Column: Butler offers humor and inspiration
Published: Friday, March 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 30, 2012 16:03
The University Honors Program holds a Last Lecture series in which professors give a “last lecture” answering the question: “If you had one last lecture to give students, what would you say?” This year, honors students voted history professor Sara Butler as the lecturer, and she gave her lecture Sunday, March 18, which was entitled “Medievalism and Feminism: Not Such an Odd Couple.” Granted, if I had one last chance to tell anyone anything, I’m not entirely sure that I’d do it on such a topic, but then again, what do I know?
I’d never taken a class with Butler, nor had I really heard her teach before, but the concept of a last lecture was so interesting (especially since the world is supposedly ending this December — just like it was going to end on New Year’s Day of 2000). I attended, wondering what she would reveal: The great truths of life? Entertaining life stories?
The first thing I noticed was that Butler is funny—the kind of funny I imagine would keep your attention if you had to attend class at 8:30 in the morning and walk through 30-degree weather to get there. (She began her lecture on feminism by very tactfully thanking Walter Block.) The jokes kept coming (“If Charlemagne had followed primogeniture, the French and Germans might even like each other today!”), and they were kind of nerdy, but nerdy always equals awesome in my book.
Behind the humor, there was poignant truth. “History is not linear,” Butler told us. “Life is messy. People make mistakes.” I’d heard these things before, but Butler put these sayings in a different light. First, she backed it up with medieval history (which sounds like an awesome kind of history). Second, she brought such an air of positivity to what she was saying that I not only believed in what she was saying but also believed that it was OK. There are things about life that aren’t pretty. Her positivity highlighted a belief in the ability for things to change — more accurately, the ability of people to change their circumstances. I found myself inspired by Butler’s subject matter and attitude.
The point of a last lecture is the same as the point of any lecture: the lecturer speaks and teaches, and the audience listens and learns. Besides a renewed interest in medieval history, I’m taking away inspiration that I found in Butler’s passion and progressiveness.
That, and I’m first on the list for the next class she teaches.
Kylee McIntyre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org