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ANAHITA Home

ANAHITA  December 1999

ANAHITA December 1999

Subject:

Re: cover(ed) politics

From:

Susan Kray <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 27 Dec 1999 16:45:35 EST

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (174 lines)

In a message dated 12/26/99 2:36:06 PM US Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

>  I guess my main problems with Susan Kray's stance are:
>  1. Unmotivated (on the list) condemnation and hefty accusations (of When
God
> Was A Woman by Merlin Stone): "very unreliable material full of
> misinformation, bigotry, baseless  generalizations, speculations presented
as
> fact and numerous other problems (...) an affront to feminism"

Somebody recommended the book to someone else and I was motivated to add my
comment.

>  2. The motive in analyzing advertising and criticizing books based on
their
> marketing. Shouldn't we analyze the content of books instead of the blurb,
> with which the author has little or nothing to do?

See my article for the reason that I analyzed the advertising copy.
Advertising copy is not immune to scholarly analysis merely because it was
composed by someone other than the author. I have critiqued both the text and
the copy. That particular article concerned the copy, as a marketing
phenomenon.  Are you telling me I am not allowed to analyze marketing
phenomena? I do not claim the marketing strategy is the author's. Read the
article, then criticize it.

Why are you questioning my motives? Is that a good-faith thing to do?

>  3. Apparently identifying the literature with a movement that has embraced
> these books.

I identify the books as the literature OF a movement. Used by the movement.
Read and appreciated by its members. Is that wrong?

>The fact that some of these books are being embraced by the '
> women's religious social movement' is the least of qualifications relevant
in
> judging its content.

Not if you are analyzing the marketing of these books as a mass communication
phenomenon. I have to consider questions of audience, intended audience, and
"constructed" or apparent intended audience. Read the article, then tell me
what you think.

>  I introduced the point that Stone doesn't claim to have written a
scholarly
> work (but in fact worthwhile educational nonfiction).

Are you saying this is nonfiction? i.e. fact?

>However, I believe this
> argument is a red herring, and (thus) useless in this conversation.

Since Stone does claim to have grounded her work in scholarship, I consider
your argument relevant, but incorrect.

>  My points are:
>  1. *Any* scientist has political philosophies and personal feelings, and
> this and a host of other factors shape the research questions that are
asked,
> the way research is done, and the ways the results are interpreted and then
> applied in educational, workplace, social and political situations. (
> paraphrased from: Thinking Critically About Research On Sex and Gender" by
> Paula J. Caplan and Jeremy B. Caplan, page 111, Breaking The Cycle Of Bias)
> Those who profess mainstream scientific views and opinions are more able to
> pose as 'neutral' and 'objective' (since their views are consistent and
> congruent with 'common knowledge' and culture), than those who step outside
> and question mainstream scientific views, beliefs and notions (as do
Eisler,
> Lerner, Stone, Daly). I think it ethically and scientifically sound to (
> scrutinize and) clarify one's philosophical and political framework,
whether
> mainstream or 'counter' cultural. Many feminist thinkers do this
explicitly,
> e.g. Stone and Eisler, thereby giving the reader optimal information to
> assess the value and 'integrity' of the material.

I do not agree that they give the reader such information, because they imply
they have information they do not (and cannot) have. Some also misquote their
sources or make statements of fact as though they had sources. The reader who
is not inclined to look things up is left to believe that they write on the
basis of real information. Since you raise the issue of ethics, I don't agree
that is an ethical way to treat one's audience.

>   2. Even in a field like physics the targeting of a larger audience with
> books written by highly regarded scientists is actively sought after and
> brought into practice. Some well known examples:
>  -A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
>  -The Empire's New Mind by Roger Penrose
>  -The First Three Minutes by Stephen Weinberg (nobel price laureate)
>   In the Netherlands the 'mass marketing' of theses is accepted and
regularly
> done, especially in the 'soft' sciences.

But Hawking really is a physicist. Penrose really is a mathemetician (?),
etc.. Stone, Eisler, Daly, Lerner, and so on are not archaeologists. They are
not scholars of the ancient Near East, the Bible, or other areas about which
they make so many claims.  True, Lerner is a historian, but she is speaking
on topics far outside her area of expertise, which is American history, using
a non-historical methodology, and making blatant mistakes. Read Katherine K.
Young's incisive critique of her work.

>  3. Susan asserts that books by highly esteemed scientists like Gerda
Lerner
> constitute 'mass-marketed *spirituality* literature'.

I never said that because none of these authors are scientists. Even Lerner,
who is, in fact, a scholar, is not a "scientist," but a respected historian,
and most of her books do reflect her abilities as an award winning scholar.
Creation of Patriarchy, unfortunately, does not.

Whether her book belongs with the women's spirituality literature may be a
matter open to interpretation; it is shelved in women's studies sections of
book stores. Perhaps a case may be made that women buy it because it looks
like history. For my reasons in classing it with the spirituality literature,
read my article. Perhaps I am wrong and you will show me the evidence that
proves it.

>This is grotesque and
> does grave injustice to a serious and 'peer-appreciated' academic.

She is indeed "a serious and 'peer-appreciated' academic," whose work I have
sometimes cited. This one book has problems. Is it unjust to say so and to
spell out some of the specific problems (as I do in another article)?

>That her
> works have a spiritual dimension is something entirely different : so do
the
> above  mentioned physics books. There are many scientists who hold these
> maligned feminist (Eisler, Lerner) and non feminist scholars (Gimbutas) in
> great esteem.

Who are these scientists? Is their opinion relevant to issues of archaeology,
the Bible, ancient Near Eastern texts and iconography, religious history,
etc.? Several archaeologists have written unfavorable critiques of Gimbutas'
work; see my article for bibliography.

>  4. Let's read the content of these books, not their covers, ourselves and *
> judge* for ourselves.

Hear, hear! Let's read the content, and the covers, and look up the sources
they claim to quote, and the relevant scholarship, and then let's judge!
Have a Bible at hand, and be ready to go look up the archaeological sources
the authors' cite. Then read relevant recent archaeological work (the
authors' sources are nearly all a generation out of date, even in recent
editions), form a judgment, and get back to us. If you are going to comment
on my article, please do me the favor of reading it first.

I will be very interested to learn what people's reactions are. Of course, we
will not be forbidding people to analyze cover copy and marketing strategies,
for those too are phenomena that scholars study.

Best wishes for a happy new year,

Susan Kray

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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