Archive for Sunday, August 31, 2008

The truth isn’t in here: KU professors keep ‘crackpot files’

Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo.A large and diverse student body can lead to many strange and unusual theories, papers and correspondence in the course of academic life. Some swing so far off base that they are sometimes called Ã'crackpot files,à and often leave professors either chuckling à or scratching their heads.

Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo.A large and diverse student body can lead to many strange and unusual theories, papers and correspondence in the course of academic life. Some swing so far off base that they are sometimes called Ã'crackpot files,à and often leave professors either chuckling à or scratching their heads.

August 31, 2008

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The whole William Shakespeare thing is a sham.

Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, was the real man behind the quill.

Lump this in with Richard Hardin's group of theories, student papers or correspondence so far off the academic beaten path that they bear repeating. Sometimes called "crackpot files," they often leave professors chuckling - or scratching their heads.

However, the theory that Shakespeare didn't write his works has garnered so much public attention that Hardin, a professor of English at Kansas University, is wondering whether maybe he isn't the one marching to the wrong drumbeat.

"That thing has come on so strong that I'm beginning to wonder if I'm the crackpot," he said. "Believing as I do that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare."

The de-Vere-as-Shakespeare theory isn't the only one that has raised Hardin's eyebrows.

Hardin said he once had a graduate student who wrote a paper on Edmund Spenser's epic poem "The Faerie Queen." The student argued that the poem was actually a coded message to Queen Elizabeth, revealing the secret shared Catholicism of two overtly Protestant Englishmen.

For others, it isn't so much crackpots or misinformed students as pop culture that makes them grin.

Dorice Elliott, chairwoman of KU's English department, said she took issue with author biopics that have little grounding in reality.

"In my own field, the best example is the movie 'Becoming Jane,' " she said. "Supposedly about Jane Austen's life."

These exercises in the strange, misinformed and just plain wrong aren't limited to English.

In a manila folder tucked away in history department chairman Paul Kelton's office are snippets of student papers he has collected since he was a graduate student in Oklahoma.

Kelton said he kept the bizarre tidbits around for the occasional laugh. Eventually, he hopes to assemble them into a history of the world according to students.

A brief sample of Kelton's collection:

¢ "President Lincoln said if we were to give blacks firearms that would be like giving the communists control."

¢ "Andrew Jackson took great strides to not be overly educated."

¢ "The 'I Have a Dream' speech was a moving speech, one such as Abraham Lincoln had given when expressing the Declaration of Independence."

Not all are so strange. Kelton said some students simply try to pad their papers by offering sweeping dramatizations of inconsequential historical events.

He considered himself lucky, he said, because most of his collection comes from his time as a graduate teaching assistant and not his time as a professor.

"I don't think it would be a good indication of my teaching abilities if I received a lot of these now," he said.

Comments

jayhawkbarrister 7 years ago

Sychophant,The second para of "I have a dream" begins with "Five score", not "four score". but your point was correct; Dr. King was rhythmically referencing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

Thanks for the correction, Jayhawk. My memory has faded since the last time I listened to King's speech, so after reading your response, I looked it up. Yup, in stating five score (100 years), King was referring to the famous speech 100 years prior. And yes, obviously he "intentionally borrowed" Lincoln's eloquent rhetorical style. Perhaps my prose was as inartful as the quoted student.

christie 7 years ago

And some that will make the list:The Al-Qaeda Iraq connection.Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction.Duct tape your windows now.The Economy is essentially sound.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

"The 'I Have a Dream' speech was a moving speech, one such as Abraham Lincoln had given when expressing the Declaration of Independence."Actually, the student may have been inartfully referring to the Gettsyburg Address, whose basic premise impicity relies upon the profound principles and the historical progession of ideals ennunciated in the Declaration of Independence.. After all, it does begin, "Four score and seven years ago," which translates to 87. And 1863 - 87 = 1776

Kornphlake 7 years ago

Don't forget the ever so timely "Heck of a job Brownie".

Bob Forer 7 years ago

Whoops, almost forgot. Lets also not forget that King began his historic speech with the same "Four score and seven years ago" preface. Perhaps the student was not as ignorant as the good professor implies, but instead, needed some help with his writing abilities. Are you sure, Professor, you didn't take the student's quote out of context?

Bob Forer 7 years ago

And Jayhawk, thanks for the brief linguistics lesson. I looked up "rhythmically" in Wikipedia (admittedly, not the best source, but usually good for a general overview) and found this: The study of rhythm, stress, and pitch in speech is called prosody; it is a topic in linguistics. Narmour (1980, p.147-53) describes three categories of prosodic rules which create rhythmic successions which are additive (same duration repeated), cumulative (short-long), or countercumulative (long-short). Cumulation is associated with closure or relaxation, countercumulation with openness or tension, while additive rhythms are open-ended and repetitive. Richard Middleton points out this method cannot account for syncopation and suggests the concept of transformation.I try to learn something new everyday. Today, you helped me accomplish that mission. Have a great holiday.

bearded_gnome 7 years ago

uh, Christie,last quarter, economy growth 3.3%. your hate-bush media won't report that.likewise550-tons of yellow cake uranium were removed from iraq after we toppled Saddam. evidence points to the wmd's, precursors, and docs going to Syria under cover of flood relief. just keep believing your fairy tale, okay?I did definitely LOL at two of them. wonder about student bloopers in, say, business school? Mark, I think you only scratched the surface.

Karl Rubis 7 years ago

This article doesn't posit anything new. There is a book titled 'Non Campus Mentis' which goes through the entire history of the world via badly written essays and comments by undergraduates. Quite Funny.

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