Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Golden Apple recipient Herzog speaks on the myth of patriarchal dominance

Back in Shakespeare's time men were the unqualified rulers of the roost. Except when they weren't.

It's this sort of dichotomy that Don Herzog, the Edson R. Sutherland Professor of Law, addressed in a lecture after receiving the 21st Annual Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Teaching.

  Don Herzog delivers his "Ideal Last Lecture" as the recipient of the 2011 Golden Apple Award. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services)

Herzog spoke about the myth of "natural" patriarchal dominance in Early Modern England, and the portrayal of gender roles and marital relationships in popular perception during this period. "I may be wrong about this. But I'm not wrong," he said during Monday's talk.

Peppered with humor and intriguing analysis, Herzog debunked the notion that "husbands ruled the world" in England from 1600 to 1750. He noted how many people still wrongly believe that men in the past ruled their homes and their wives like a strict "household government."

Ranging from plays to comics and from pamphlets to song lyrics, Herzog in his lecture recited tales of spousal abuse and female retaliation.

"It's just not plausible that all of these accounts of male authority were true," Herzog said.

Organized by Students Honoring Outstanding University Teaching (S.H.O.U.T.) and supported by U-M Hillel and Apple Inc., the Golden Apple Award honors professors who consistently inspire and engage their students.

Award winners are given the chance to present a lecture as though it were their last.

"This is the only award given by students," S.H.O.U.T. Chair Joey Eisman said. "That makes it one of the most prestigious awards a professor can receive."

Herzog was presented the Golden Apple in front of more than 200 students, faculty, staff and community members at Rackham Auditorium.

"He is an outstanding scholar," said Evan Caminker, the Law School's dean and Branch Rickey Collegiate Professor of Law. "He has razor sharp intellect and equally sharp wit. … He's successful in inspiring his students. … Inspiring them to do their best work and their best thinking."

Herzog is notorious for being interactive and unorthodox in his classroom, and he incorporated those teaching methods into his "Ideal Last Lecture." Most notable was the recital of 18th century toilet humor in an effort to show the constant power struggle between husbands and wives.

Herzog encouraged audience members to examine evidence more closely, to not accept what they are told at face value, to look at the context of given information and, most importantly, to never stop asking questions.

Ultimately, Herzog left listeners with a lot to ponder about the presentation of information in media culture. But giving answers was not his goal, he says. "There ought to be intellectual life, even after the last lecture."