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La insula de California

When the Spanish arrived in the Americas they were astonished by most everything. Not the least of which was the fact that this newly discovered land was actually a continent. As you can see in this fabulous image, they thought it to be just a few islands, a pit stop, much like the Azores, the Canaries, or Cape Verde on the way to Asia.
Bartholomew Columbus/Alessandro Zorzi, sketch map, West Indies ca. 1503
Time and again in their writings they equate things they see to the fantabulous visions found in the chivalric novels of the Amadis de Gaula.
published 1508, a favorite read of Charles V
Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire was repeatedly refered to as one of the marvelous cities from the novel. But, perhaps only the naming of California shows the power of fiction when combined with dreams of the promised land. The name itself derives from the chivalric novels of the Amadis series. Specifically, it comes from a novel about Esplandian, one of Amadis’s sons, and his adventures on the island of California, ruled by Calafia, a beautiful black Amazon Queen. California was a beautiful isle of plenty.

Even as late as 1720 California is still represented as an island—which can only be because the fiction was so powerful that the topographic reality of the Ponent was ignored. 1533, if memory serves me right, the Spanish landed on the tip of Baja California and as early as 1542 they had entered San Diego harbor. The following year the San Diego expedition, sans their dead capitan, quite possibly sailed as far north as Oregon. Illness, death, and the vastness of the land, no doubt, kept them from fully reconoitering the coast. Still, they would’ve known that no island the size of the island depicted on maps for the next 200 years actually existed.
The Island of California, 1720

This is a great map, it shows the Island of California, the various Indian groups, and the “Theater of Jesuit Mission work.” Which in 1767 was put to an abrupt halt when the Bourbon reforms kicked all the Jesuits out of America.

A few months ago we received the following invitation in a missive:

Say, any of you three want a job [in California]? The COC numbers at at the famous West Coast College are at a low point and the admin is making lots of opportunity hires now. I’m only half-kidding.

I responded:

They could do a whole campaign… come back! come back to where you once belonged! all you CoC scholars who are blown across across the face of the earth like so much dandelion seed, come back to the sheltering arms of the Church and her more liberal school by the sea! (a veritable Cair Paravel, if you will)

Those of you who know me, know that I avoid thought like the plague… Yes, indeed, I use all sorts of thought prophylactics… I, in fact, believe thought is evil and Hermits is largely my own bizarre apotropaic amulet; except, of course, I don’t strap it around my neck or wrist. I fully wasn’t expecting a serious response… but there you go… other people in this world actually use the gray matter that fills their cranial cavity for things other than laughing at the awful dialogue so earnestly delivered by Caruso in CSI Miami.

But, he responded with this insightful analysis…

Your point about COC members “returning” is one I think about often (and one for your blog, perhaps?) For several reasons I’m quite pessimistic about COC-higher ed as it is currently practiced.

According to the findings of a presentation at Restoration 2001 (a meeting in Dallas sponsored by ACU in 2001), at no other time in the COC’s history did more members earn their PhD’s than from 1965-1975. Two reasons:

1. The baby boom matriculation, esp. during a time of robust COC strength
2. The Vietnam war – many (mostly men) entered grad school to defer the draft.

That PhD glut has populated “our schools” since, but now they’re retiring, and not enough COC PhD’s are in the pipeline to replace them. Why? Because many of our generation realize [that our denomination has issues, and many PhD’s of our generation don’t want to deal with said issues]. Futher, in most camps – even the moderate ones of the COC – leaving the COC no longer necessarily has negative eschatalogical consequences.

Many who remain COC and earn PhD’s don’t want to return to [the desolate places they did their undergraduate work at]... they want a research orientation or one that’s not so intellectually suffocating. But at the same time, all (except for [the Great Chilli Pepper], though RC is about to change) these schools still require that full-time faculty be COC. I see a train wreck on the horizon. [The places we spent our youth] will not be able to maintain their academic standards by settling for MA’s and EdD’s, and they won’t be able to maintain their religious heritage if they loosen their denominational requirements.

Your thoughts?

And, I open this to those on this site.

Is a distinctive CoC Higher Ed institution little more than the island of California… without the exotic Amazons, of course, unless they all remain quiet and dress very modestly, preferably in missionary lady sun-dresses with oversized t-shirts?



to put it another way…

what would it take for you to go back to where you once belonged?

and, i realize, in a way, the only person who might should answer this question is me.

Again, call my view tainted by the clean, liberal, Pacific ocean air around me, but I don’t see a bright future (ie, 20 years out) for COC-related institutions of higher ed unless they rethink or renegotiate their insistance that all faculty be COC.

Again, I scream: is Notre Dame Catholic? Villanova? Santa Clara? CUA? Is Baylor Baptist? I doubt anyone doubts the purity of these institutions’ ecclesiastical loyalties, and they have fairly ecumenical hiring policies. Heck, a current dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Notre Dame is a COC minister. I’d like to think that’s its awfully possible for a university to maintain and cultivate a healthy relationship with a religious heritage if less than 100% of its faculty are members (for that matter, even if only 33% are members).

one big difference I think between catholics and baptists and reformed and methodists and the CoC… is the way they are governed as a denomination.

a more highly formalized bureaucracy can allow for more flexibility when it comes to divergent views. of course, supposing a “conservative reformer” were to come along, they could make it difficult for the hetero elements in the school, as benedict xvi might be currently doing.

but still, as long as you are able to keep the denomination from fracturing, this allows for differing views to be housed within one faith.

one of the curious differences between pepperdine and baylor, say… is that baylor prominently affiliates itself with the Baptists whereas Pepperdine seems to bend over backwards to say it’s Christian… and mentions only once it’s affiliation with the Church of Christ, always in connection with its founder, a “life-long member”. Baylor proudly states that a full 50% of its faculty is Christian.

is this because CoC has been so historically divisive that they feel it best to play down the CoC connection?

there’s something about institutionalism and keeping the institution alive… but i am too despondant over my bracket at the moment… well, that’s a lie. we all know that T is the basketball buff in the family… still, i watch because she loves it so much… plus, she likes to mock my ignorance. still, duke was supposed to win and memphis, whom i kinda hope takes it now, was supposed to have lost to kansas. alas!

i’ll respond more to the more interesting bits tomorrow, but i think one reason Baylor sells itself as Baptist more than Pepperdine self-sells as CofC is that there is a bigger population of Baptist-types around who are willing (and able) to pay thousand of dollars to Baylor than there is of CofC people willing (and able) to do the same at Pepperdine. Along with lots of other reasons, the difference is at least a little about recruiting and dollars.

The bible faculty at our alma mater is degenerating before our eyes. It’s noticeably worse than it was only five years ago (and it was full of buffoons even then). If you see that as a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the university, than the prognosis is dire indeed.

I think the truck is careening toward a cliff and the driver is asleep at the wheel. I’m watching, slumped contentedly in my seat, eating my popcorn.

I think all of you are right on the mark with your comments.

I think the best work that’s been done on this issue (this specific issue, even) is Adrian and Hughes Models of Christian Higher Education (Eerdmans, 1997, I think). In that work, Hughes and Adrian write specifically of the challenges and opportunities posed to COC (and other conservative protestant groups’) higher ed. Much of what they say was mentioned by J…about denominational controls, etc.

Chris is right: Baylor has the luxury of having 30 million+ members of its founding denomination wandering around the globe, and it has the luxury of being located in the geographic heart of its religious constituency, and regardless of what Robert Sloan wanted to think, its location in Waco will only take it so far…and it has no fears for “other” constituencies wanting to lay claim to it.

Pepperdine, on the other hand, finds itself tenuously affiliated with a slowly-declining denomination of slightly more than one million, most of whom live far away in areas where other denominational schools are found. Many (most?) of the members of this denomination will not acknowledge a relationship with the school, regardless of its national reputation (forgive my partisanship; Pepperdine has been ranked higher than Baylor for almost 15 years now, and with the exception of ND, WF, Yeshiva, and maybe BC is the highest ranked religiously affilated school in the country). For an institution that wants to keep moving up (if not in the rankings, certainly in its influence), tooting its COC horns seems to be (long-term) a problematic proposition. That’s just my opinion, however, and certain members of the current administration disagree, and they could be right.

Added to this freaky and bizarre educational cocktail is its location in Malibu, California, a location that through the years has made it a place often claimed as the “hometown university” for some pretty shady characters over the years (doesn’t Britney Spears look great walking around our campus in that Pepperdine sweatsuit she’s often seen wearing in People magazine?)

Oh yeah, and then there’s the law school, a darling for SoCal conservatives since Reagan pronounced the school the “miracle in Malibu” and for whom the new chief justice chose to make his first public appearance.

So toss together Britney Spears, Ronald Reagan, Dr. Laura (a former psych prof), K Starr, N. Kidman (current part-time student)...and a bunch of COC okies from the Bible Belt, shake it up, and splatter it along a glittering 830-acre coastal campus…and what you get is an institution full of schizophrenia and vertigo.

In sum, it’s awfully hard to compare Pepperdine to Baylor, ND, or most other places. They’re all different, and I should know better than to try. But most days I’m convinced I live/work in one of the weirdest places on earth…but that tension sure makes getting up in the morning fun.

Wait. Nicole at P? No. Are you serious? What’s her major? Won’t the Scientologists be mad (madder than they already are that she’s corrupting Tom’s kids by not telling them about the Thetans, and now by exposing them, potentially, to a Christian denom)?

i’ve wanted to read that book by hughes for a while now.

you mean chris that there are aspects of my posts that aren’t that interestings!!! :) how dare you

we are off to music class with evie and maybe by then i’ll have something to say.

ah… the bible faculty. i remember intro to new testament, which put me to sleep, the prof would let us go early on fridays if we had a date. alas, i don’t think i had one my entire freshman year.

Off topic (or is it?)


CoC minister in TN allegedly murdered by his wife. They were Freed-Hardeman graduates. They had 3 children. This was on the front page of the MSNBC website when I checked. Can those living stateside tell me if this story is getting “traction”, as they say?

K saw it on CNN.com; I read about it yesterday on a listserv, which has been understandably subdued today, aghast because a number of the people know the minister’s family.

[I wrote this before the murder discussion took off, so forgive me for seeming off-topic…]

(of course, every word that j. types is engaging. i intended “more interesting” only in a relative sense.)

obviously, it would be a monumental shift for our alma mater to start to allow openly infidel faculty to work there. however, right now such a move would be more than shocking to me. why? because the homogeneity of faculty is one of hu’s main selling points to prospective students and donors. that is precisely what that university has to offer, and it is what makes it “distinctive” (to borrow a buzz-words). they don’t have much else to sell besides hardline conservative CofC ideology. for the most part, their faculty are not getting a lot of press for groundbreaking scientific, literary, or professional innovation. most of the hu achievements i hear about are student-driven achievements or fund-raising achievements. not that student success is bad, but—in contrast to many other schools its size—hu simply does not market itself based upon the opportunity to study with research-y faculty.

don’t get me wrong, they are thriving (relatively) at a time when many universities are not. however, they are thriving because they serve a particular niche market, which they cannot afford to upset. (one caveat: this niche market is not growing, and i don’t think they have much room to wildly increase their share of the CofC pool.)

also, don’t get me wrong, i bet it is not easy for them to fill faculty slots in many departments, especially if they look for people with more than the barest of academic credentials. i don’t think it is totally about a shortage of CofC-type PhDs—i can think of 4 or 5 i went to hu with and knew relatively well who i don’t think would be too interested in working there under present conditions (as far as I know, of course). rather, i think it is an inability or (lack of interest?) as an institution to offer (or to advertise?) the kinds of academic freedoms and scholarly resources, support, and incentives that many well-trained recent PhDs are looking for.

but that’s just what i think.

i would agree with C. on this one.

here is a shocker… it seems that there are two possible ways to go if you are an institution like HU. one is to protect the institution like Georgetown in Kentucky has, a Baptist school that has recently severed its ties to the Baptists in order to become more ecumenical and have more doctrinal freedom. which is a tacit acknowledgement that for them to protect their institution they have to protect the university damn whatever denominational ties you may or may not have. when i visited there the president spoke specifically in terms of intellectual freedoms (aparently some Baptist colleges in Louisiana, began banning books and outlawing the teaching of evolution). the decision is a calculated one that hopes to turn the dwindling enrollment around and open the pool of potential faculty to a much larger group.

the other is the route HU has taken which is to bill themselves as the stop-gap… the protectors of orthodoxy. and the institution that they propose to save is not just the school but the denomination, as well.

of the various CofC school, i think ACU may have chosen the immediate hardest row to hoe… but maybe in the future the only one that will allow it to be both distinctively CoC and academic. they aren’t as liberal as Pepperdine… but, for many CoCers they are the liberal school (Pepperdine isn’t even a CofC school to this group… and secretly they cheer every time Lex Luthor attempts to do a way with L.A., just so that Pepp will finally we swept into the sea once and for all). they are trying to set a slightly more liberal agenda than for the CoC than it currently has.

Hermits (and JA), I haven’t posted on y’all’s site since Hermit Dave was not emeritus and you were still in school, but I’ve been watching this conversation with much interest.

You may recall that I am a practicing JD, so I humbly submit before the professional academics as I want to learn from your experiences in higher ed right now. I’m contemplating a very likely career shift soon from practice to the academy and have found a relatively bright spot in an unlikely place, a school located in the capital in JA’s and my home state. I’m in progressive conversations with this brotherhood school which rarely gets mentioned in these conversations, maybe because it’s relatively new, relatively small, and perhaps considered a theological backwater (not unlike FHU (who surely is reeling today)). At least, those were my impressions before engaging this school in recent semesters and more deeply in recent weeks.

I think I have learned, pertinent to this discussion, that our COC schools all are facing the identity crisis that you identify, but mostly as a result of a hyper competitive educational marketplace. The choice must be made to defend distinctiveness or to compete financially within market forces, like academic reputation, research, funding, etc. Those schools who choose to, or must necessarily, fight to thrive (or survive) are driven to open the homogenic, theological and philosophical gates, to uncircle the wagons. Baylor doesn’t have to compete, for the reasons y’all stated. PU had to take it’s course early to survive far from its disparate constituency, but to thrive now. (LU has a much more similar dynamic developing in Nashville than the others, I think.) HU does not need to compete in the open market now, because it is financially well-heeled and isolated near the geographic core of its consituency, for the present with a large market share in a small pond, like the school in Waco.

On the other end is RC and the school with whom I’m negotiating. These are schools who are choosing to carve out and fight for market share against other, well established schools, and the effect is very exciting. FU has campuses in four other cities in the state, is marketing itself vigrously to non-traditional students and the general X-ian populations, especially in extended learning and grad/prof programs. This is requiring rather risky finanical commitments and a bit of abandon, but they are willing to do it. The undergrad Bible dept., naturally, is lagging behind this curve a bit. At the leading edge, though, is the professional school I would join. They are making a strong run at national accreditation, and the demanding forces of that process are coaxing the entire university into a higher realm of academic performance. In fact, much to my delight, FU is modeling the law school after the famous West Coast School’s law program, academically, if not politically. FU is constantly establishing new degree programs, expanding its reach and marketing beyond the SC movement. (Watch later this year to see if FU makes some banner headlines in our denomniational spheres by acheiving ABA accreditation. I think it’s going to happen, and the school is cautiously optimistic.)

RC is going along the same roads.

This is a long ramble, and if I had more time, it’d be shorter. All of this is to say that I see more optimistic bright spots, just not at our alma mater.

I raise this all to you to ask if you agree with my observations of the forces at bear. I recognize that most of you would prefer to see more research centers than professional schools, but do the reputation, capacity and financial windfalls from more profitable programs not generate the scholarship you want to see?

first, let me say welcome jrb… and forgive, at least me, for being an ass so many years ago. and by ass i mean the rear-end of a donkey.

second, let me read what you’ve posted again.

third, let me say i enjoy your comments on most of the blogs i infrequently read… as i enjoy reading your site, infrequent as my reading of it is.

I think I wrote some pretty awfully assy things myself in the early blogging days. In fact, I think I once questioned the entire field of psychology as a legitmate discipline of thought. That, of course, is silly. (Especially now that my dear sis-in-law is studying that very discipline even now in JA’s very own library…..)

I’m glad we’re all good. Hermits rock.

you’re right i think professional schools could be a way of “saving” the institutions… i think of how popular nursing is at HU.

but, i think along with going in that direction, in order to attract non-CoCers, which seems to be essential if these schools want to stay in business, these schools will need to move away from the more sectarian aspects of our heritage.

that’s not a full response… but that’s because i, myself, am torn on the whole “research” thing. and i will need to think about it outside the confines of how research and CoC institutions might go together… or even how research and small schools go together.

partly because research in my field, literature, despite the said/foucault/literature-and-the study-of-literature-is-political people it functions within an old-school patronage type of situation. our use-value is rather intangible; we, should we play the game correctly, give the school “prestige.” and, i will stop here, lest this veer too far off-course.

in terms of financial windfall…

two years ago, the Bschool at the 4th tier state college i teach at decided to restructure their program to make it more competitive. the immediate result was a dramatic drop in enrollment. two years later, all the schools in the university are giving back money. in order to cover the drop in enrollment, because at the state-level, at least here, our operating money is always two years old.

the curious thing about this is that the Bschool is the richest school in the university. they continually get donations from rich patrons, some who are residents of this city and want a good Bschool, others are rich graduates. that money, though, stays with them in the form of endowment that they use for their school… thus, those of us in the business of serving the school as adornment. which is to say, literature serves two purposes…one) service, two) adornment.

since i teach spanish literature… my service is giving all the international business students a language that will make them desirable candidates. and, they could careless about whether or not i give them a love of literature.

in terms of adornment… literature and philosophy are the supremely belle lettres. we are kept around solely for the purpose of saying… see we are civilized. but, the only places that need to really be civilized are the ivies and ivy wanna bes (like our graduate alma maters—Vandy and Emory). and they want this because there is still some sort of cache when it comes to literature.

sorry, long ramble, all to say… professional schools don’t necessarily mean that “research” (actually in any field, and especially literature, philosophy, theology) will be secured. largely because they have to compete with other professional schools and the monies they generate will go to bettering their programs until they “arrive” and in the twinkling of an eye become interested in “research” for its intellectual cache. (science is different because there’s lots of money in science).

and, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. i don’t write that to critique the insular nature of professional schools… after all, who is more narcissistic than the humanities?

it would be super-cool if the law school gets accredited.

professional programs at hu have helped the state-wide visibility and bottom line of the university, i think (see education at hu). however, much of the school-generated money would definitely need to get plowed back into the law school for at least a long time. and i’m guessing that you will end up w/ a situation in which the law school faculty are in one class (pay- and prestige-wise) while the other faculty at the school (apart from maybe any business school profs (if there are some), depending on the b-school’s type of accreditation etc.) are in a lower class.

however, an accredited law program should help with marketing the whole university and could very well lift all boats that way.

research-wise, the law school could help by increasing prestige and thereby enrollment and improving the university’s financial situation. then they might have the resources (and courage) required to support research via funding, teaching load adjustments, institutional support for research grantwriting, etc.

the academic freedom issue is probably somewhat separate…but it is easier to encourage free inquiry if you’re not financially terrified of upsetting your stakeholders. (check out the jargon-y use of “stakeholders”!)

even with the jargon, c. has said what i was trying to say, only much more succinctly.

one of the things that has only been mentioned in passing… well, jaw, mentions it specifically, is the dwindling pool of potential students.

thus, it’s not just a dwindling pool of possible professors (either because CoC PhD’s have little interest, or because there are simply less), but there are many schools and fewer students.

another topic:

a friend of mine tells me that he knows of several CoC profs from research institutions that kinda want to “retire” in the CoC schools… but this, is no real solution, the ones he’s told me about are boomers… and, unless those of us who have gone to non-CoC schools at some point want to go back, the faculty will still be very gray and very old.

which leads me to another blog, i guess, namely christian education… what’s it good for?

on a slightly dif’t topic…j, can you share the sources of the images posted above? i’m teaching don quixote tomorrow and would like to use them.

this site is the one with the image of the amadis de gaula... it actually is a course site, in spanish, about the quijote.
surf around for the images…

dore, the classic guy though 19th century french, can be found here dore (they really are quite fabulous… the urban legend is that he beat out goya for the commission)

(dore, quijote)

for images of maps

for amadis de gaula images and other knights errant and early spanish books, manuscripts, and incunabula

for a great image of charles the 5th as a knight errant

in fact, i think that DQ might be a parody of Charles V…

right at first there is a series of possible last names for Quijote… Don Alonso Quijano, Quesada, Quijada. of these, quijote and quijada mean something. quijano is a last name.

quijote is the piece cuisses or the armor that covers the thigh… and this is what the protagonist goes by, of course.

quijada is a reference to the jaw bone… the bourbons had enormous lower jaw bones.

but that’s just my crazy idea. :)

wow, thanks—I am going to look like a super-informed soph lit teacher now.

what section of the quijote will you be reading? yeah, this is a really late question.

just the very beginning—through the chapter about fighting windmills. i doubt they will even have read it, actually, as we are coming back from spring break.

i should say… the whole goya thing is an utter urban legend… but i’ve heard it from more than one spaniard (and profs of lit, at that)

goya, in fact, did do some illustrations… and dore was born a few years after goya’s death… it’s just that dore illustrated the entire book, and spanish pride can’t take this.

too bad that it’s just the windmill part…

ahhh, the quijote, what a great book!

in terms of the political satire… it was a well-known fact that charles v loved the amadis de gaula.

philip III, the king at the time, was rather indolent and indifferent to his responsibilities as king.

As sad as I am to divert attention from Don Quixote and his travails, I want to mention a spectacular lecture by JAW’s boss (I’m sure he’s above JAW, somehow), at the recent “Theology in the Christian University” conference held here at ACU.

Bro. Tippens shared a vision of what a Christian University could/should be, and it was a very exciting time. Supposedly, the lecture will be converted to a podcast soon, and I will try to provide a link. It was quite fun to sit and imagine working in a place like the one he described. Fun, indeed.

That is all.

i am so psyched about all the charles v business. just so you know. of course, the second i mention [DQ as parody] as a theory, they will assume that is the only possible interpretation of the book (or first seven chapters) and i will get it regurgitated later as Fact.
but hey, that would make j look good, right?

speaking of pepperdine… i see that they were on the market for a spanish professor last year…

do you think i can put on my c.v. that an entire class at an undisclosed southern school believes my take on the the quijote to be gospel?

i’d be very curious to know more about tippens’s vision of what Christian education is like.

so, please do post the link when it’s uploaded

sounds c.v. worthy to me. sorry i haven’t been able to produce any potential literary scholars who might actually cite you someday.