Comments on: Liberals, I say! Liberals, all of them! http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:39:22 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: That's Grantastic! http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1024388 Tue, 29 May 2012 15:01:55 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1024388 Well, this is timely…does Atlantic Monthly read Historiann?

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/05/why-is-general-mcchrystal-teaching-an-off-the-record-course-at-yale/257626/

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By: Dame Eleanor Hull http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1021012 Wed, 23 May 2012 16:00:53 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1021012 I’m way late to this party, and yet I can’t resist noting that I read Celine, for an undergraduate class, at that notorious bastion of left-liberal-hippie values, UC Berkeley, back in the 1980s. I mean, just as a tiny little counter-example to the claim that profs are all liberals who indoctrinate their students by assigning only lefty lit, not that anyone will pay any attention. Because we couldn’t possibly be teaching or studying literature for literature’s sake.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1020727 Wed, 23 May 2012 04:25:36 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1020727 I think you’re exactly right, Dr. C. At least, their Pater, Bill Buckley, thought so in 1951! In God and Man at Yale, he combines a touching and rather naive faith in the authority of the faculty and our ability to influence student opinions with a rather creepy willingness to name names and call out Yale faculty members of the time by name for their supposed atheism and “collectivism.” He would have fit right in with Joseph McCarthy, who was doing the same thing on a much larger stage at exactly the same time.

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By: Doctor Cleveland http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1020714 Wed, 23 May 2012 03:15:29 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1020714 Sorry to miss the ironies, Historiann. My only excuse is that I’d been reading the more recent post about that idiotic bigot’s twitter feed, and my sense of irony had been undone.

I would like to agree with you that the greatest writers were personally experimental and/or progressive, and I would like even more to agree that their experimental and progressive tendencies are what made their works great. But I’m afraid the truth is probably that I am personally a liberal, and so tend to remember and emphasize the liberal or proto-liberal tendencies in writers whose works I love. *My* Dickens is a progressive social reformer, which is true enough. But I(automatically, unconsciously) neglect the other aspects of Dickens that I find less congenial. I can focus, without trying in the least, on the single issue in the universe on which Yeats and I can agree (Irish independence), and filter out his superstitious fascist-sympathizer nitwittery. Everybody does this, more or less. It’s part of our response to literature. The cultural authority of great writers is so compelling, that we naturally want to recruit them to our own cause.

This is what the whole “Death of the Author” thing in literary studies is about, on one level: the attempt to break up a little of that Great Writer authority, and to make them seem less oracular.

What the right wing is really so upset about, I think, is that we’re NOT using English class to indoctrinate students with *conservative* ideas. What they would like is for us to talk about the Great Authors and their Values, in ways that uphold the conservative worldview. And in fact, university English classes used to do just that, in living memory. The conservatives are upset that we don’t do more of it.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1020602 Tue, 22 May 2012 22:35:09 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1020602 Doctor Cleveland, I completely agree with you that it’s very difficult to fit historical authors into our contemporary political definitions. This post was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, esp. w/r/t Hawthorne as a Democrat (with the implication being that Democrats = liberals, when in the 1840s and 50s they were of course the reactionary/conservative party.) But then, there’s that whole Brook Farm chapter of his life, and the fact that many in that Concord crowd were effectively proto-hippies. (And Emerson really did leave large bills laying around the Alcott household because he felt sorry for Bronson’s hapless wife and growing family of daughers after Bronson left teaching and wrote only unpublishable crazzy stuff while letting his wife and daughters–and Emerson–support him.)

But still: it is a curious fact that most of our most revered writers in the canon today were expermental in the way they chose to live their lives, and/or progressive in the ideas that they wove into their most famous novels and essays.

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By: Doctor Cleveland http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1020550 Tue, 22 May 2012 19:52:25 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1020550 I’m with you on 95% of this post, Historiann. But I’d be hesitant to label all of the writers you name as “liberals,” and just as hesitant to name all of the writers J. Otto lists as “conservative.” It’s not that I don’t believe in long-standing liberal and conservative traditions. It’s that these figures don’t fit neatly into the boxes marked “liberal” and “conservative” in 2012.

Part of this might be because I teach figures from an earlier era, whose imagine the terms of political debate very differently. (Is Milton a liberal? A conservative? A radical? Yeah.) But you know “Hawthorne was a democrat” means “Hawthorne was a close friend and supporter of Franklin Pierce,” which necessarily akin to supporting Obama. And Hemingway might be considered a “conservative” on the basis of his racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, if one considers those things as the core elements of conservatism, but I’d prefer not to. Certainly, supporting the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War was not a big conservative move.

I did recently teach Stowe to undergraduates. And certainly, Stowe doesn’t fit easily into our current categories about politics and race. In fact, I was teaching her precisely because she is hard to fit into our current terms of debate. The racial politics of Uncle Tom’s Cabin really are their own thing, not ours.

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By: Your free laugh today: George Tierney of Greenville, South Carolina : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1020070 Tue, 22 May 2012 01:07:46 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1020070 [...] of conservative intellectual history:  as promised, I’ve picked up a vintage copy of God and Man at Yale (1951) by Wililam F. Buckley, whose [...]

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By: truffula http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1019967 Mon, 21 May 2012 19:59:48 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1019967 I’m still struggling with what would make non-dogmatic literature either liberal or conservative. Or rather, I was until I availed myself of the google and found:
The Politically Incorrect Guide to English And American Literature
in which American means what you would expect, USian. I have now learned that all those great authors were actually conservative. Great news. Also, lit proffies are hiding (!) the really good books.

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By: J. Otto Pohl http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1019841 Mon, 21 May 2012 14:54:10 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1019841 I have heard the theory about the connection between great literature and fascism and there is something to it. Not that all great literature is fascist, but that some elements of fascist aesthetics are quite compatible with great literature.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2012/05/18/liberals-i-say-liberals-all-of-them/comment-page-1/#comment-1019837 Mon, 21 May 2012 14:37:54 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=18828#comment-1019837 Thanks for the suggestion, Dave!

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