the raven are all really questions about death. Is there a heaven? Does death come from God or the Devil? Will he ever get over her death? Will he see her again? These are likely the same things he was trying to find out from his books. But while the books may have tried to give answers, the raven—death itself—says only one word: “Nevermore.” So this is a poem that makes claims—or, more specifically, it is a poem that rejects claims. It rejects the notion that anyone can know anything about death, or what happens after death, except that a person who has died no longer exists. All that death “says” to us is “Nevermore.” If we try to go beyond this, we will eventually suffer the narrator’s fate and become insane. Many people would disagree vigorously with this premise. Some people believe that the spirits of the dead become ghosts that we can still communicate with. Others believe in heaven, hell, reincarnation, Nirvana, or some knowable final destination for the soul. I can imagine a number of different ways that one might go about rebutting Poe’s metaphysical truth claims. But it makes no difference whether or not ravens can talk. Nothing about Poe’s poem can be supported, or refuted, by scientific knowledge about the vocalization mechanisms of the Corvus corax. Nor does it matter whether or not Edgar Allen Poe ever knew anybody named Lenore, or owned a “bust of Pallas,” or did or said any of the things described in the poem. “The Raven” makes metaphysical truth claims that we can isolate and evaluate. But these claims do not depend on either the history or the science of the poem turning out to be true.”
Michael Austin, Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem

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“The question is not how to get cured, but how to live.”
Joseph Conrad

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
William Butler Yeats

“The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore, so it eats it! It's rather like getting tenure.”
Daniel Dennett

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

“None of us wants to reject our core assumptions about the universe and start all over again. It is hard work, and it deprives us of nearly everything that makes us feel secure.”
Michael Austin, Re-reading Job Understanding the Ancient World s Greatest Poem

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