My New Republic piece on trigger warnings

My post of yesterday on the fatuity of trigger warnings has been reworked and has now been published by The New Republic as “Life is triggering. The best literature should be, too.” (Kudos to those who guess the painting at the top.) You might wait a while and then go over to look at it, or the comments, to see what people think.)

In the meantime, reader Pliny the in Between has published this apposite cartoon on his/her website, Evolving Perspectives:

Toon Background.001

We have more news of this sort coming later today, so prepare yourself!


  1. sshort
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    leda and the swan. correggio.

    • ploubere
      Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Good image choice. Talk about weird, sordid mythology!

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted May 14, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        I identified the painting right away, but someone beat me to it.

        Wikipedia notes

        “The subject undoubtedly owed its sixteenth-century popularity to the paradox that it was considered more acceptable to depict a woman in the act of copulation with a swan than with a man. The earliest depictions show the pair love-making with some explicitness—more so than in any depictions of a human pair made by artists of high quality in the same period”.

        Heck in 1924, William Butler Yeats wrote a !*sonnet*! about it, which Camille Paglia described as the greatest poem of the 20th century

        WPs cited source is
        Bull, Malcolm.
        The Mirror of the Gods, How Renaissance Artists Rediscovered the Pagan Gods
        Oxford UP, 2005

    • Posted May 14, 2015 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Beat me to it.

      (Is there nothing that can’t be interpreted as a phallic symbol?)

      • squidmaster
        Posted May 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        Well, except for vulvar symbols. That covers everything prolate and oblate.

        • Posted May 14, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          Those greedy men have even stolen the prolate objects! Levitra’s infamous football/tire swing ad!

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 15, 2015 at 6:30 am | Permalink

          I once got into an argument over whether a canoe was a phallic or vagina symbol.

          • Posted May 15, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

            Sometimes a canoe is just a canoe…

      • Filippo
        Posted May 15, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        A thallus? Or not.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 14, 2015 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Comment #1 goes straight to Rule 34. Kudos.
      In my occasional meandernngs into the darker depths of the internet, I’ve never seen Leda-inspired porn. At least, nothing worse than the arch-pervs of the Rennaissence.

  2. ploubere
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Well said, professor.

  3. sshort
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    and excellent article, professor.

    though i must say i was triggered by the swan image. i have been susceptible ever since an insensitive teacher read “the ugly ducking” to us in first grade.

    i have hated swans ever since. they are cruel and racist. in a swan-sense, anyway.

    • Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Speciesist. Other than that, I’m with you.

      • Paul S
        Posted May 14, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Should have included a trigger warning. I’m not swanophobic, swans are vicious animals. I’ve been attacked numerous times. I need to curl up with a cookie and blanket.

        • Posted May 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          But the majority of swans are peaceful and moderate!

            • Filippo
              Posted May 15, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

              I contemplate grabbing its neck with my hands, then wrapping my legs around its neck. And exerting some kind of tortion.

              • Anonymous
                Posted May 15, 2015 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

                Kinda hard to do when you’re swimming. Really, the guy drowned – exacerbated by the swan. Not that I’m excusing the swan, a canoe paddle round its head is what it should have got.

              • Filippo
                Posted May 16, 2015 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

                Understand. I’d seek to take a big breath and bring the head of that air-breathing organism underwater and keep it there, giving it a good choking, and twisting that neck to something less than a 90 degree angle, to boot.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted May 16, 2015 at 5:50 am | Permalink

                That ‘anonymous’ was me. My browser is being flaky today… 🙂

        • squidmaster
          Posted May 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Some shirttail relatives my family used to visit when I was young kept geese. I was terrified of them. They hissed and beat their wings if I trespassed on their turf. Scary.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 14, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Xenophobia is an appropriate mind-set in social animals.

  4. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Looks like there will be some earthquakes coming.

  5. krzysztof1
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I guessed that the subject was Leda and (or with) the Swan but it took longer to learn that the artist was Coreggio. Google images didn’t show this image on searching leda and swan painting, for some reason.

  6. Posted May 14, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    We put up a poster in the library that says pretty much that –

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 15, 2015 at 6:32 am | Permalink


  7. Posted May 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, it seems like we offend anyone now by exposing them to new and different ideas and points of view.

  8. Posted May 14, 2015 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on whedonfreak976 and commented:
    Have we gotten this bad that we cannot expose ideas that differ from our own? We seem to get upset anytime someone challenges us on our views.

    If our views are valid and if they can hold up to scrutiny then take them out for a test drive and see how they hold up against other’s ideas and points of views.

  9. paul fauvet
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    How can we deal with disturbing stuff written by dead white males like William Shakespeare? Easy – you just rewrite it! We have an excellent example in how to proceed from the late 17th century. After the Restoration in 1660, the theatres were reopened (they’d been closed under Cromwell), and the audiences rediscovered Shakespeare, Many of them didn’t like him. They found him too crude, too violent and rather disturbing.

    Enter Nahum Tate. He was poet laureate in the 1680s, and he decided he could save the bits of Shakespeare’s poetry he liked, and assuage the sensibilities of theatre audiences by changing key bits of the play.

    Thus Tate rewrote “Richard II” to cut anything that might be regarded as critical of the institution of monarchy. In Tate’s own words, the play was now “full of respect to Majesty and the dignity of courts” – which wasn’t quite what Shakespeare had in mind.

    He went one better when he turned his hand to “King Lear”. He gave this most searing of tragedies a happy ending. In Tate’s version, Lear, Gloucester and Cordelia live happily ever after, and Cordelia marries Edgar. Problem solved!

    Clearly Nahum Tate would be an excellent model for timorous American universities!

    • squidmaster
      Posted May 14, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      …and it’s a terrible thing to rewrite literature. I’m reminded of a talk I heard by Maya Angelou of how moved she was by reading
      Shakespeare (Sonnet 29 was particularly meaningful to her). She said something to the effect that finding something written by a white man, dead for 400 years, could speak to a black girl in Arkansas was a revelation about the commonality of human experience. She said it more eloquently, but it’s important to understand that exposure to literature, art and science can be an exhilarating and revelatory experience, even if there is risk of discomfort.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 15, 2015 at 3:09 am | Permalink

      “disturbing stuff written by dead white males”

      Caution. Your necrophobia is showing!

      You are implicitly privileging the animate condition.

  10. merilee
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink


  11. merilee
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone else annoyed by the expression “best practices”??

    • Cliff Melick
      Posted May 14, 2015 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      How can there be more than one best practice?

      • Posted May 15, 2015 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Well, there can be more than one activity. I guess charitably that’s what they mean, but …

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 15, 2015 at 3:13 am | Permalink

      Yes I HATE ‘best practice(s)’.

      Along with 2,057 other buzzwords.

      • steve
        Posted May 15, 2015 at 5:24 am | Permalink

        “Moving forward in a fluid situation to develop best practices”. Actual administrator sentence!

    • Filippo
      Posted May 16, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Well, it seems to be a laudable goal to do the best one can do, “as best as I can see my way to do so.” (A. Lincoln)

      If “best practices” is an irritating phrase (like perhaps “paradigm”?), what replacement word/phrase do you recommend to express the concept?

      (I’m reminded of Natalie Angier, NY Times science writer, who has a problem with the acronym “STEM.”)

      Cheers! 😉

  12. Posted May 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I protest this post leading me to a magazine that triggered something or other somehow by it’s lurid picture. I no longer feel safe. Can I borrow some crayons?

  13. muffy
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 2:12 pm | Permalink


  14. quiscalus
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    amused by that jack@ss who commented on the article about this bl*g being an “echo chamber”, by which I think they mean they can’t get all uppity and cuss out people like on certain other atheist/scientist bl*gs…made me feel better too, knowing that it’s just echoes and not voices in my head.

    meanwhile, in my neck o’ the woods, my old history teacher, in his last year, well, last weeks actually, of teaching, was removed from class because he showed a video from way back in the black and white days (the 1950 or 1960 somethings) that was a public service video warning kids about “strange men” who might try to talk to them…guess if offended a couple of kids, why, I’m not sure exactly, either they took it as an endorsement for homosexuality, or for homophobia, or they were offended by history, or that it wasn’t in color, or some stupid sh!t. No discussion, no questions, just complain to the admin who yanked him out of class, and first wanted to ban him from the graduation ceremony. Now he’ll get to go to the ceremony, as long as he doesn’t talk to anyone who doesn’t want to talk to him, or some crazy crap like that. Couldn’t just let the poor guy retire, had to beat him down a bit first.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 15, 2015 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      Jeez, that’s sad.

      The film sounds historically interesting as well.

      • quiscalus
        Posted May 15, 2015 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        its on youtube, usually pops up in suggestions after watching the classic Duck and Cover film.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 15, 2015 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      Yes and that same person called Jerry a “vagina protector”. Good grief, I don’t even know where to begin with that one.

      • quiscalus
        Posted May 15, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        Better than being a vagina protractor i guess?

        I really have no idea what he mean by that. It’s certainly a novel insult, if you can call it that.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted May 15, 2015 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

          Chastity belt?

          • Diane G.
            Posted May 16, 2015 at 1:17 am | Permalink

            This is going from bad to worse…


  15. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    All I get is a ‘Subscribe’ page.

    And I was so looking forward to seeing what kinkiness the swan might be getting up to. Oh the frustration.

  16. Posted May 16, 2015 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I have some sympathy with the rape victim who complained. Yes, “Life is triggering”, but in everyday life she has the option of not reading something she knows will cause her distress*. It must be hard to be required to read it as a condition of getting a qualification she wants or needs. And surely she doesn’t need to know any more about rape in order to complete her education. She might even know something about rape that Ovid doesn’t.

    * I have not experienced post-rape trauma, but I’m guessing it’s on a different level from simply encountering views one disagrees with. You do wrong to imply that the two were comparable.

  17. Jonathan Dore
    Posted May 17, 2015 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised people are happy to describe themselves as having been “triggered”. It makes them sound like Pavlovian dogs incapable of thinking past their instinctive responses. Who would want to appear as mindless as that?

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