This is a follow-up to my post on my dissertation advisor’s new book. Fr. Bill Miscamble told me that he expected his biography of Fr. Hesburgh won’t please many people, and now we have a good example in Kenneth Woodward’s review in Commonweal.
Whether you’d agree with the review, it is a model for reviewing on a book whose argument diverges (if not offends) one’s view and perspective . True, “history or hit job?” is somewhat excessive of a subtitle. On the whole, however, the review is very hard-hitting but also strives to situate the book’s contents as fairly as possible. The last third is especially thoughtful.
Two weeks before the review, the reviewer and biographer also participated in a panel on the book. Sponsored by the Lumen Christi Institute, the panel took place in Chicago and included two other academics.
The reviewer was hard-hitting at the panel as he is in print—and the biographer responded with vigor. But they also showed great respect for each other and sat next to each other. They offer an excellent example of behavior among people who strongly disagree with one another.
• John Breen @ 0:50. It includes a joke about ND undergrad alumni that I hadn’t heard before.
• Bill Miscamble @ 7:40. Summary of the book’s argument.
• William Cavanaugh @ 19:00. Generally positive view of the book.
• Kenneth Woodward @ 28.50. Generally negative view.
• Jennifer Mason McAward @ 40:45. Mostly a critique of the book’s interpretation of Hesburgh and civil rights, a subject of her research.
• Miscamble’s response @ 51:30. Primarily to Woodward’s critique but also McAward’s.
• Q&A @ 59:20. My favorite portion of this video because it helps to clarify a few things.