Now updated with footnotes!
 Wait a second…a Mormon, writing on a Mormon web site for Mormons, is saying that he’s biased against Mormons! Clearly, academics hate Mormons so much that even Mormon academics hate Mormons! Wait, that doesnâ€™t make sense at all. There’s something else going on here. What might it be? For those without an ironic lung in their body, it’s irony. That’s where I say one thing, but mean the exact opposite. Wild! I’m not really biased against Mormons after all!
All the actual Mormons Iâ€™ve taught, at BYU and in rare cases elsewhere, have been well prepared and easy to work with. But in the abstract, the idea of having a Mormon in my class frightens me.
 Real Mormons good. Abstract Mormons bad. Does not compute. More irony!
Take BYU, for instance. Sure, I spent four years there, and I taught a couple courses for them back in the day, but how well do I really know the place? What is my own personal experience, and the occasional glance at the alumni magazine, compared to articles in the national press? It seems the only time I read about BYU is because it’s censoring some art show or blocking Youtube or firing another martyr for academic freedom. Some of the academic programs I knew personally were solid, but if the rest were any good, I’m sure I’d hear more about them. But when was the last time you heard anything about, say, BYU’s accounting program?
 News articles are more believable than personal experience? Hogwash! …or, wait a second, I know, ironic. Of course, irony is sometimes used for a purpose, and this is one of those times. Russell knew it was there all along. See, if you check the sidebar, you’ll find a link to a story about a survey of academics’ views of various groups. In a lot of cases, these are very silly surveys. If someone asks you, “What is your opinion of Bulgarian anthroposophists?” and you donâ€™t know a single one, all you have to go on is the stereotypes about Bulgarian anthroposophists you have picked up from other people and from the media.
 Based on true stories! But there’s an unironic point here, too. What kind of news stories get reported about BYU? “Geography professor at distant religious university wins association prize”? Nope. That wonâ€™t sell papers in Poughkeepsie. “Cultist university oppresses freedom”? Now we’re talking! The story practically writes itself. Is blocking Youtube from the campus network worth the PR disaster that ensues from confirming prevailing stereotypes? Hmm…
 It’s true: BYU actually has an ultra-elite accounting program, and accountants are not bad people. When was the last time you heard anything about the program, or about any other academic program at any university? Like, never! And here I am, pretending that I don’t know how good BYU accountants are, when just the opposite is true. The funny–you might even say, ironic–thing is that’s just how the world works. If I was an accountant, I’d be totally aware of how thoroughly BYU owns the world of accounting, but otherwise it’s just a bit of random trivia at best. 99.99% of all people have no idea at all how good a program is at any given school.
Just about everyone knows that Mormons don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Wouldn’t it be a problem to have a Mormon in my class? In addition to me, I mean. Not that there’s smoking or drinking in my classroom or anything like that, but the subject of beer does come up in German classes. Even though I’m the world’s worst expert on German beer, someone still has to explain the ominously-named Reinheitsgebot. Besides, there’s a minor but not inconsequential point of German nominal morphology that’s best illustrated by the names of beers. Don’t laugh; you’d be surprised how often grammar can offend some people.
 Heightening the irony.
 Ironic, but in a difference way. A Mormon who has to field questions on beer is an example of situational irony. That’s a contradiction between expectations and reality which…never mind.
 Literally, “purity requirement,” which just sounds wrong. This law specifies that beer can only be made from water, hops, and barley.
 This is also true, but odd enough to be funny. German attributive adjectives take a bewildering array of declensional endings, except for those derived from city names, which uniformly end in -er. There are lots of common foods that have such names, like Hamburger and Wiener and Limburger, but the ones students sometimes remember best are Budweiser and Pilsner.
 Laugh, dammit, laugh!
And Mormons are pretty strait-laced, too. Have you ever read a newspaper article about how tolerant and easy-going Mormons are? I haven’t read all that many, either. I don’t care if some Mormon student chooses to live his life the way I live mine, but I can’t stand it when people tell me that I have to live just like I do. Attention, Mormon students: in the “real world,” the world you are preparing to live and work in for the next several decades, not everyone thinks like you do.
 See, these articles hardly ever get written about anybody, no matter how tolerant they are. “Weird cult oppresses oppressed minority” will sell papers by the truckload, though. Not reinforcing this stereotype whenever possible would be a good idea.
 This is not a terribly subtle use of irony.
If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to avoid having to deal with the consequences of some self-righteously offended Mormon running to the department head, or the dean, or the board of trustees, or the legislature, and complaining about hurt feelings and wounded sensibilities. Maybe this isn’t an issue in other fields, or for teaching other periods of cultural history, but some of the most innovative works of German literature confront the extremes of human sexuality. I often teach Hartmann von Aue’s Gregorius, for example (ca. 1200 AD), where incest forms not just one but two different key plot points. Der arme Heinrich? Self-inflicted cutting and pre-teen brides. Nibelungenlied? Adultery and murder. Tristan? More adultery, this time without the negative consequences. Parzival? Sexual assault and infidelity. Minnesang? Do you really have to ask about a genre of love poetry whose “love” was on its way to becoming an unmentionable vulgarity?
 As a few people point out, this kind of thing actually happens. In the rare cases where it’s justified, a competent department head will settle things before they go to the dean. In most cases, the only result is to leave the instructor and department head and the rest of the department with a terrible impression of the student and whatever group the student might belong to. “Can you believe the nerve of those Bulgarian anthroposophists? They won’t even read Watership Down,” or whatever. If you’re going to raise a stink, please pick a battle worth fighting.
 Innovative…1200 A.D. Haha.
 This is a short list of the classics of the German Middle Ages. There aren’t really any alternatives. You’ll be disappointed if you go to the trouble of learning Middle High German and expect to find an erotic romp, though. The level of prurience is not quite as high as found in Genesis. For the most part, it’s about as naughty as the Pauline Epistles. If that’s too much for you, finish junior high and then reconsider the issue.
 Another true fact! Minne, the courtly love in courtly love lyrics, ended up spending almost 500 years as a nasty synonym for carnal knowledge before it was rescued by a concerned philologist. How ironic!
Clearly, when we read the Nibelungenlied and Parzival at BYU in the 90’s without anyone batting an eyelash, we were in a particular historical moment that welcomed discussion of difficult issues, a veritable Camelot of free-thinking. Sadly, that moment has passed. Who knows what the place is like today, or how Mormon students would react? I don’t want to find out. The only Mormon I want in my classes is me. I’ll make an exception for the actual Mormon students I’ve known, who have generally been pretty sharp. But otherwise, no. Can you blame me?
 One use of irony is to let the air out of self-important or overwrought statements. Most discussions of oppression at BYU, and any sentence with the word “Camelot” in it, are ripe for an ironic puncturing. In this sentence, I’m pretending to believe something that is pretty much nonsense. Students at BYU have probably been reading Parzival for something like a century without incident.
 Actually, “Yes, you belong in a re-education camp in Wyoming” was not the answer I was looking for. “No, your biases are totally justified by the dull shackled minds of Mormons everywhere” is not what I was hoping for, either. It’s Friday. Laugh a little. Try not to oppress people too often. Try to distinguish between helping Pharaoh and fleeing Potiphar’s wife. And there’s a pretty good recent translation of Hartmann von Aue into English, for anyone who’s interested.