A few weeks ago I had an email from a friend who works on Times Higher Education (THE) asking if I would contribute 500 words to their forthcoming feature on "The Seven Deadly Sins of the Academy".
I was tempted, but as my favourite sins (notably sartorial inelegance and procrastination) had already been taken, I gave it a miss. And when the article actually appeared last week, I hardly had time to look at it (except to notice a cheap pot shot at the complacency of nineteenth-century Classics by the multi-talented Simon Blackburn -- who should, in this case, have known better).
I hadn't realised that there was a storm about Terence Kealey's piece on Lust, till I was in Holland (doing some lectures and book promotion, I confess) and got an email from a man on the Evening Standard, asking me if I would like to comment on it -- largely because I had past 'form' on the issue of sex between students and university teachers. So I took a look at it.
"Clark Kerr" it began, "the president of the University of California from 1958-1967, used to describe his job as providing sex for the students, car parking for the Faculty and football for the alumni. But what happens when the natural order is disrupted by faculty members who, on parking their cars, head for the students' bedroom. . . . . Why do universities pullulate with transgressive intercourse? . . . The fault lies with the females." You can read the rest here.
It was instantly clear to me that this was SATIRE. So I replied in these terms:
"I have looked at the Kealey piece . . . and thought it wicked satire, but certainly SATIRE (which is of course always meant to be offensive, thought provoking, and often intended to rebound on the very views it satirises . . . that's the point . . .try Juvenal, if you want an ancient precedent."