Read History. Be Fearless.
In fact, I think when academic work is done best, it is done bravely. It's done with a kind of ruthless vision that I work hard to approximate. I often fall short. It is done with a kind of unsparing sympathy that can keep me up at night. It's done in an effort to ferret out truth and logic and reason, even when it hides under very powerful boulders. Sometimes, that very powerful boulder is me. Sometimes, I hide the most important answers from myself.
Today was my second lecture of the semester. I decided I needed to tell my students that if they were to do good work in my classroom, they would have to be brave. I put a slide up that read: "Read History. Be Fearless." And then I told them that it was more important to be right than to look right, more important to reach for a full, astounding understanding of a text than to settle for mediocrity. I think I trembled a little. I wanted them to know. I wanted to remind myself. What we do takes courage. It's not a take bullets kind of courage. It's personal, private, intellectual. It's courage all the same.