I've been overwhelmed with work today so have only had a post floating at the back of my mind. In the meantime, Kavulla's tiny little article is reprinted in full over at Fearless Sifting (here), so that you don't have to sully your browser by visiting NR. Our young friend Fearless gets the conclusion just right:
There is nothing in that article that in any way reflects upon her ability to be the next chancellor of UW-Madison and it entirely discounts her experience as provost … .Bingo. What's more notable is that Kavulla makes no real points at all. He quotes some jargon-laden passages, but even I — a vocal critic of current 'theorizing' in the humanities, as readers of this blog know — don't find them particularly damnable. And as Mr. Sifter says, it's utterly irrelevant. The real information a reader would get from the article is mostly from the quotes, and they reveal mostly that she's, gasp, a lesbian. (Travis, you need to get out more.)
In the end, it shows more about the author than about her. Here's a guy who trumpets his academic credentials, yet his research appears to have been reading the one sentence quoted from a review of her book on amazon.com (where the image is from). For a hoity-toity Harvard man those buzzwords surely can't be so 'obscure' or scary, can they? Her book, by the way was published by Routledge, one of the best academic presses in the world — hardly the trademark of a mediocre academic, and Biddy Martin of course rose through the ranks in a top department.
There's a tiny language hook, too, as it happens, a little peevology. In that regard, NR hasn't changed much since the Buckley days. Here's a quote from an essay of Biddy Martin's:
Something in my language and speech at the end of a year in college seemed to have changed me and make me [sic] an infidel [to my family].I think good editors use 'sic' only when there's actually a clear error, but this isn't such a case. For me at least, it's easy to get this structure from this fuller form:
Something seemed to have changed me [and seemed to] make me …But that syntax won't work for lots of English speakers and who knows, maybe it was a typo. They happen.
Overall, Kavulla is background noise: no argument, no evidence in any serious sense, just innuendo and ill-will. Weak, very weak.
Folks, we have a chance, a real chance, with Biddy Martin coming in, to save this university from its death spiral. Let's focus on the work we need to do.