Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A few items...

  • Lewis Ayres has a new article in Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum on exempla in the Confessions.  (thanks to Adam M. for bringing this to my attention)
      Some book sales:
        •  Princeton UP has a good sale, but it's ending today, so order now.  I received Dilthey's The Formation of the Historical World in the Human Sciences in the mail the other day for 84% off (don't tell my wife I'm buying more books).  Lots of other good stuff is available as well.
        • Liturgical Press seems to perpetually offer discounts for a number of their titles, but currently the sale is a lot wider than its usual title list.  Probably of most interest to readers of this blog will be the distributed titles for Cistercian Press.  If you are at all interested in 12th century monastic literature (I'm looking at you, Kyle), you should fill up your cart with some of the translations they offer.



              Monday, March 29, 2010

              The Production of Knowledge in Modern Europe

              Posting at clavi non defixi has stalled over the past week because of a combination of busyness, lack of inspiration, and increased reflection on what I'm going to do with the blog as I move into doctoral studies.  In the meantime, the Midwest AAR meeting went well; while previous regional meetings have offered papers of rather uneven quality, I can honestly say that I found every session I sat in on enjoyable, interesting, and challenging.  It was good to meet fellow panelists Nate Crawford and Thomas Bridges, as well as others in attendance.  Nate and I also had a good time with folks at the Blue Cat Brew Pub on Friday (which, if you are in Rock Island, offers some local brews that are worth a try- I can personally vouch for the Anniversary Ale and the Irish Stout... see some other reviews here). 


              My plan for the spring semester, which begins this week, is to take a course in the history department offered by Jan Goldstein:

              The Production of Knowledge in Modern Europe
              Surveying the period from the Enlightenment to the present day, this graduate colloquium will examine selected instances of intellectual production in modern Europe, situating them with respect to the social, political, and institutional factors that helped to shape them. We will begin with the case study of 19th-century France, including primary source readings from Comte, Zola, Durkheim and Bergson, and will go on to a sampling of the different methodological models for this kind of inquiry provided by the secondary literature on a variety of European countries.


              In addition to the primary source readings, I'm looking forward to some of the secondary readings we'll be working with as well.  Goldstein's own The Post-Revolutionary Self: Politics and Psyche in France, 1750-1850 is on the list, as is William Clark's Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Modern Research University, Andrew Abbott's work on the professions, and a number of others. 

              Monday, March 22, 2010

              Empty Bottles of Gentilism: Francis Oakley

              The first of a projected three volumes on The Emergence of Western Political Thought in the Latin Middle Ages has been published, covering late antiquity to 1050.  Medieval News has a description of the study, although I'm not really sure why this constitutes a "paradigm shift" in our understanding of medieval political theory.  In any case, Oakley is an important scholar and it's worth noting that this long-awaited set is being published. 

              Francis Oakley has served as dean and president of Williams College, and is an important figure in 20th century US medieval studies and the history of ideas.  His 1973 article "Celestial Hierarchies Revisited: Walter Ullmann's Vision of. Medieval Politics" had a great impact in revising Ullmann's theory of medieval political development, so he is no stranger to being at the forefront of historiographical conversations. 

              Thursday, March 18, 2010

              Barth's Church Dogmatics reprinted by Hendrickson

              I've just heard from a colleague that the older edition of Barth's Dogmatics is joining the ranks of many other theological classics and being reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers.  They will be available in November, and are being advertised for only $99.  Judging from other Hendrickson reprints, I don't think anyone should count on very stellar looking scan jobs or binding, but access to the volumes will certainly increase through this offer.

              Wednesday, March 17, 2010

              Resurrection, Revival, and John

              John Fawcett was a colleague here at Buswell Library, and also a worship leader at Church of the Resurrection, where we attend.  In May 2008, John passed away after a long and difficult battle with brain cancer.  His funeral was typical of him... a full three hours long and filled with music, from our own congregational worship to opera singers and horn ensembles.  It was a bit of a circus, in a good sense.  In the sense that heaven will be. 

              An album of John and others leading worship was put together last year, and now it's available online for order or download.  I initially set out to write this post in order to make others aware of this in case anyone was interested.  All of the profits will go to help John's widow Margie and their two children, Charlotte and Josiah.

              Listening to the album and hearing John's voice again brought back memories of the last two years of his life, when I was able to get to know him on a day to day basis.  We still often sing his arrangements at certain points in the liturgy, so there has always been that, but to actually hear his voice was a heavier sort of mindedness.  After some poking around I found a brief notice of his death from our reference librarian with a link to interviews with John concerning the 1995 Wheaton Revival, which began 15 years ago this Friday.

              The photo on the cover is of John at the piano... I believe this is actually him leading worship for a communion service at his own wedding.

              I remember talking with John at work one day, at a time when he was beginning to deteriorate in a substantial way.  He was encouraging me about something or other, and I remember thinking how absurd it was that this man, who was so weak, was the one who was ministering to me.  It was as if he didn't know he was dying... or rather, it was as if death had lost its victory, and its sting.

              Tuesday, March 16, 2010

              Schleiermacher, the Study of Religion, and the Future of Theology

              In 2008 the Divinity School hosted a transatlantic conference on Schleiermacher, the Study of Religion, and the Future of Theology.  The proceedings of this event have now been published in the series Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann.  Following is the description of the volume from the DeGruyter site:


              The past three decades have witnessed a significant transatlantic and trans-disciplinary resurgence of interest in the early nineteenth-century Protestant theologian and philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834). As the first major Christian thinker to theorize religion in a post-Enlightenment context and re-conceive the task of theology accordingly, Schleiermacher holds a seminal place in the histories of modern Christian thought and the modern academic study of religion alike. Whereas his “liberalism” and humanism have always made him a controversial figure among theological traditionalists, it is only recently that Schleiermacher’s understanding of religion has become the target of polemics from Religious Studies scholars keen to disassociate their discipline from its partial origins in liberal Protestantism. Schleiermacher, the Study of Religion, and the Future of Theology documents an important meeting in the history of Schleiermacher studies at which leading scholars from Europe and North America gathered to probe the viability of key features of Schleiermacher’s theological and philosophical program in light of its contested place in the study of religion.

              A few items...

              • An article on the future of libraries, the democratization of knowledge, and open access.  I think there are some serious problems with this essay, but it is more substantial than many similar-length treatments of the subject, and it is thought provoking even where it is wrong.  (h/t Daniel)
              •  Anthony Grafton on financial problems at UK universities.  There are some good thoughts here about the sort of work that is essential in the humanities, especially the foundational work done in paleography.  There are also some good responses in the comment section, more so than is often the case in these sorts of essays.
              •  Paul Dry Books, which I've mentioned before, has reprinted McGarry's translation of John of Salisbury's Metalogicon.  It is worth noting that a critical edition of the text has been published since McGarry's translation was made.  I'm not aware of how vastly different the current Latin text is from the one that McGarry was working on in the 1960's, but anyone doing serious research on the Metalogicon would do well to check into it.
              •  A festschrift for Marcia Colish is out in Brepols' Disputatio series.  Note also that Brepols has updated their website, making it a heck of a lot easier to work with than it used to be.

                Saturday, March 13, 2010

                New issue and new publisher for Speculum

                I've been waiting a little impatiently for the January 2010 issue of Speculum to come out, as it will include my first book review, of H.A.G. Houghton's Augustine's Text of JohnSpeculum is obviously a world-class medieval studies journal, but it has somewhat of a bad reputation these days for a slow review process.   The journal has also been self-published by MAA and is only archived in JSTOR with a moving wall of 5 years, making electronic availability difficult even from the inside of subscribing institutions.

                In trying to find out why the current print issue was two months late, then, I was happy to stumble upon an Editor's Report from last year announcing that the MAA has signed a contract with Cambridge University Press for the publication of Speculum.  The current issue, 85.1 (2010) is already online at the Cambridge site.  I assume that libraries and individuals will receive the print copy soon enough.

                I am really pleased to see the journal housed here, and I hope that this will allow for a more efficient editorial process in the future (although Harvard Theological Review and Scottish Journal of Theology are both with Cambridge, and can both have rather long pipelines to publication or even editorial response).  Cambridge UP has picked up a number of fine journals lately, including the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, which moved from self-publication in 2007; Church History, which moved from self-publication in 2008; and Law and History Review, which moved from the University of Illinois Press and is also beginning with Cambridge for its 2010 volume.  Cambridge journals (and Oxford as well) also tend to be surprisingly affordable, at least compared to some of the commercial publishers like Wiley-Blackwell (where Modern Theology and International Journal of Systematic Theology are housed).  Cambridge also has about the best journals website of any publisher out there, and does a really quality job with their printing.  There probably isn't a better partnership for an editorial board to settle on.

                The contents for forthcoming issues can still be found ahead of time at the Medieval Academy of America website.  Note the article from Robert Lerner in the current volume, as well as the article on the cult of the saints in late antiquity.

                Friday, March 12, 2010

                No incoming New Testament doctoral students at the University of Chicago

                I ran across this notification today on the results of New Testament doctoral admissions for the Divinity School:
                Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but for those who have applied to the U of C NT program this year there will be no new admissions. The one person who was offered admission declined the offer and will go elsewhere. There is no waitlist this year. This is bad news for you all and for the program in general. One reason is that Margaret Mitchell was recently named the new Dean of Divinty effective July, 2010. So her ability to take on new students is pretty much gone. Again, sorry to bear ill tidings. Good luck to you all. 
                 I thought I'd re-post this for any who are affected or interested by the news, and also try to explain a bit about how this process works.  Maybe this is obvious stuff, but a lot of it was new to me so I imagine there are others out there who would benefit from the information.

                By way of preface, I should say that the Divinity School is divided into three main committees (Constructive Studies, Historical Studies, Religion and the Human Sciences), and each of these have three area designations.  So I'm in the theology area of the constructive studies committee.  Philosophy of Religions and Ethics are also housed with theology in this committee.  Some areas have concentrations, so a New Testament student would be in the New Testament and Early Christian Literature Concentration of the Bible area of the Historical Studies Committee.  At least that's my understanding.  I think I'm on solid ground regarding theology, but some of the subdivisions in other committees are less familiar to me.

                At an informational meeting on the application process last fall, the procedure for admissions was explained to us a bit.  A group of readers looks at applications on the area of study level (so a group of theology faculty would read the theology applications).  After looking at the applications, they rank the top applicants for the coming school year.  These top rankings are then taken to a larger meeting of all of the area faculty where some negotiating of the incoming cohort takes place.  Every area of study may admit their top ranked applicant, but beyond that there are no guarantees.  The remaining spaces are determined based on the decision of the committee, working down the second, third, etc. ranked applicants for each area of study.  A relatively large area of study like Theology or History of Christianity may tend to be given more students than a smaller area of study, like Anthropology and Sociology of Religion.  But there is never any set amount... one might hope for three but only receive two, or even one.  If an applicant chooses not to attend, then the area of study can invite their next-ranked applicant to a place.  They can only do this, however, for applicants whom they have ranked and submitted to the Div School-wide committee on admissions.  After they run out of ranked applicants, they run out of new admissions possibilities, even if 50 other applicants to their area of study were available from the original applicant pool.  I don't know how this compares to the wait-list in a department of theology or religion... whether the ranked candidates from different committees is of comparable length to a departmental wait-list or not.

                At the meeting we were told of something similar to the current situation that happened in a recent admission year.  Islamic Studies, as a relatively small area of study at the Divinity School, a few years back submitted only one top ranked applicant for consideration by the faculty, since they only tend to receive one in each cohort.  That one applicant happened to turn down admission, and with no other ranked candidates the Islamic Studies area had no new doctoral student for that year.  This story is unfortunate, but not so extraordinary for a newer and smaller area of study.  It is worth noting that this has (apparently) occurred for New Testament studies, which has a longer history and a longer list of faculty members.

                Those doing biblical studies at Chicago can probably answer better than I can what all this means about the current status of the program.  It's certainly a shame to find out that a New Testament scholar won't be present in our cohort.

                Thursday, March 11, 2010

                Psychoanalyzing Pope Adrian II

                I wasn't going to post on this, because I was concerned that it would be petty to bother making the criticism.  But other illustrious Divinity School students have apparently been thinking the same thing as I have, and apart from the cheap shot that this might amount to, there's also an important criticism to be made.  So I've decided to bring it up.

                Yesterday, Divinity School students received an email notifying us of a course in the English department that we might be interested in.  The Critical Inquiry Visiting Professor Joan Copjec will be leading a seminar* on the following topic:


                Against Incarnation 
                In 869 C.E., the Church Council of Constantinople established the Dogma of Incarnation, which declared that Christ was the physical embodiment of God. This is not merely ancient history; many believe that the ontology of incarnation – or: the literal reading of the Biblical pronouncement, “The Word was made flesh” – still thoroughly informs Western thought. This seminar will try to answer three questions:
                1)   What does this dogma assert?
                2)   Why is it problematic?
                3)   What alternative exists to challenge it?
                The majority of the seminar will be dedicated to the third question and we will answer it by excavating the mystical tradition of docetism, which the dogma of Incarnation attempted to expel. Shoved into the background, docetism was however never completely buried and we will want to trace the transhistorical curve of its insistence. The work of the famous Iranologist, Henry Corbin, will be one of our primary guides -- particularly his concept of “the imaginal world,” which he finds in Islamic philosophy -- but we will also look briefly at one or two films by the Iranian filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami. Finally, we will address the charge that the Freudian notion of sex abetted the rise of biopower by arguing that psychoanalysis offers a “docetic” conception of sex which radically revises the word-flesh link of incarnational realism.

                The topic "Against Incarnation" sounds fascinating, and I would love to take a seminar on this.  But in the very first line, red flags are raised about the competence of this professor to teach such a course.  "In 869 C.E., the Church Council of Constantinople..."  What is that?  While we could count the great Councils of Constantinople on one hand, we certainly couldn't count them on one finger.  Thankfully the good folks dedicating their lives to konzilgeschichte have provided us with handy Roman numerals, and the one belonging to this particular council is probably "IV", based on the 869 date.  And that's the Western IV, not the Eastern IV held a decade or so later.  Which means we're no longer in the territory of the first seven ecumenical councils.  A little late to be establishing the "Dogma of the Incarnation", don't you think?  

                The canons of Constantinople IV don't even really address christology.  The big issues are the dispute between Ignatius and Photius over the Constantinople patriarchate, and some other theological topics like the veneration of icons.  There's a lovely re-affirmation of the teachings of the earlier councils that you can read in the preface to the canons, but nothing really of substance "established" by the council itself.

                That's all historical details, of course, and the charitable explanation of the awkwardness of this professor's initial paragraph is that the dogma with which she's interested was summarized rather than established at Constantinople IV.  In any case, "the majority of the seminar" will be dedicated to other questions.

                These other questions involve alternatives to orthodox christology drawing from an apparent inherent docetism in the Freudian notion of sex and some 20th century work in Iranology.  The comparison to epistemological concepts in Islamic thought might actually be interesting... I'm reminded of some of the philosophical interchanges during the medieval period... but all of this seems quite confused if the professor's intention is to engage critically with dogmatic inquiry concerning the incarnation.   

                How is one to react to this sort of course announcement?  The course seems to intend to be critical and to operate under the assumption that such questioning of christological formulae has been "shoved into the background" and now represents a "radical revision"of the theological conversation.  With all due respect to fellow humanities scholars, there seems to be a lack of serious engagement here with work that is readily available to consult.  I could write up a course description in short order that sought to radically revise Freudian notions of sex on the basis of the Chalcedonian two natures doctrine as developed through post-Reformation christological debates between Lutheran and Reformed scholastics.  But it would be unwise of me to do so unless I knew much more than I actually know about Freud, regardless of how much I know about the history of christological doctrine.

                This has already become fodder for discussion amongst the Divinity School students, but on a more serious and prescriptive note, what is the most edifying response to such a course?  Is it best ignored?  Is a public criticism warranted?  What sort of obligations do the disciplines have to one another when they cross into interdisciplinary territory-- especially when they do so with what seems to be an inadequate amount of preparation?  




                *I am posting this information publicly because this seems to be normal practice for the English department.  I'm assuming this won't be a big deal.

                Monday, March 8, 2010

                Doctoral studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School

                My apologies for the second autobiographical post in a row, but I thought this was worth mentioning.

                I just signed the forms accepting an offer of admission to the PhD program at the University of Chicago Divinity School.  I'll be returning to Swift Hall for the autumn semester as a doctoral student studying with the area faculty in theology.

                Tricia and I are excited about moving into Hyde Park and finally being able to get more fully involved at the Divinity School.  We've also applied to be resident heads at an undergraduate house and are hopeful for this opportunity- so far we've made it through two rounds of interviews, but we won't know about whether we've been chosen for the position until May.



                Sunday, March 7, 2010

                Midwest AAR paper on Tanner's Christ the Key

                I'm working on writing a response to Kathryn Tanner's Christ the Key for the upcoming Midwest AAR session, and I think I've narrowed the scope of my consideration a bit.

                After the publication of Tanner's Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity, Amy Plantinga Pauw wrote a review essay (and Tanner responded) for the Scottish Journal of Theology on some ecclesiological concerns related to the work.  In her response, Tanner referenced a number of then-forthcoming essays and lectures that are now chapters or sections of chapters in Christ the Key.  Because of the continuity that this presents, I think that taking up such problems again will be beneficial, and that's my current plan for the paper.  I am not overly concerned about some of the specific problems that Pauw brought up in her 2004 essay, and so I'm not going to carry over exactly the same questions for my consideration.  But I think that Pauw addressed Tanner's work from a valuable angle.  Further, while the doctrine of the church is more prominent in certain chapters of Christ the Key, it largely remains (and I don't think this is a shortcoming) implicit and in need of teasing out.

                My working title for the paper isn't terribly creative: "Kathryn Tanner’s Christ the Key: an ecclesiological consideration". 

                For those who are interested but have not yet read Christ the Key, there are some helpful discussions available by theology bloggers.  Chris TerryNelson, David Congdon, and W. Travis McMacken posted on Tanner's Warfield lectures when they were given in 2007 (one, two, three, four, five, six).  Todd from Memoria Dei has also been blogging on the book since its publication this winter, with one more reflection still to go.

                Friday, March 5, 2010

                Forthcoming on Cotton Mather and Abraham Kuyper

                Andrew recently brought up Baker's publishing of some works by Cotton Mather, and I thought that would be worth highlighting here.  Perhaps Andrew or Robert Hand can offer more information on the details of this, but I'm aware of the Biblia Americana project that will be coming out with ten volumes in cooperation with Baker, Mohr Siebeck, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.  The first volume will be available in June.  I don't know whether this is the same as the five volumes that Andrew mentions.

                Also worth noting is that the Abraham Kuyper Center at Princeton Seminary has put out volume 1 of the Kuyper Center Review, a yearbook that has been anticipated for a little while now and will be focusing on public theology, the work of Kuyper, and neo-calvinist thought more generally.  The journal will be published through Eerdmans, and receives submissions 18 months prior to publication, which means that submissions for v.3 (2012) will be taken through July.

                Thursday, March 4, 2010

                Colin Gunton Memorial Essay Prize... 2009 results and 2010 topic

                The latest issue of the International Journal of Systematic Theology is out, and it includes an editorial announcement concerning the Colin Gunton Essay Prize.  Apparently no prize was awarded for 2009, when the essay topic was "does ecumenical theology have a future?"

                The topic for 2010 is "The theology of prayer".  Submissions are due 1 November 2010.


                The current issue includes a number of articles on the theological interpretation of Scripture, including Mark Alan Bowland's winning essay from the 2008 essay prize of the same theme.  Judging by my own experiences in submitting an unsuccessful essay to the Colin Gunton Prize in 2007 yet having it published in 2009, I wonder whether some or all of the current issue's contents had their origin in the 2008 prize.

                Wednesday, March 3, 2010

                The fragmenting and reifying of journals

                I've been thinking and reading about the place of journals in scholarly publishing a good bit lately, and may share some thoughts sporadically over the next few weeks. To begin, though, I wanted to point out a helpful discussion from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals that was posted about a year ago. In "The Fragmentation and Reification of the Scholarly Journal", two trends were noted in periodical publishing:
                [...] excepting the case of those lucky Luddites who are print-only, academic essays that emanate from journals are increasingly accessed by electronic means, often through e-consolidators (e.g., JSTOR, Project Muse, Ebsco) whose readers search for particular content and individual essays rather than for the overall vision that often marks a particular journal. New e-journals spring up every day and some of these seek ISSN numbering. In general, however, the journal itself becomes invisible to the 'end-user.'
                at the same time, however...
                [...] just as journal identity is fragmented by new modes of reader access, it is now reified by the grades (A,B,C, etc.) being developed by the European Reference Index for the Humanities as well as by groups in Australia and New Zealand (check on-line for your favorite journals' ranking). [...] It is doubly ironic that this new judgment occurs just as our peers in science and social science themselves have begun to query the reliability of —and to manipulate the results of—the 'citation index' formulas [...]

                As far as I can tell, the most problematic aspects of "reification" identified here have not been so tyrannical a presence in theological disciplines.  Often you'll hear of IJST, Modern Theology, and SJT as three very important journals, but this seems more based on the fact that they have played host to some important theological discussions of late... I don't think anyone is under the impression that these are uniquely peerless venues in terms of quality of scholarship.  There really are no tiers to speak of in theology like those that plague other fields (which means that we can largely avoid the tortured logic of conversations such as this).  Or better, perhaps... there are tiers of quality, but the discipline of theology  sprawls so widely as to its applications (from pastoral work in the pews to metaphysical proofs to cross-cultural missiological concerns, etc.) that a thousand flowers tend to bloom and cross-polinate even amidst an identifiable gradation of quality in various publications. 

                I think that this report is valuable for pointing out the concerns of fragmentation and reification in scholarly journals, but it's also worth recognizing that there are more beneficial possibilities in these two tendencies as well, and that we are best served by identifying and pursuing these benefits in addition to simply avoiding the pitfalls.  I've already sketched out above what I think is the silver lining of "reification".  While there is a danger of a troublesome identification of journals based on a (relatively) arbitrary ranking system, it is also possible to taxonomize in a way that really extracts important information about journals.  The big three ecumenical systemic theology journals listed above are a case in point.  One might also point out a leading journal for bridging the gap between historical and constructive work, or journals that engage patristic theological matters in their late antique context.  We might begin to better recognize publications with especially helpful book review sections, or journals that negotiate the sometimes rocky terrain between biblical scholars and theologians.  Journals should be distinct and have their own identity, but there is more to this identity than a discrete rating of quality. 

                On the other hand, the fragmentation of journals can be good in the sense that any advances in metadata technology are necessary tools for tackling the ever-increasing quantity of literature.  There is no reason to be afraid of the article as the atom of periodical research... it is!  Journals exist for articles, not articles for journals.  And as long as a recognition of the identity of journals is maintained, a closer attention to the article will not lead to any undue fragmentation.  It will simply lead to a new source... a new entry point, from which we can explore more broadly in a table of contents, or a yearly index, etc. to find out more about what else is available alongside that article, that entry point, to the journal.

                Tuesday, March 2, 2010

                A few items...

                • In the current issue of New England Quarterly there is an interesting article by Wolfgang Splitter on the correspondence between Cotton Mather and August Francke.  The similarities between New England Puritanism and German pietism of the time would seem to present an ideal opportunity for exchange of ideas, but Splitter demonstrates the extent to which the Mather-Francke correspondence was quite asymmetrical, with Mather's continued eagerness to engage with the work at Halle countered by a rather less enthusiastic Francke. 
                • For those in the Chicago area, Noam Hoffer will be presenting a paper this Friday for the UChicago Modern Philosophy workshop on “Systematicity in Kant’s Moral and Theoretical Ideas of God.”
                • Theological Studies 71.1 is out, including an article by Robert Doran looking at Girard and Lonergan on the redemption, an article by Philip Rossi on Kant, and another piece by Francis Sullivan on subsistit in.
                • The Theology and Apocalyptic Working Group has posted a CFP for the upcoming AAR conference.
                • I doubt this is new, but I just noticed that PIMS has a few of their Etienne Gilson lectures freely available in PDF.  Note especially Marcia Colish's "Remapping Scholasticism".
                •  Talk of a merger between Andover Newton and Colgate Rochester Seminaries has been dropped.

                  Monday, March 1, 2010

                  Beaudoin on the duty of faculty to address problems of academic labor

                  There are no shortage of blog posts to read about the woes of the crumbling structures of academic labor.  Adam has recently offered a colorful analogy with the demise of newspapers, and responding commenters are, I think, rightly frustrated about the situation.  John has also been a wealth of thoughts, especially about the future of the humanities. Reading these and other recent comments has sent me anew into my regular cycle of concern about the future of academic work, and into some searching for information about systemic concerns for higher education in the U.S., in the humanities, and particularly in theology.  (One place for you to start reading is the new report from the Humanities Indicators Project).

                  It's just a guess, but I doubt that I'm atypical in:
                  1.  reading commentary like this,
                  2. getting worked up, reading further about what is going on, perhaps contributing my own two cents, and...
                  3. realizing that really, truly, all I'm offering is two cents.  There's relatively little of substance that I can do except to make myself aware of these problems and try to avoid making any stupid decisions along the way. 
                  What I would really appreciate is more input from tenured or tenure-track faculty about the problems with and possible solutions for instabilities in academic labor.  A wonderful few that fit this activist description have dedicated a lot of their hours to really pushing for change in academia, but for the most part I think that's not the case.  This is why I greatly appreciate Mark C. Taylor's NYT op-eds, however wacky some of his ideas are.  Because at least he's trying to say something.  And if someone is going to call him an idiot for it, I'd be most receptive to someone like Marc Bousquet doing so, because at least he's trying to do something. There is no reason why An und für sich or Vita Brevis should be the point of any sword of indignation here. We need more Taylors and Bousquets speaking up. And if Taylor or Bousquet are wrong, then by all means, we need more people explaining exactly what is going on.

                  Tom Beaudoin of Fordham hasn't spoken up very loudly yet, but it is worth pointing out that he has directly raised the issue of academic labor in a recent article in America.  And he does so specifically, by saying that tenured faculty in theology have a duty to not ignore, but rather address this problem. As far as I can tell, that's all he says.  The fact that he needs to couch mundane questions of institutional reform in terms of a "theology of work" leaves a bit to be desired, and his closing paragraph doesn't really cover any new ground:
                  ...through it all I find that I cannot stop asking myself why it is that the great minority of us who have tenure and training in religion or theology are not organized more intently on how the system of academic labor gets structured and why. Or in other words: What is the duty of those with relative security to those with relative insecurity?
                  But at least he's asking the question, right?  And he's speaking to the faculty, not to me.  That's what I find most promising.  I know that there are faculty members silently reading clavi non defixi or other blogs that bring up these problems periodically.  Along with Beaudoin, I'd be interested to know what these tenured or tenure-track folks are doing and thinking about the problems that those of us lower on the food chain are constantly worried about.