Heresy in the University: The Black Athena Controversy and the Responsibilities of American Intellectuals
One of the most controversial books to come out of the academy in the last fifteen years is Martin Bernal's Black Athena. It has been a true cause celebre. Afrocentrists have both praised the book and claimed that Bernal stole from the work of black scholars to create his study of the Afroasiastic roots of classical civilization. Classicists feel passionately about what they perceive as an attack from an outsider on the origins not only of ancient Greece but of their own discipline. It seems that everyone has something to say about the book; the question is how many really understand it. In Heresy in the University, Jacques Berlinerblau provides an exegesis of the contents of Black Athena, making it accessible to a wider audience. As he clarifies and restates Bernal's opus, Berlinerblau identifies Bernal's flaws in reasoning and gaps in evidence. He cuts to the heart of Bernal's prose, singling out the key points of Bernal's argument, explaining and arranging them in a cogent manner. Berlinerblau addresses the critics' really important objections, including his own, and links each of them to the appropriate substantive argument in Black Athena. He goes beyond simple summary and exposition to present the underlying --stated and unstated--agendas of Bernal and his critics. Ultimately, he exposes both sides and asks what the flawed reasoning from all concerned reveals about the stakes in this key academic dispute and what that, in turn, says about the modern academy. Jacques Berlinerblau is an assistant professor and director of Judaic studies at Hofstra University.
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