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Imagination "cages"


Andrew Anthony’s article on Simon Schama was posted yesterday, but I only saw it today thanks to Fern Riddell‘s skewering commentary on Twitter, including:



This is all in response to what I’m sure Anthony thought was a charming link between two paragraphs towards the end of the article, jumping off a Schama quote about risking children’s imaginations being “held hostage in the cage of the eternal now” and remarking that Mary Beard is “never one to remain in her own cage”. It’s completely throwaway; Mary Beard is of no interest to Anthony, beyond using her to add “balance” by showing that Schama is not universally loved. (Edit: Anthony also horribly misquotes Beard to achieve this, making his apparent dislike for her doubly disturbing. Beard has tweeted about this herself.)

And that’s what makes it so disturbing. Because it’s obviously bad writing. It barely even makes sense. It’s made its way through Anthony’s drafting process and the online editors because none of them even thought about it.

The only way that one could interpret it as a follow-on from Schama’s use of the word “cage” is if we charitably assume that Anthony is remarking on Beard’s significant pedigree as a classicist. But that is a huge stretch. First, Anthony clearly disagrees with Beard; his article is Schama love-in, and so we doubt there’s much respect meant in his remark. Second, how come Mary gets her very own personal cage? Presumably because, subconsciously (come on, let’s be charitable!), the idea of women’s thinking being restrained (particularly when it disagrees with his) rather pleasantly resonated with Anthony.

So, let us romp wildly on Twitter and wherever else we can!


1 Comment

  1. Croxus says:

    Well said. Romping wildly will be my goal for today!

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