I am very sad to hear of the death of my M.A. advisor at Cornell, Martin Bernal.
He was a courageous and good man, who sought to give voice to some
overwritten in history.
Few graduate students are privileged to have as their advisor someone
directly likened to the devil himself in a serious review in the pages of
the New York Review of Books. This happened a few weeks after Bernal became
my advisor. Bernal's "Black Athena" work argued that modern scholarly views
of the "Greek miracle", the virgin birth theory of classical Greek civilization
from which Western civilization derives, came out of 19th century racism and
was distorted. Bernal sought to revive an older model, which he argued
classical Greeks themselves held, in which Mycenean Greek civilization had
antecedents from the Near East and Egypt, and that later classical Greeks
were in some continuity from Mycenean Greeks, and not the de novo virgin
birth cultural miracle severed from near eastern and African input that
served 19th century framing of Western self-understanding.
In the review in the New York Review of Books, the
classicist reviewer quoted the passage in Milton's "Paradise Lost" in which
Lucifer (= Bernal) ascends to assault the throne of God (= received truths).
A cartoonist's drawing or caricature of Bernal accompanying the review
had pointed Spock ears on Bernal, to assist in the analogy.
Some ANE'ers may be interested in an autobiography Bernal published
in 2012, Geography of a Life. Witty and fascinating and filled with
insights, here Bernal gives the back story to his work with Black
Athena as well as his earlier life, his grandfather Sir Alan Gardiner,
his education in China, comments on the sociology of scholarship,
and so on. In my opinion this is the most interesting book
that Bernal produced.
Bernal played a pivotal role for me at Cornell. I admired
his courage and civility in public life and experienced his compassion
and decency in private life.
--- In ANEfirstname.lastname@example.org, "Charles E. Jones" <cejo@...> wrote:
> Via Agade the following links
> The Ithaca Journal carried this obituary and sad news at
> [A wiki page about him, with links, is at
> [Go there for access to guest book]
> Some long term members of ANE-2 and the old ANE will remember that he was a member of that list and an occasional contributor. Not mentioned in the obituary is the fact that he was the grandson of Sir Alan Gardiner
> -Chuck Jones-
> New York