[Milton-L] Leaving the Milton listserv

Brendan Prawdzik brendanprawdzik at gmail.com
Sat Nov 4 17:59:44 EDT 2017


Dear all,

It saddens me that the posts of one individual and the responses to those
posts have so much damaged the general perception of this list.  In my time
on this list, the conversation has been degraded through the bizarre
infestations of two individuals; nothing has degraded the conversation as
much as the intellectually vacuous malevolence that we have seen recently.

We can look nostalgically toward days of more civil and enriching
discussion, but in truth, I have read so many enriching posts on this list
in the last few years that it seems unfair to judge the list itself or to
suggest that the many gracious, thoughtful, and careful contributors of
recent years represent some kind of diminished age.  The list has been
abused at times, and this abuse has caused frustration, which itself has
only rendered the abuse more injurious.

Certainly, the entire list suffers discredit from plagiarized postings
alone.  I think that we have been too kind in humoring the idea that this
plagiarism was accidental or the  product of ignorance.  When I pointed out
that he was a plagiarist (one who willfully plagiarizes), we received a
craven response replete with the type of eye-rolling excuses and falsehoods
with which most of us our familiar, from deluded, self-abasing, or simply
unethical students (however few they might be).  It's the lowest form of
intellectual debate.  To forebear because of a loosely conceived sense of
freedom of speech or freedom of intellectual expression - neither of which
is at stake here - seems to me naive.

The most notorious exception to freedom of the press in *Areopagitica* has,
of course, to do with Catholics.  The reason why Milton excepts Catholic
writing from his general argument is that, he claims, it actively seeks to
undermine the very freedoms that would countenance it.  Of course, the
Milton list is not the public sphere and does not represent the public
sphere.  Regardless of his intent, the man who continues to troll this list
continues to stir a debate that merely serves to undermine the discourse.
He should be blocked from this list, and I see no reason to regret his
exclusion.  There are endless venues where he can try to voice his
incoherent and racist views.  However, those venues will have their own
standards and limits of tolerance.  Few venues other than an email listserv
(or a self-published blog) would permit the incessant self-publishing of
lazy and malicious writing.  Anyone with fingers and access to email can
contaminate such a list as this, can stir it into an embarrassing chaos.
Let this person publish elsewhere, even if from self-carried soap box, to
his own shame and humiliation.

When I referred to "many stripes and colors" (an admittedly silly phrase)
in my previous post, I was simply gesturing to the fact that the
intellectual (and political) diversity of this list has been savagely
misrepresented.  And the discussion that has emerged has only deepened the
impression that we are one body, one voice, against an increasingly
self-martyrizing antagonist.  Let us reclaim our intellectual and political
diversity and continue to make each other better.

Carl's suggestion that we "ignore him to oblivion" is wise.  Nonetheless,
we are still subject to incessant and cheap provocations that will further
discredit this list, will compel more conversant to turn away, and will
discourage others (esp. emergent scholars) from joining.

My own abhorrence of our troll has nothing to do with politics.  It has to
do with personal insults, ignorance, lazy writing, plagiarism,
self-aggrandizement, and, above all, the willful degrading of intellectual
discussion.  Let us get back to genuine conversation. I ask the moderator
to ban this person and hope that no version of such reappears.

Best to all,

Brendan


On Sat, Nov 4, 2017 at 5:02 PM, Brandon Taylor <thenewpulp at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello, everyone. I have yet to reply to this list for any number of
> reasons, but I feel compelled to do so now. I am a PhD student in Milton
> Studies and I have been following this list for some time. I must say
> regrettably that I am firmly in agreement with Ryan Paul that the openness
> of this list is incredibly useful but it should also be managed carefully,
> at least with respect to explicit trolling, self-aggrandizement, or content
> that could easily be deemed as inflammatory.
>
> All of these boxes have been firmly checked by the Terrance Lindall and I
> believe some measures should be taken to exclude said person from the email
> list to the benefit of the greater Milton community. When it comes to the
> argument of free speech, particularly in the case of belligerence, I am
> reminded of this quotation from Milton's *Areopagitica*: "Give me the
> liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience,
> above all liberties." We must pay particular attention to Milton's
> qualification: *according to conscience*. Given the relative silence on
> this list, and the very well articulated points brought forward by Ryan
> Paul, I think the collective conscience of this group knows what measures
> must be taken, but we must find the courage to do so.
>
> When I read the wonderful and engaging contributions of John Leonard or
> Richard Strier, I see very clearly the potential for this list. We should
> strive to do better.
>
> With that in mind, I am not leaving this list. However, I am firmly and
> resolutely recommending that we no longer allow Terrance Lindall to
> circulate messages on this platform.
>
> I am hoping that others agree and, if so, they will speak up.
>
> Thanks,
> Brandon Taylor
>
> On Sat, Nov 4, 2017 at 4:21 PM, Carol Barton, PhD, CPCM <
> cbartonphd1 at verizon.net> wrote:
>
>> I, for one, am sorry to see you both go—and I’m sorry for the
>> quasi-“tolerance” among some members of the present-day Milton list that
>> condones, even abets, this sort of thing.
>>
>> One of the most endearing accomplishments of the Milton list, and indeed,
>> the Miltonic community, until recent years was its civility, its genial
>> embrace of *all* members (not just those with hefty OUP or CUP publications
>> under their arms), and its abiding decency. I remember taking Tom Kranidas
>> to his first Murfreesboro conference. He was astonished to be unable to
>> tell the accomplished scholars from the newcomers by the way they engaged
>> with or treated one another . . .  and when the likes of Kris and Charley
>> and JTS and Stella Revard and ALabriola and Derek Wood and Bill Hunter and
>> Balanchandra Rajan and the others of their generation (forgive me, any old
>> friends whose names I’ve missed) were the constellations, every thread was
>> a “must read.”
>>
>> That isn’t the case, in recent years, and it’s sad.
>>
>> I wish you both all the best, Katie and Ryan, and I’m sorry that I can’t
>> say something more encouraging to convince you to stay. To do so would be
>> hypocritical. I feel marginalized myself.
>>
>> Best to all,
>>
>>
>> Carol Barton
>>
>>
>> On Nov 4, 2017, at 4:08 PM, Katie Calloway <Katie_Calloway at baylor.edu>
>> wrote:
>>
>> Hello, list,
>>
>> While I’ve enjoyed listening in on the discussions down the years, I will
>> be following Ryan Paul off the listserv in solidarity.  (I realize this is
>> not great loss as I’ve contributed maybe twice!)
>>
>> Best,
>>
>> Katie Calloway
>>
>> Katherine Calloway
>> Postdoctoral Fellow
>> Department of English
>> Baylor University
>> One Bear Place #97404
>> Waco, TX  76798-7404
>> (254) 710-6883
>> Katie_Calloway at baylor.edu
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> On Nov 4, 2017, at 2:43 PM, Ryan Paul <ryanspaul at gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>> Dear All,
>>
>> This is a note to say that I am leaving the Milton listerv.
>>
>> I'm not a Miltonist per se, and I don't contribute often to the
>> discussion, so my departure from the list probably won't mean much to many
>> of you. But I think I at least have to make a small statement about why I'm
>> leaving.
>>
>> This list could be a lively, fascinating, and educational venue for us to
>> share ideas. It is full of brilliant scholars with great minds. But, it has
>> been hijacked by a troll spouting thinly veiled white supremacist rhetoric
>> and self-promoting his two-bit, hack "artwork."
>>
>> I appreciate the devotion to a Miltonic belief in the free exchange of
>> controversial ideas that many of you have espoused. It is admirable,
>> particularly in these days of acrimonious division. But I think your faith
>> in our troll's better nature is misplaced.
>>
>> Perhaps if you haven't spent much time in the dark underbelly of the
>> internet, you don't recognize trolling for what it is. It is fairly clear,
>> to me at least, that Terrance Lindall has no abiding interest in Milton,
>> Milton studies, or in promoting collegial intellectual discourse. His only
>> interests are self-promotion and spreading hatred; maybe there's a third
>> rail there too: the sick pleasure trolls get from pushing people's buttons
>> and making the marginalized feel even more so.
>>
>> It seems that at least 50% of the emails I get from this list are about
>> Lindall and his nonsense: whether to ban him, whether he's racist, whether
>> or not Milton would approve. This does nothing to improve my understanding
>> of Milton or 17th century poetry or any other related subject. All it does
>> is fill my inbox with more free advertising for a quasi-fascist of very,
>> very minor talents.
>>
>> I know no one wants to play the role of Empson's God and moderate this
>> listserv, but chaos and racist nonsense is not conducive to the pursuit of
>> truth. As a Renaissance scholar and a person of color, I expected and hoped
>> for much better from an academic community. I hope that this community will
>> organize itself, bounce the alt right trolling with a permanent ban, and
>> turn its attention to important, meaningful matters related to Milton.
>> Until then, I'm out.
>>
>> Peace and love to all of you,
>> And may Terrance Lindall one day be cured of the hatred that motivates
>> him.
>>
>> Ryan Paul
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-- 
Dr. Brendan Prawdzik


BA Rutgers University, 2001
PhD The University of California, Berkeley, 2009
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