Last year we wrote a post on criticism that we never published. We were a new blog; we were trying to gain readers; we were trying to avoid conflict. We now feel that this decision was not ideal, and today we’re posting an update, as well as the original post, below.
Part of the reason we’ve changed our minds is internal to the profession. You may have seen Sarah Bond’s blog post on female scholars of Roman history. As two Roman historians, this post hit home for us: particularly for Jackie, who considers herself a scholar of Roman religion and political history, but whose work is fairly frequently called ‘literary criticism’.
Another part has to do with our department, which recently ran a workshop on “Sexism in Academia” including anecdotes, data, and discussion. Some of the anecdotes were familiar; others were appalling. The same could be said of the data:
The Library’s resident digital humanist is working on a project to see if this language is echoed in more public forms of criticism, and we hope to present the results soon.
Our original post was much less somber. We’ve quoted it here:
We were happy to see the post by Rachel Toor at the Chronicle suggesting that support is sometimes better than criticism. Because here’s the honest truth of living academically: you are criticized all the time. We all have thick skin, yes; we’re all taught to critique (even if constructively); but it’s rare that we’re offered a chance to enthusiastically gush about someone’s work that we’re really, really super-excited about because it’s interesting and novel and exciting.
This is too bad, because probably the reason you are studying antiquity in the first place is because it’s interesting and novel and exciting and often just plain weird. Is it really that bad if you read something by someone else that reminds you of that? Shouldn’t that actually make you a better scholar?
We support the overall message of Toor’s post. You will be criticized by others for your entire life (whether you’re an academic or not). It’s important to find people whose works you admire — whether academic or not — and a supportive network of colleagues and peers. At the end of the day, we’ve all been trained to say “that’s great, but…”
But what if we did lose the ‘but’, at least sometimes?
What we hope you all take away from this post is that in the end as scholars we should be supporting a diverse and accepting scholarly environment. For us, that environment would include more collaboration and less competition, more mentoring and less condescension. As the recent Twitter hashtag #realacademicbios should be illustrating to us all, we’re stronger together than we ever could be on our own. The academy has proven to be a very conservative institution, meaning that it is slow to change. But, as a new generation of scholars, the academy is ours to inherit. What do we want it to look (sound / act/ teach / etc.) like?
~ J. & M.
Be a fangirl, not a Mean Girl by https://libraryofantiquity.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.