Saturday, April 26, 2003

Debating Manliness

Ms. Magazine links to two reports covering a debate at Radcliffe between political scientist, Harvey Mansfield, and historian, Nancy Cott, on manliness.

Mansfield, of course, defended manliness, despite its current near-extinct status. Nevertheless, according to Jennifer Schuessler of the Boston Globe, "Mansfield hardly comports himself like a man in crisis. Sporting a natty brown suit and a red tie that blazed like the crest of some exhibitionist avian species, he exuded a quiet pleasure in waving his flag deep in enemy territory. Each time he uttered the outlandish word 'manliness' -- and it was many-- a hushed marvel slipped into his voice, as though he were recalling a rare zebra seen once, long ago."

I'm not quite sure of Schuessler's opinion of Mansfield, but her wonderful description of Mansfield can't help but make him more attractive to those already favorably disposed toward him. Whether Schuessler meant it or not, a little personal boldness, a willingness to examine ideas as if one is searching for a long lost species or hunting, and a bemused dissatisfaction with one's own time may characterize open-mindedness or a philosophic temperament; Schuessler really nailed Mansfield.


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