February 04, 2004


“It's true that students in my first-year course in cultural and media studies, for instance, are exposed to feminist theorists, Marxist thinkers, and scholars who think the Western media trades in racist stereotypes,” writes Catharine Lumby, associate professor of media studies at the University of Sydney. “They are also asked to think about the way things such as class, gender and sexuality are represented in popular culture.” She continues:

Proof, you might think, that I'm intent on turning them all into dutiful lefties. Certainly that's a mistake some students make in the first few weeks of class.

But leftists are not the only thinkers they are asked to read. And after they have attended a few lectures, they discover that the whole point of the course is to debate and critique the ideologically diverse thinkers they have been asked to read.

Catharine doesn't list the non-leftists her students are asked to read. I wonder who they are.

Posted by Tim Blair at February 4, 2004 01:14 PM

Reminds me of the Blues Brothers.

"What kind of music do you get here?"

"Oh, we got both kinds: country AND western."

Posted by: ABC Al at February 4, 2004 at 01:17 PM

Why don't we ask her who they are?

Do they include:

Edmund Burke? Friedrich Hayek? Milton Friedman? Bert Kelly? Solzhentizyn? C. S. Lewis? Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals"? David Horowitz? "The Black Book of Communism?" Robert Conquest? Richard Pipes?

Bill Muhlenberg complied a very good collection, a guide to conservative and non-left thinkers a few years ago. Do any of these figure? Is his book on the reading list?

Posted by: sue at February 4, 2004 at 01:24 PM

After posting the above I tried to find her e-mail to ask her directly. The University of Sydney's Website contains little information apart from, when I clicked on, a picture of a slack-mouthed woman who looked as if she'd just has an orgasm. I hope you do better.

Posted by: sue at February 4, 2004 at 01:38 PM

Can you post a link to Bill Muhlenburgs list ? That will save me having to google for it.

Posted by: Arik at February 4, 2004 at 01:43 PM

If they are really paying attention, they learn that scepticism is the essence of academic inquiry and that they can take any position they want as long as they can back it up with evidence and a reasoned argument.

Bullshit Cath. You'd never ever even slightly mark down a student for saying something like "Marxism has passed its use-by date due to being relevant on to the turn-of-the-century european industrial power structures, and that the advent of the knowledge worker has destroyed its concept of unproductive labour as well as failing to address the worker-as-employer"?
Scepticism in encouraged, yes - as long as you're being sceptical about conservatives. Bag out a lefty icon and get an F.

Posted by: EvilDan at February 4, 2004 at 02:11 PM

Eureka! I've found the list!!

Posted by: Roger Bournival at February 4, 2004 at 02:44 PM

The description of Miss Lumby's picture as a woman who has just had an orgasm makes me wonder if you down under do everything with a stiff upper lip. I'd thought it more like a matron awaiting her first.

Posted by: Mr. Davis at February 4, 2004 at 02:48 PM

The reason there are so few conservative thinkers - if any - on media courses is because such courses by their nature are impenetrable mazes of left-wing nonsense - collections of paranoid conspiracy theories masquerading as serious academic investigation, taught by post-Marxist losers who are largely failed media practitioners but possess the questionable art of being able to parrot Barthes and other addled ramblings to lecture halls they regard as recruitment grounds for leftist causes.

Wrongly of course, because any student who has any brains at all very swiftly transfers to a useful course; while those who are stupid enough to self-flagellate themselves through three-plus years of such rubbish naturally belong on the left.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 4, 2004 at 02:51 PM

The non-leftists on the students' reading list are probably limited to Hitler, Adolf and Hun, Atilla the.

Posted by: Ken at February 4, 2004 at 03:05 PM

sue: Try catharine.lumby@mediastudies.usyd.edu.au

Please be polite though, as she hasn't said anything particularly stupid. Yet.

Posted by: Jorge at February 4, 2004 at 03:08 PM

Here you go: catharine.lumby@mediastudies.usyd.edu.au

Posted by: EvilPundit at February 4, 2004 at 03:08 PM

Dude, when I was at Uni, CATHARINE LUMBY was on my reading list.

Posted by: Caz at February 4, 2004 at 03:42 PM

...and the Turner Diaries for balance.

Posted by: Alex Hidell at February 4, 2004 at 03:44 PM

I hate to say it, but Marxist Criticism (which is distinct from Marxism itself) is one of the saner forms of modern criticism. At least class issues are actually present in a lot of literature, music, and movies, unlike some of the weirdo structuralists and what-not who try to find meaning in the Indo-European roots of titles and character names.

As for why she's probably not using Hayek -- I don't think Hayek wrote much on the cultural importance of Blaxploitation films, or the effects of punk rock on the rise of MTV, which is the sort of thing media studies types are interested, at least on north side of the equator.

Posted by: Sean O'Hara at February 4, 2004 at 04:15 PM

I doubt there is a link to the Bill Muhlenberg list. it is a book published about ten years ago. It gives brief descriptions of a number of leading conservative writers and their work - a couple of hundred.You will have to google. Or Amazon.

Mr Davies, I don't think the slack-mouthed lady is Miss Lumby herself, just a student illustrating the web-site. I have also found they rotate the pictures.

Posted by: sue at February 4, 2004 at 05:24 PM

EvilDan, are you a current student of Cath's? Were you one? If not, keep your slander to yourself.

Thank you.

Posted by: fatfingers at February 4, 2004 at 05:40 PM

Catherine Lumby has regularly had a column in The Bulletin.

She's never impressed me as a person to follow her own advice to Uni students: "Get their facts straight. And put the polemics to one side."

Posted by: Peggy Sue at February 4, 2004 at 06:24 PM

What exactly does a woman look like who is about to have an orgasm, anyway? I don't know either.

Posted by: Doc at February 4, 2004 at 11:45 PM

After an orgasm, sort of relaxed.

Posted by: sue at February 4, 2004 at 11:46 PM

If we can get off the subject of orgasms, which is not really relevant, I sent this woman an e-mail asking her what non-leftist thinkers werre on her course or reading list. I received the following very informative reply. Tim, please take note and pursue:

"I will be on study leave from July 22 until February 1. All students, current or prospective, should direct their inquiries to Indigo Blue (indigo.blue@arts.usyd.edu.au). Anne Dunn will be Acting Director of the Media and Communications Program.Her email address is anne.dunn@mediastudies.usyd.edu.au.

If you want to contact me for any other reason, you can reach me on 0414 897 255."

Posted by: sue at February 4, 2004 at 11:50 PM

"After an orgasm, sort of relaxed."

Sue and Doc, check out the restaurant scene in "When Harry Met Sally".

Posted by: Bruce Lagasse at February 5, 2004 at 04:24 AM

I'd just like to say, I was fortunate to have had a good history teacher (high school). She would drill it into us over and over to use multiple sources and find the bias before using the facts within whats written.

She did have us study people like Marx, and I think she was glad when a few of us would point out the hypocrisy of Marx being a factory owner who does nothing but study whilst his wife earns all the money.
But that teacher was an exception obviously.

Posted by: Ken at February 5, 2004 at 06:37 AM

After an orgasm:

In my experience (limited to a very small set of incredibly intellecually gifted women) after an orgasm a woman is relaxed - and wants to "talk"!

Maybe the talk thing is an artefact of the relaxation, or a direct result of the orgasm - but it sure doesn't suit most guys. A guy after an orgasm wants to do one thing: roll over and catch a few zz's.

Sorry Sue - I know you wanted to drop this orgasm thing - I won't come back to it, I promise
in fact I'm feeling a little sleepy now ...

Posted by: Arik at February 5, 2004 at 07:20 AM

Oddly, I recall Lumby being interviewed by you and Imre on your radio show a couple of years back and although she said all sorts of dopey things you never once went for the jugular.
I was disappointd; I was expecting fire and brimstone from your show but you seemed to tone it down for some reason........

Posted by: Lloyd at February 5, 2004 at 01:08 PM

I had to do a Popular Culture course,my mistake.What was obvious is that nobody could DO popular culture,nobody was in a band,darts or sports team.There were no pigeon fanciers or whippet breeders,they were all trying to find out the mechanisms of popular culture.The basic principle was don't tell us what actually happens because we outside can have a better perspective.Its the standard academic approach,"can't actually paint,but I know all about it"

Posted by: Peter at February 5, 2004 at 02:35 PM

Lloyd, it is difficult to go for the jugular of a post-orgasmic woman, especially when she is saying dopey things.

Instinct was clearly telling them both to fall asleep. Ah! Instinct! Always gets it right but sometimes for the wrong reasons.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 5, 2004 at 02:47 PM

A letter to the editor in The Age 6/2/04, in reply to Lumby's article

Catharine Lumby (Opinion 4/2) states that "scepticism is the essence of academic inquiry...".

Scepticism is the theory that knowledge of reality is impossible to human beings by any means. So how is the "sceptical" student to decide whether the feminist theorist or the non-feminist theorist is correct and remain sceptical? Or the Marxist thinkers versus the non-Marxist thinkers? Or that cappuccino is food or poison? Lumby doesn't say, but scepticism always comes down to subjectivism and emotionalism. It ultimately claims that truth is whatever you "feel" it is.

If the postmodernist humanity departments are ever to crawl from the abyss of scepticism, they must rediscover the Enlightenment notion that reason is our only means of knowledge and that scepticism is not the essence of academic inquiry.
Malcolm Sedgman,
Glen Huntly

Posted by: Peggy Sue at February 6, 2004 at 04:46 PM