UPDATE 01/03 at 6:00PM: Bwog regrets that it accidentally misquoted Professor Bulliet by confusing Muslim and Jewish regulations concerning pigs. The correction has been made, and we note that, as Prof. Bulliet put it, neither religion includes ritual pig-kissing. Professor, thank you for reading Bwog. We love you.

His lectures might include elaborate graphs one day, a cavalcade of Arabic vocabulary the next. Occasionally, he’ll admit they were thought up only fifteen minutes before class. Yet Professor Richard Bulliet manages to synthesize so much disparate information into his Islamo-Christian Civilization course that, however many of his own books are on the syllabus, few could say students aren’t learning anything. As the first half of the semester comes to a close, however, Bwog realizes that it has taken far fewer notes on Sufism or the Crusades as on Bulliet’s more amusing anecdotes and witticisms…

On Religion

“People with individual spiritual philosophies are so strange, I think it’s better not to have one at all.”

“I’ve never been visited by the Holy Spirit, and I tend to ridicule it, partly because my cousin Martha is frequently visited by it.”

After reading a religion scholar’s exegesis on Jewish and Muslim meat regulations: “He said that if a pig drank from some water, Muslim couldn’t drink from it. But an orthodox Jew could french-kiss the pig. I think that’s the first and only time french-kissing pigs will come up in a scholarly dissertation.”


On heresy: “Once someone is burned at the stake, it’s sort of a buzzkill for everyone else.”

Paraphrasing some ascetics: “Tell you what, let’s have a constipation-in! We’ll sit and eat and see who will be the last to go to the bathroom.”

On Sufi chanting: “Pretty soon everyone is pretty stoned…um, on God.”

After the jump: on Writing, Scholarship, and Leaving Class Early to be on TV…

On Writing

After being trashed by a British orientalist book reviewer for not referencing the medieval “Book of Camels” for a book on that animal: “I asked him, where did one find the Book of Camels, and he said, ‘Oh…does it not survive?’ And I said, well, ‘Fuck you’.” Bulliet went on to note that he believed this incident alone proved the validity of Said’s thoughts on orientalists.

On popular religious historian Karen Armstrong: “She’s gifted at rewriting master narratives – on her own authority, which is a fairly successful way, when you compare her book sales with mine.”

On writing a midterm: “Concreteness is not always achievable. Bullshit is achievable.”

On Model Scholarship

On the book trade in medieval Baghdad: “Fiction was one of the least popular topics…it came just before postmodernist theory, which shows the basic rationality of the Muslim world.”

Upon listing all nine Crusades: “I have a bunch of dates here…but it’s so much easier to make them up.”

On Leaving Class Early to be on the Charlie Rose Show

“I’m not neglecting you. You’ll notice that I’ve been strategically keeping you longer each time than the duration of the class period. So I’m just collecting on my superrogatory professorial overtime minutes.”

After answering his cell phone in the middle of lecture, twice: “I thought it might be Charlie.”

Upon finally leaving class to be on the Charlie Rose Show: “My vanity is overwhelming.”