Teaching Old Norse in North America

Today there was another "terrorist attack" at a university in the United States. A young man from Somalia drove his car into a crowd of people, then jumped out and stabbed several others with a knife before the police shot him. Using one's car as a weapon appears to be a new terrorist tactic, at least it is similar to what was done in Paris over Bastille Day. And he's Muslim; he'd been quoted in the school paper saying how hard it was for Muslims to find a place to pray at the university a few months earlier.

A friend of mine works at The Ohio State University, where this attack took place. She and I went to Berkeley together, we both studied Old Norse. She wrote her dissertation on the figure of Odinn as a "guest" in several different genres of Old Norse literature. She's more of a folklorist, interested in the subconscious and symbolic, whereas I am more interested in human-material interactions. I felt really bad for her today, what a terrible thing to go through.

We were all very happy when she got that position at The Ohio State University. It was the first gain of Old Norse teaching in a long time, the first conversion of a non-Old Norse position into an Old Norse position. The field has actually lost a lot of Old Norse professorships in the U.S. It used to be taught at Stanford and the University of Virginia and much more robustly at University of Washington and University of Texas at Austin. But now all of those are gone, and it doesn't look like they will be replaced anytime soon, unfortunately.

Professors of Old Norse are literally few and far between in the U.S., an endangered species of sorts. We certainly don't need any of them being the subject of terrorist attacks.

As readers of my blog know, I am not generally speaking a negative person. But one does learn over time that the world is a scary, complicated place, and that the things you depend on and hope to happen don't always happen, and instead terrible, disheartening, awful things that you never wanted to have happen do happen. I've stopped believing in the power of positive thinking. Que sera sera.


Jono said…
It is especially difficult in this year of negativity to stay positive about much of anything. Now that I am older I sometimes run out of energy to fight to remain positive. Shit happens and keeps on happening. Some days I just want to give up and go away.
Lissy said…
Don't do that, we need all the kind and intelligent people to stay engaged, if we want the world to be a better place.

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