Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Sometimes I have to be reminded what the stakes are, so that I may proceed with fear and trembling"

I took this picture of Dan on Matanuska Glacier
by J J Cohen

I'm proud to have Daniel T. Kline as a friend.

If memory serves, we first met at Kzoo many years ago, hit it off immediately, went to lunch, kept in touch. His work has always rocked my world, from scholarship on children and medieval literature to gaming to digital humanities to Levinas: his scholarship is as capacious as it is beautifully composed. His short essay The Pearl, a Crayon, and a Lego is, I would contend, the best piece ever composed on that poem -- and although I teach it every year, I cannot stop welling up when I speak about its meditation on loss.

Dan wrote a public Facebook post about being plagiarized by a collaborator, Allen Frantzen (yes that Allen Frantzen). You can read Dan's post for yourself here, and find within it a tale of how senior scholars sometimes abuse their position of power to claim work not their own, trusting that the more junior person will not complain. It's important for such stories to circulate, and for this tradition (there are many such stories) to cease. I applaud Dan for sharing.

But I also believe it's essential to think about hope and affirmation in times of despair, the very theme of so much of Dan's scholarship. The essay on Pearl to which I linked above is literally about the loss of a child. Three of the most moving blog posts ever published here at In the Middle were guest contributions by Dan, compelling meditations on life in the wake of the worst things humans do to each other. Yes, the terrible stories that form the past and present of medieval studies will and must continue to surface. We as a field have not yet had an open conversation about the conditions that have enabled the flourishing, endurance and continued toxic effects of so much misogyny, racism, abuse. But it's important to me to look at once backwards and forwards, like the Janus head that is our ITM emblem. Our communal gaze should not be averted from trauma and invidious history, nor should we stop attempting to discern the horizon of a more humane future. No forgetting, no excusing, no ceasing of the forward gaze.

Here are Dan's three beautiful posts. They are well worth lingering over, especially for the less violent world and classroom and profession they imagine. Dan may have been denied an important early career publication by someone lacking in ethics, but what he has contributed to medieval studies, in the past and now through his convivial and compassionate social media presence, deserves celebration.

  1. Pitched Past Pitch of Grief 1
  2. Pitched Past Pitch of Grief 2
  3. Pitched Past Pitch of Grief 3

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