There'll Always Be Posner: Hemingway, Boxing, and Sanctions


Those of us who graduated from the University of Chicago are just a wee bit tired of the "place where fun goes to die" epithet. It's true that U of C is an intensely intellectual place, and it's true that Hyde Park is a long way from Chicago's hot spots, and it’s true that the Cubs will continue to disappoint, and it's true that when the Winter wind ("the Hawk") blows in off Lake Michigan one prays for death, but ... what was our point, anyway? Right - intellectual combat can be a fascinating spectator sport. It can be a moveable feast. It can even be, yes, fun.

In mid-February, the Law School put on a “Manhood in Law and Literature” conference. Here is part of what the conference announcement promised: “The conference will include two dramatic performances by members of the University of Chicago law School. The first scene, from the Caine Mutiny Court Martial by Herman Wouk, will feature Judge Richard Posner as Lt. Commander Queeg … and Judge Diane Wood as Captain Blakely. The second scene, from The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman, will feature Professor Martha Nussbaum as Regina Hubbard Giddens and Professor Douglas Baird as her husband Horace. A musical interlude will be provided by Jajah Wu, Gary de Turck, and Martha Nussbaum.”

Sounds like fun, right? It gets better. An article describing the conference reveals that Professor Nussbaum sang “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Show Boat. Mind you, this is the same Martha Nussbaum who is one of the country’s most daring and creative philosophers, who is a hero to the Drug and Device Law Daughter because of her position on animal rights, and whose analysis of Plato’s Symposium has been stuck to our brain for over 25 years. We are genuinely sorry we missed this performance. Author Joyce Carol Oates also spoke (but did not sing) at the conference. She talked about Hemingway and boxing. Oates’s writings on boxing have given it an unexpected intellectual heft.

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