The Faculty Forum

"Reading maketh a full man; writing, an exact man." --Francis Bacon

Vol. 8, No. 8 MAY 1997


1. Duke Masters:

2. Editorial: Faulkner & Eros (vs. Feminism)

3. Addendum to Wolbarsht essay

4. Archives: I. B. Holley on Liberal education

5. Social Text once more

6. The World's a stage

7. Dimming the Enlightenment

8. A Menagerie à Trois: Ferret . . . Possum . . . Parrot

9. Ferret's Crackpots on Parade: Karl Marx

10. Possum (Passim)

11. Parrot (Emerson) & Classic Erotica: Samuel Pepys

Note: Academic Council Minutes for Meeting of April 17, 1997 have been transferred to the following Web File, which contains the minutes for every Council meeting since 1992:


Editor's Note: In the near-total absence of faculty contributions this month, the FF is devoting this blank space to recent imaginative work by two colleagues. In her poem, Deborah Pope bends a barbarous scene to the constraints of the sestina form (six 6-line stanzas which repeat the same six rhymes, followed by a 3-line coda). As for our prose selection, if the damnedest book I have ever read is Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridien, the second most un-judgeable is Frank Lentricchia's Johnny Critelli/The Knifemen. We cite here a memorably original version of a Bible story.


The Last Animal Dies in the Sarajevo Zoo

A fall rain is bringing the leaves down,

erasing ambiguities of shape, revealing the lie

of our land as it is, trees releasing

the shriveled, odd-shaped pieces

of themselves, untangling the mangle of green. I

see them staggering stark and lean

into the late of the year, the lien

of light the summer has held paid down

in a hammering shower and wind I

watch shatter over glass, over oak leaves that lie

like soft paws on the ground, maples like pieces

of pelts, the beech not yet releasing

its frost-fletched skin. It is hard releasing

that camouflage of green, dense summer like a lent

costume, a magician's cape draping thin pieces

of stalk, the vertical props of trees, holding down

the precision of vision from that elevated lie

of sniper's ground above the streets of Sarajevo. I

read how the animals starved one by one, I

read how their keepers were shot as they crawled to release

or feed as they could, cover of night and leaves blurring the lie

of movement and fire. But now the snipers lean

their gunscopes on the sharp-edged crop of fall, see down

without disguise into the decaying pits of rock, pieces

of wood, a fetid pool, a caved-in limb of railing where pieces

of crusts once flung from children now vanished as surely. I

read that the last to die was a bear, lurching down

on its knees; crazed, feces-matted, releasing

its final cough of steam in the silent, rifle-lean

air. Soon, it will seem the animals and children were a lie,

their pinwheels and ribbons but the colors of dreams, a lie

all the fantastic, hoodwinking green of life, riddled to pieces

by a season that brings only bone in clear focus. Leaning

on the cold, hard glass, I no longer wonder, I

only wait for the circle of aim to tighten, no release

from the cross hairs that would bear us all down.

In the bullet-gray rain, I see a rock lean out of the land,

no distant lie of shadow. It is a piece of a god down there,

terrible, rising, releasing its first shoulder from the earth.



(III) It's An Outrage!

Editor's Note: Here at FF Headquarters, our corps of Chief Editors -- Ferret, Parrot, Possum, and I -- are still waiting in vain for contrarian material from faculty colleagues to offset our editorial bias. Having received nothing, we shall employ this space for our final Unsound Method editorial, which will cite a chapter from a book of mine that was considered for reprinting by a university press a few years ago. Its Unsound Method (Ideological Insensitivity) led to a veto by two Feminist scholars who pronounced this chapter "outrageous." Those readers who have the time to look at it may satisfy their curiosity about what constitutes an intellectual transgression deserving of suppression in the 1990s. (The chapter had to be abridged, but its outrageous content remains intact.)

Liebestod: Faulkner and the Lessons of Eros

William Faulkner began his career in fiction as a writer of romances. Through all these works there notably persists a common theme: the perversity of erotic love, ironically and often tragically visiting frustration, humiliation, or loss upon its manifold victims. The seekers, of both sexes, are rarely finders in the Faulkner canon; or if finders they shortly become losers. And the couples who survive most compatibly appear to be those who have outlasted their sexuality. To be sure, Faulkner sometimes made high comedy or satire of the sexual theme; nonetheless, his dramatization of sexual tragedy is deep and pervasive.

Why all this sexual suffering and perversity? In part, the explanation may involve Faulkner's assimilation of concepts like Bergson's creative evolution (with Faulkner conceiving of sex as the life force) and Schopenhauer's notion of sex as a blind, amoral force emanating from the Cosmic Will. But part of the answer also derives from Faulkner's experience and observation, important elements of which have recently become available to us in books like Joseph Blotner's biography of Faulkner and Meta Carpenter's reminiscence, A Loving Gentleman. And, in addition, Faulkner's genius appears to have advanced beyond Bergson's creative evolution to apprehend broadly biological phenomena that have recently given rise to the "science" of biopsychology. Drawing from these various areas of knowledge and resorting at times to certain other artists for extra clarification of ideas, the following meditation on Faulkner and Eros will begin with some speculations relating to sexual biopsychology, after which we may consider the manifestations of these axioms in the life and work of the artist.

To begin, sexuality, biologically speaking, exists for the sole purpose of accelerating the process of evolution. The geologic record shows that, at the end of the three billion or so years during which our single-celled ancestors reproduced themselves asexually through fission, life produced no new forms worth reckoning. Once the principle of sexual selection came into force, however, the upward march of life from microbe to mankind became possible, though at a great price: sex brought death into the world, sacrificing the individual life to the gene pool of a species, whereas fission had permitted the individual life form at least a demi-immortality. ("SEX AND DEATH: the front door and the back door of the world," Faulkner had written in Soldiers' Pay -- but in fact they are the same door.) And in our human world, nature's law of sexual selection causes the firefly whirl of pickers and choosers, winners and losers, that to a regrettably large extent defines the relation between the sexes.

At bottom, biopsychology infers a possibly irremediable incompatibility of the sexes from two contrasting biological facts. First is the wastrel profligacy of the male's progenerative equipment, capable of geysering billions of potential human souls into the world week after week, as compared to the female's parsimonious release of one prospective incarnation per month. Second is the happenstance that the male's sperm is generated fresh and new throughout his lifetime, so that it creates life as viably in his seventies as in his twenties, whereas the female is given her lifelong allotment of eggs at birth, and they age at the same pace as her own body. The first of these facts is the biological basis of the double standard, which in most cultures throughout historical times has condoned promiscuous sexuality on the part of males while enjoining strict selectivity -- usually to thc point of monogamy -- on the part of females. The second of these facts accounts for the sometimes tragic lack of synchronization in the marriage timetable of the two sexes, the female being moved by implacable biological as well as social pressure to marry and get offspring in her twenties, when her eggs are in their prime condition, whereas a man of that age may be too young to define and establish himself as really top-notch husband material.

This latter phenomenon explains biologically why romance so often blooms between older men and younger women, and so seldom vice versa (a key feature of Faulkner's romantic life, as we shall shortly consider it). It is the decree of nature that woman's beauty serves a biological function, that of arousing a man's libido, of -- in the vernacular -- making him hard; and it is characteristic of nature to decree also that for many women this function coincides largely with their peak childbearing years -- the decade of their twenties, plus a half decade or so before and after. As a younger woman's beauty serves Nature's procreative intentions, so the older man's wealth and status enhance -- from the woman's standpoint -- the nurturing of children. Thus the biological rationale for the December-May marriages of public figures like Justice William Douglas and Senator Strom Thurmond to beautiful young women.

Unions such as this imply that, had Freud been capable of regarding his one-time disciple Alfred Adler more objectively, he need never have made his bewildered outcry, What -- in the name of God -- does Woman want? Adler's formulation that a striving for superiority is inherent in all life was meant to apply to both sexes, but in fact it applies most crucially to the human male, precisely because What Woman Wants is a superior male, his superiority to other males being defined by his success in life at whatever enterprise he chooses. To attract and capture a superior male is, biologically speaking, the woman's way of affirming her status as a superior female.

By intuition, a fair number of writers have arrived at this sexual insight, leaving Freud adrift with his question unanswered by his "reason" or "science." In Mosquitoes Faulkner describes sexual competition as an underlying motive of the artist: "I believe that he's always writing it for some woman, that he fondly believes he's stealing a march on some brute bigger or richer [two keenly felt vulnerabilities of Faulkner himself] or handsomer than he is; I believe that every word a writing man writes is put down with the ultimate intention of impressing some woman...."

Faulkner's experience of inferior malehood was double-barreled and exceptionally humiliating. First, he watched his childhood sweetheart get married to a man of superior wealth and breeding the very same year that he reached his majority without family status, money, or visible prospects of success in a profession. Like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, he longed to recreate his identity as a war hero, and he tried to cover the futility of this enterprise by inventing bogus adventures and even a war wound (a fake limp that he sometimes forgot to affect) to impress his civilian friends. In his later twenties, as his career was shifting from its false start of poetry writing, he was rejected again by a woman he wanted, who gave his love letters to a collector shortly before she married someone else. When he married his original sweetheart a few years later, after her divorce from the wealthy playboy who had won her hand a decade earlier, one motive for the marriage was his need to repair ego damage by thus compelling this woman's recognition of his ascension, via his blossoming artistic career, into the Superior Male category.

As many a first wife has learned, a husband's emergence into the Superior Male category may both elevate and threaten her own sexual identity as (who knows how many?) covetous female eyes fix upon him. For Estelle Oldham Faulkner the threat materialized most alarmingly in the figure of Meta Carpenter, the Hollywood script girl who--according to her book, A Loving Gentleman--very nearly pried him loose from his lawfully wedded spouse. For the man the attraction lay chiefly in the woman's youth, beauty, and passion; for Ms. Carpenter the key to the relationship was the man's Superior Male status, which she projected into a favorite fantasy: "In it, I stepped off trains with Bill as vast throngs cheered and people extended books to him for his signature" (63, 64). Since Faulkner had no such public standing in America at this time in their romance -- the 1930s -- she shifted the fantasy's setting to "the dream landscapes of France and Germany, where his novels and short-story collections had never gone out of print and where he was recognized even then as one of the great writers of the day."

Her other favorite fantasy, needless to say, was that of being married to him. Inevitably the one-time Count No-Account became the object of a savage struggle between wife and mistress, a combat capable of bearing out the assertion in Absalom, Absalom! that "women will show pride and honor about almost anything except love." Here Meta describes her first impression of her rival as the three of them--wife, husband, and mistress--attend a piano recital:

"Estelle sat listening with head angled oddly on her neck.... dress lacking in distinction, hair stringy and uncontrollable, the splotch of rouge and layering of powder on her face giving her a pasty look.... She was not, I made the judgment, an interesting person....l caught the suffering on Bill's face before he turned his head from her.... Let him go, Estelle. I can grow with him. You can't. I'm younger. Prettier. I can hold him, grace his life, keep him from alcohol, slake his passion...." [178-80]

Fortunately for Ms. Carpenter, when it finally became clear that Faulkner could not bring himself to leave his wife and daughter, another Superior Male was waiting in the wings with a wedding proposal: one Wolfgang Rebner, who, though short of Faulkner's supernal caliber of genius, nonetheless won her esteem as a major artist figure -- "the great virtuoso, seated at the piano, fingers flexed for the fire and the beauty he would draw from the keyboard" (188).

So Faulkner's women bear out the old truism that a woman gets her identity chiefly from her relationship to a man, and the measure of her worth is how much the man will sacrifice to have her. For most women, a man's sacrifice of his freedom in marriage will suffice to confirm her value to him, but it is noteworthy that our greatest love myths propound male sacrifice far beyond this convention. Milton's Adam, for example, in the interim when Eve has eaten the fruit but he has not, must decide whether God or Eve is more important in his life; and her cry of ecstasy that greets his choice -- "O glorious trial of exceeding love!" -- leaves little doubt that for her it will be a fortunate Fall indeed for disclosing exactly how much she means to him. Turning from biblical to classical myth, we find in Cleopatra an even more striking example of the same principle, with no infernal serpent to share the blame for woman's perversity. In drawing her ships away from Antony's battle, Cleopatra exploited her one big chance to find out whether she meant more to her lover than the Roman Empire did, and, like Eve, she counted the Empire well lost when he abandoned the battle to follow her.

In reading Meta Carpenter's account of the romance, one cannot doubt that Faulkner really loved her, a fact that shines through the distorting shimmer of sadness, bitterness, and frustration in Ms. Carpenter's narrative, and that outweighs as well Faulkner's cool disclaimer many years later that he wrote The Wild Palms while suffering "what I thought was heart-break." One can even believe that he wanted to marry Meta, and tried to get a divorce to do so. But the end of the romance was foreseeable years before its actual demise in a vignette she recalled from the most passionate phase of their relationship, a time that summoned forth his Joycean lyrical strain: "Meta who soft keeps . . . love's long girl's body sweet to fondle," "Meta, my heart, my jasmine garden, my April and May love"(75-76). She was twenty-nine at the time; he was nearing forty:

"The age difference between us no longer existed for me, who had restored his youth and his sense of fun, but for Bill it had strangely widened. Although he made love to me as a man to a woman, there were times when he saw me as being far younger than I was. A girl-child. One day he presented me with a box in which there was a ribbon for my hair.

"I can't afford presents for you," he apologized, "but I couldn't resist this."

Although I thanked him and wore it, I was troubled by his choice of gift. The idealization of me as a girl far too young for him was to last for a number of years and to appear in some of his letters to me. I never protested, and my acceptance of his vision of me as a maiden nourished his fantasy." [77-78]

What nourished Ms. Carpenter's fantasy were weekends together at Miramar which "intensified my own feeling that I was actually married to Bill" (78). But gradually, in both partners, fantasy yielded to the reality principle -- she demanding marriage in fact, and he, as the years slipped by, finding that his "April and May love" had sadly diminished to July and August. By the time his daughter had reached puberty, the age when he had told Meta he could seriously move for divorce, Meta was in her late thirties and Faulkner was writing to his editor, Malcolm Cowley, "It's a dull life here. I need some new people, above all probably a new young woman" (Letters, 245). Unlike Hemingway, however, Faulkner was shrewd enough to see his marriage as a useful protective device, as he explained to Malcolm Cowley:

"I'll write to Hemingway. Poor bloke, to have to marry three times to find out that marriage is a failure, and the only way to get any peace out of it is (if you are fool enough to marry at all) keep the first one and stay as far away from her as much as you can, with the hope of some day outliving her. At least you will be safe then from any other one marrying you -- which is bound to happen if you ever divorce her." --[Letters, 203, dated 20 September 1945]

In his fiction, Faulkner often portrays free sexuality as more attractive than the wedded state. Here arises another consideration by way of sexual bio-psychology. The presumption that a woman elects a male and thereby confers Superior Male status upon him lies behind some of our most abusive sexual epithets. A dirty old man or a "lech," for example, is apt to be an inferior male aspiring beyond his level of electability, and the word "whore" is an interesting instance of a noun whose meaning depends upon the sex of the speaker. The term as used by a man conveys his resentment that the woman in question, because of her non-selectivity, did not (could not) designate her sex partner a Superior Male, elected above all others; as used by a woman, the word commonly expresses resentment over unfair competition, or in some instances disdain for any woman not clever enough to require adequate male sacrifice for her favors.

Faulkner's gradual ascension from the status of sexual reject to that of Superior Male may have annealed many old hurts, but in winning the love of several beautiful young women, he discovered for himself the tragic insight that he describes in The Wild Palms, "that love and suffering are the same thing...." What made love and suffering the same thing in the artist's life was the irremediable incompatibility of the sexes we have discussed earlier. For the Superior Male, one capable of attracting a crowd of desirable women, the biological instinct runs toward sexual freedom; for the female, battling off rivals for this man's attention, the need is for security -- meaning total, permanent, and exclusive possession of him, which is to say marriage. On the one hand is the premise, voiced by Denis de Rougemont and -- a generation later -- by John Updike, that (for the male) marriage and passion are incompatible. On the other is the principle, also put forward by Updike, that (for the female) a romance must eventually lead to marriage, or else the romance will end in failure.

In the letter that Faulkner wrote about Hemingway's marriages, his agreement with the Updike-de Rougemont thesis on marriage versus passion is very clear, and it is a thesis he enlarges upon in his fiction. "I had turned into a husband," Wilbourne says in The Wild Palms, apropos of his revulsion against domesticity: "exactly like any husband with his Saturday pay envelope and his suburban bungalow...the doomed worm blind to all passion and dead to all hope and not even knowing it...." But at the same time he was writing those words, Faulkner's sweetheart was in the process of illustrating the female imperative that a romance must lead to marriage or be terminated. The crux of their cross purposes materialized the evening when, after being moved toward getting a divorce by his rival's pursuit of Meta, he reported that the divorce would be "a long, long time" in coming [186]:

"Bill left me that night in the blind, stubborn expectation that somehow we would go on as before.... I made no sign that anything had changed, but later as I wrestled with sleeplessness, I knew that I was coming to the end of my love alliance with William Faulkner...."

So the love alliance reached the last of the four stages that Robert Penn Warren describes in A Place to Come To: "

There is a natural history of love affairs, as of trees, men, and revolutions, and there are clearly defined stages. The motto of Stage I of any love affair . . . is carpe diem -- or carpe noctem, as the case may be. . . for the moment is all, no past and no future."

Stage II, he goes on to say, "has its motto: in contemptu mundi.... The lovers are not of this world. Each is the other's hermitage, and the world falls away...."

There follows Stage III -- "But the world survives all contempt, even that of lovers. It...seeps into a room like smoke under a door or through the keyhole, it rises like water silently creeping up the cellar stairs"--

-- and subsequently, "the conflict with the world raised to a new level and intensity leads to a conflict between lovers": i.e., Stage IV. "Inevitably, as in all cases, the first conflict of wills between [my beloved] and me concerned our relation to the world outside our closed orbit."

Before the night had ended--the same night that began with William Faulkner's report on his divorce prospects--Stages I and II had hopelessly succumbed to Stages III and IV in Meta's deliberations:

"I could no longer cope with the situation. I could not handle subterfuge, play games, deceive, live in the Back Street, as we called it then, of a married man's life.... l could not wait the ten years until Jill might or might not tell a kindly judge that it was her father she chose to live with, not her mother. I would be past my middle thirties, forty only a blink away, and it would be difficult for me, impossible perhaps, to bear healthy children at that age.... By morning I had made my decision to break off with Bill." [187]

Having made that decision, Ms. Carpenter went on to illustrate another striking discrepancy in the psychology of the sexes. While it might be said that both sexes compartmentalize their romantic relationships, Faulkner -- like many another Superior Male -- compartmentalized his life spatially: he might have happily gone on forever dividing his emotional map between Hollywood and Oxford (and, as increasing fame added to his attractiveness, a few other places), whereas Ms. Carpenter compartmentalized her life in terms of a sequence of time, investing her entire emotional capital in the Faulkner connection and then slamming and locking the door behind her, moving everything she had into the new compartment of Wolfgang Rebner:

"As I put space between myself and my need for Bill, I began to open up emotionally to Wolfgang Rebner.... His declarations of love and adoration lifted me like a dancer in an adagio turn. Whole areas of my heart were liberated.... In September, I received my first proposal of marriage from Wolfgang." [188]

Thereafter Faulkner became witness to a further discrepancy: men play games for fun; women play for keeps. Great genius though he was, Faulkner learned this particular old verity of the (female) heart only as any other man would do, through the battering of painful experience:

"I'm not going to sleep with you anymore."

He looked beseechingly into my eyes.

"I mean it, Bill. I'm engaged to Wolfgang. I'm going to marry him...."

"Can we see each other as friends?"

"Of course...."

Bill patiently played the hobbled lover for a tick over a week, then exploded. The forbearance I demanded of him was too severe. Wolfgang and I were not married yet. Only a married man could be cuckolded, didn't I know that? How could I hold him off that way? He was not a monk.... Why wouldn't I let him make love to me again? Why couldn't we go to my place or to a hotel . . . anywhere? It was then I realized that I must have my Aunt Ione with me until I was married. I appealed to her to take the first train to Los Angeles... [191-193]

With the arrival of Aunt Ione -- one can imagine the impact of such a move on a Southern Gentleman -- the game was over, and (so Meta captions a photograph of her and Wolfgang) "I had closed Faulkner out of my life." Perhaps the highest wisdom to be distilled from the end of the affair is the theme dramatized in another novel by Robert Penn Warren, Night Rider: love must become part of something larger than itself, or it dies. Meta Carpenter appeared to realize this truism almost from the start, when Faulkner was holding out for the in contemptu mundi attitude:

"Why, dear one, exactly why?" [why meet with her closest friends?] . . . Bill asked the question in a voice that was stiff with unconcealed irritation.

"Because . . . if you had your way, we would never see anyone. You'd let nothing intrude on us. We would live suspended in the world."

"I don't need anyone but you, Carpenter." [59]

Though greatly in awe of his genius, the young woman held to her superior insight in this instance:

He flung out his hands in bewilderment. "Then why do we have to accommodate to others? Why can't we go on just as we have been?" I was on the point of giving in . . . [but], activated by the fear of what we were coming to, I stood my crumbling ground. I had to. We were consuming each other in our self-isolation.... Bill had placed us in a bubble and we were using up the air in it; one day we would not be able to breathe.... We needed others to impinge on us, others to relate to. [67]

That their love benefited from this reaching out toward something larger than itself is amply evident, but in the end that process of making larger connections came to imply the necessity of marriage, a prospect that contradicted the sexual biochemistry of the man. "His sexual key was the image of a young woman, fresh and fragrant beneath her summer cotton dress, tremblingly responsive to his desire," Ms. Carpenter observed concerning the early phase of their love relationship (127). A decade later, when marriage with him appeared really attainable, she seemed to forget that this aspect of her lover's nature could pose grave risks for a bride nearing her forties. In their brief reunion of this period, she turned bitter: "He had promised that when Jill was old enough--she was twelve now--he would move for a divorce.... But Bill had forgotten his promise. I could not forgive him that. When he reached for me in the night, I pushed him away" (311-12). Although her book has a clear ring of sincerity in telling the truths of her heart, she proved less willing to fathom the truths of his regarding her sexual competitors, especially when she claimed a virtually lifelong monopoly over Faulkner's libido:

"He could not complete the act of love after the first years of marriage with his drunken, quarrelsome wife or at the nearby bawdyhouses.... When his fame . . . made him a magnet to women everywhere. . . he remained, except for one brief, twilight love affair, more self-denying than voracious. Sensualist, yes, as some of the drawings he made for me and his letters confirm. Womanizer not at all" (127).

Throughout his work, Faulkner wrote of the need in every man to mythologize his existence, letting his life be subsumed within some overbelief that could give his life its meaning. For Meta Carpenter the belief "that I had loved and been loved by a man for the ages" (127)--that, in fact, she had been his only profound love, as measured against his sexless wife and his "one brief, twilight affair" [with Joan Williams]--became the grand myth that vindicated her existence. To the end, even after she had intuited--correctly--"that Bill and I would never meet again," she nurtured the fantasy that he would verify this sense of her worth to him:

"Jill was married. Estelle was Estelle, with only familiarity's hold on him. Other men at his age had left wives of many years in a last breakout of passion for another woman. Might not Faulkner be tempted to throw over everything else, face scandal, criticism, in order to live with me? I wrote him after a few days and told him I could meet him in New York...." [330]

This was in the mid-1950s, when the artist, nearing his sixtieth year, was romancing Jean Stein, a beautiful nineteen-year-old who had come into his life just when he was losing Joan Williams [Meta's successor in his love life] to her future husband.

For Faulkner the prime lesson of Eros was the theme that occasioned his most passionate novel, The Wild Palms. That theme -- "between grief and nothing I will take grief" -- became a virtual talisman of his affective life. That the choice lay solely between grief and nothing appeared more and more certain as the cumulative experience of his late middle age attested. "Change in people," he wrote Meta, "saddest of all, division, separation, all left is the remembering, the dream, until you almost believe that anything beautiful is nothing else but dream" (326). His foreknowledge that love would mean suffering surfaced also in his parting from Joan Williams -- "It was serious with me; just because I knew all the time that the moment would come when I would have to anguish, does not make it easier" -- and regarding her he lapsed for a moment from his heroic standard about grief and nothing: "Not bitter: just damned sad, take the maestro's advice and never never never fall in love" (Blotner, 1477, 1430).

The lessons of Eros lead inevitably, then, to the unsolvable problem of how to sustain losses -- a problem that doubtless contributed its weight to Faulkner's occasional rumination of later years that life is not worth living, and never was. Yet, in the end, grief becomes the truest measure of value. To Meta Carpenter, Faulkner wrote [317]:

". . .I know grief is the inevictable part of it, the thing that makes it cohere; that Grief is the only thing you are capable of sustaining, keeping; that what is valuable is what you have lost...."

In effect, he had lived out the prophecy of his sculptor-persona, Gordon, away back in Mosquitoes (1926):

"Only an idiot has no grief; only a fool would forget it. What else is there in this world sharp enough to stick to your guts?"


Editor's Note: In the Duke Chronicle of February 18, 1997, Trinity sophomore Jessica Kozlov published an editorial entitled "Lack of core curriculum impairs intellectual diversity." In it, she objected to the laxity of our current curriculum requirements, which permit a student to graduate without taking any courses in music, art, literature, history, or basic science. Her essay in turn brought the following item to our mailbag. This statement, which was drafted by History Professor I. B. Holley and adopted by the undergraduate faculty's Curriculum Committee in 1965, appeared for a number of years in the undergraduate bulletin.


Woodrow Wilson described the objectives of a liberal education as "the wholly awakened man." Though the four years in college may not seem long enough to achieve this noble ideal, at the least they prepare one for the life-long awakening. A bachelor's degree is not an end, it is a beginning. Graduation, from the Latin word gradum, step, marks one more stride along the way.

The idea of a liberal education, like all great ideas, eludes precise definition, but in every age men have tried to express this abstraction by describing its results. They have always fallen short, because any definition is a system of limitations. For example, a nineteenth-century master at Eton told his students:

You go to a great school not so much for knowledge as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment's notice a new intellectual position, for the art of entering quickly into another person's thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduate terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the art of working out what is possible in a given time, for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage and mental soberness.

This is helpful, but the questing student will surely wish for something further, something even more explicit about the abilities, attitudes, and customs essential to a liberal education.

At Duke University, as at every school dedicated to the liberal tradition, it is the faculty that must, in the final analysis, determine the specific content of the four-year curriculum offered for those who pursue a liberal education. And in constructing that curriculum, the faculty have taken into account these aims:

First, an educated man will acquire at least some experience in the three divisions of human knowledge and inquiry: the world of nature -- the physical and life sciences; the world of man in relation to man -- the social sciences; the world of spirit and imagination -- the humanities.

The objective is a man capable of thinking in the markedly different ways represented by these three divisions; for each of them he will familiarize himself with the appropriate method and idiom as well as the particular purpose and scope.

Second, an educated man will concentrate in one discipline to enjoy the returns to be derived from intensive and specialized work.

Third, an educated man will learn to read his native language with ease and accuracy; what is more, he should develop a life-long desire to read avidly and with discernment.

Fourth, an educated man will master his native language with sufficient skill to write it with vigor and precision.

Fifth, an educated man will read, write, and speak competently at least one foreign language. Apart from any utilitarian purpose it may serve, this objective leads to an understanding of a foreign culture and at the same time affords a fresh awareness of one's own tongue and society.

And finally, a liberally educated man will acquire historical, artistic, philosophical and spiritual perspective. An exposure to the deeds and dreams of great minds in the unending struggle to reconcile power and principle, an awareness of the ways in which men have defined beauty, a knowledge of the best in ancient thought, and an appreciation of the values men have found in the Judaeo-Christian heritage must instill a contempt for the meretricious and the second- rate.

In short, a liberal education should help a man to know, to understand, to decide, and to express: to know the facts or how to find them, to understand those facts with insight and perspective, to decide only after understanding and conscious evaluation, and to express those decisions with ease and grace. These are not the sum of a liberal education, but they go far to assist the wholly awakened man in his unceasing quest to live with dignity and sensitivity in our complex world and to participate in the values and common purposes that infuse our civilization.


"[Last summer] August Wilson, a Pulitzered and Toneyed Broadway dramatist, stepped on stage. . . and proceeded to denounce the American theater as inherently racist. . . . For many white Americans, race is irrelevant. . . [they are] happy to welcome the middle-class black couple to their suburban cul-de-sac. . . . Going to black revues and musicals and plays. . . is a small price to pay for having otherwise never to contemplate race. You might think this isn't any different from the Park Avenue crowd going slumming up in Harlem seventy years ago, were it not for one deliciously guilt-assuaging modification. Most of these plays are, to one degree or another, angry at whites -- an irresistible frisson: Uncle Tom gets to whip Simon Legree."

--Mark Steyn, The New Criterion 3/97 (46-47)

ADDENDUM No. 2 on Metric System:

More Notes on "Should the USS adopt the Metric System for everyday use?"

--by Myron L. Wolbarsht

It seems to be impossible to reproduce my comments on the Metric System with the proper symbols in this publication. Instead, I will show a picture of the symbol that I used the most, the Greek mu. For some reason this symbol can not be put into the text of an article by the printer, but must be reproduced as a picture:

To those who wish to see what the text should have been, I will furnish ms copies of my original article and the follow-up Notes on it. Call 660-5670 or Fax: 660 5672. Also, you may request the mss by E-Mail, DERYAG@PSYCH.DUKE.EDU. The mss cannot be sent by E-Mail or Fax; please supply your box number or other mailing address.


Editor's Note: This item came to my mailbox from a campus colleague. I would be happy to publish a column from anyone who wishes to defend the magazine.

To the FF Editor:

I have received the following submission for Social Text, but rather than bother them with another obvious fraud, I thought that you might like to share it with the FF audience:

To the Editors, Social Text.

Gentlemen, I am shocked at the ease with which Social Text was deceived by physicist Alan Sokal. Perhaps this is because you are not familiar with the latest work in social science, where mathematics has been used to fashion powerful new insights into social processes. The following is a brief example of this exciting new work (do not be put off by the direct and comprehensible prose; this really is serious stuff!):

Consider the following simple equations:

Knowledge is Power

Time is Money and as every engineer knows,

Power is Work over Time.

So, substituting algebraic equations for these time-worn bits of wisdom, ,we get:

K = P (1)

T = M (2)

P = W/T (3)

Now, do a few simple substitutions:

Put W/T in for P in equation (1), which yields:

K = W/T (4)

Put M in for T into equation (4), which yields:

K = W/M (5).

Now we've got something. Expanding back into English, we get:

Knowledge equals Work over Money.

What this MEANS is that:

1. The More You Know, the More Work You Do, and

2. The More You Know, the Less Money You Make.

M = W/K (6)

Money equals Work Over Knowledge.

From equation (6) we see that Money approaches infinity as Knowledge approaches 0, regardless of the Work done.


The More you Make, the Less you Know.

Solving for Work, we get

W = M x K (7)

Work equals Money times Knowledge

From equation (7) we see that Work approaches 0 as Knowledge approaches 0.


The stupid rich do little or no work.

So, it is clear that it is not necessary to be obscure to be profound. If Derrida, Lacan, Irigaray and the rest had had the benefit of THIS kind of thinking, Professor Sokal could never have perpetrated his vicious and deceitful hoax.


Vague and insignificant forms of speech, and abuse of language, have so long passed for mysteries of science; and hard or misapplied words, with little or no meaning, have, by prescription, such a right to be mistaken for deep learning, and height of speculation, that it will not be easy to persuade, either those who speak, or those who hear them, that they are but the covers of ignorance, and hinderance of true knowledge.

-- John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

A Menagerie à Trois: Ferret . . . Possum . . . Parrot

The assignments: Putting to use his late night habit of random reading, POSSUM, our omnivorous scholar, will try to entice the faculty with a few tastibits of general education. FERRET will snoop, sniff, and snuffle out little nuggets of controversial or even slightly scandalous matter. To offset her big advantage over her two accomplices (a voice), PARROT will be limited to repeating what someone has said without editorial comment. (If her column requires commentary Ferret will make it.) Anyone who wishes either to feed the beastie/birdie with new tidbits or to wring its neck may do so with a note, letter, or column mailed to Victor Strandberg, 315 (90015) or sent by email to Voicemail=684-3976; FAX (919) 684-4871.

Ferret: Crackpots on Parade

"While the world was going full blast on the Darwinian metaphors of evolution, survival values and the Devil take the hindmost, a polemical Jew in exile was working up the metaphor of the State's being like a family. . . . From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

"We are all toadies to the fashionable metaphor of the hour," Frost went on to say, and though the word of choice today would be paradigm rather than metaphor, he had the right idea. But between the idea and reality, as T. S. Eliot so memorably put it, "Falls the Shadow": the Shadow, in this respect, of Mao and Stalin and all the Little Stalins -- Ulbricht, Ceasescu, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot, Hoxha -- who collectively proved willing to annihilate millions of actual families in the name of that ideal gobal family. In the Ukraine alone, in 1933-34, Stalin ordained deliberate death by starvation for eight million peasants who resisted collectivization, according to Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow. (Stalin's men simply removed every scrap of food from entire districts and sealed their borders, piling grain outdoors to rot under guard in many instances.) Some of the families thus victimized were reduced to cannibalizing their own dead children, giving a particularly grisly twist to the Theorist's familiar creed: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Recent scholarship indicates that around 1960-61 Mao condemned 20 million of his countrymen to needless death by starvation in a similar act of ideological fanaticism.

It has been a costly imposition of metaphor, we are obliged to saya cost notably unshared by the Great Leaders who imposed it or by the armed thugocracies that in every instance have kept those leaders in power. And this is where the crackpot status of the Great Theorist comes into play. We will allow him his unproven assumption about materialism, and even his narcissistically limited application of the dialectical concept (narcissistic in its assumption that Marxism would terminate the dialectical process), but what we cannot let pass is Marx's sentimental delusion about human nature. A superscholar of history, he had countless examples under his purview of depravity wearing the mask of idealism: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadores, the Wars of Religion, the French Revolution, the warfare state invented by Napoleon. In the light of those precedents, his childish fantasy about the dictatorship of the proletariat and the withering away of the state bespoke a criminal innocence, a naivete so contrary to experience as to make him complicit in the deadly consequences of his ideas.

There is a word for this type of personality, which applies equally to both Karl Marx and the Great Leaders that he influenced. The word is Fanatic, a term that Marx (unlike the Leaders) lacked the power to enact politically but which he fulfilled psychologically to perfection. Had he been given such power, to all appearances he would have matched--thanks to his God complex--the egomaniac intolerance of any of the dictators among his subsequent admirers. Here, as evidence, is testimony from several of his visitors, as cited from David McLellan's Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (1973, 452-454):

"I have never seen a man whose bearing was so provoking and intolerable. To no opinion which differed from his own did he accord the honor of even condescending consideration. Everyone who contradicted him he treated with abject contempt. . . . I remember most distinctly the cutting disdain with which he pronounced the word bourgeois, and as a bourgeois -- that is, as a detestable example of the deepest mental and moral degeneracy -- he denounced everyone who dared oppose his opinions."

" He always spoke in imperative words that would brook no contradiction and were made all the sharper by. . . the tone of everything he said. This tone expressed the firm conviction of his mission to dominate men's minds and prescribe them their laws."

"If his heart had matched his intellect, and if he had possessed as much love as hate, I would have gone through fire for him. . . . Yet it is a matter of regret in view of our aims that this man with his fine intellect is lacking in nobility of soul. . . . He laughs at the fools who parrot his proletarian catechism. . . . The only ones he respects are the aristocrats, the genuine ones, those who are well aware of their aristocracy. . . . Engels and all his old associates, in spite of their very real gifts, are all far behind and beneath him; and if they should dare to forget it for a moment, he puts them back in their place with a shameless impudence worthy of Napoleon."

What emerges from these testimonies is a portrait in need of psychological rather than political analysis --a truism that holds equal merit for many of Marx's later disciples. Which is to say, we must set aside Marx's ideas as a mere superstructure -- an epiphenomenon -- and look instead to the base, or deep structure, of emotional injury that guided Marx's thinking. Behind the egomaniac, antisocial visage of this man we can discern some understandable motives for the hatred, revenge, and rip-em-up destructiveness that accompanies the Marxist Idea. His contempt for both the "bourgeois" and his disciples, his envy/resentment of the upper classes, and his thirst for absolute intellectual domination all bespeak a severe identity problem -- and with good reason. Here we have a magnificent researcher who suffered the fate of a professor unable to get tenure; a brilliant (if close-minded) economist who was unable to earn a living; and a would-be political leader who did not even have a country.

From the start, three factors shaped the young KM toward antisocial bitterness. First, he was born and remained for life not just bourgeois but, in that curiously obsessive European sense, petit-bourgeois. Having been raised in a family sufficiently well off to afford two housemaids, he could hardly be expected to endure quietly the outrage of descending into a life of poverty in as an adult. What made it all the worse was his irresponsible high living during his college years at the University of Berlin, such that even his indulgent father wrote to complain to the boy about blowing 700 talers a year on bon vivant "whereas even the richest spend no more than 500" (33). Who wouldn't be embittered by the lapse from this carefree playboy life into the shame of a mid-life deadbeat for whom "The best and most desirable thing that could happen would be that the landlady throw me out of the house. Then at least I would be quit the sum of 22 pounds. But I can scarcely trust her to be so obliging. Also baker, milkman, the man with the tea, greengrocer, old butcher's bills" (263)? And who can blame him if his lifelong sponging off Engels drove even this wealthy benefactor into relative poverty? ("In a week or two I'll move into cheaper lodgings and take to weaker drinks," Engels wrote to KM (278)). During his writing of Economics (1851), KM's privation was enough to sour even the Great Theorist on his commitment to the dismal science:

". . . in five weeks I will be through with the whole economic shit. And that done. . . I will throw myself into another science in the [British] Museum" (283).

Of course he had every right to that expletive, which indicates the second major motive for his antisocial bitterness -- a broken career. KM's true calling all along was not toward the grubby underbrush of economics or political thought but rather toward the noble heights of philosophy. With a dissertation ranging from the Stoic, Sceptic, and Epicurean schools to figures like Hegel, Hume, and Kant, the young Marx (who got the doctorate at age 23) hoped and certainly deserved to become a university professor. But the militant fanatic in the man would not let it happen. The missionary zeal of his atheism precluded a university appointment in his German homeland, thereby shunting him into a precarious career in vagabond journalism. Call it courage? Certainly, but call it also, perhaps, a self-destructive crackpot monomania, foreshadowing the barbarous actions of Stalin and Lenin on behalf of Marxist-atheist dogma.

Marx's intolerance of religion brings us to the third and most curious of his tortured identity problems. A petit-bourgeois who despised the bourgeoisie, he was also a Jew-hating Jew. In A World without Jews (D. D. Runes translation, 1959), the Great Theorist declared: "Money is the zealous one God of Israel, beside whom no other God may stand" (41). "The bill of exchange is the Jew's real God," he goes on to say; and again: "What is the object of the Jew's worship in this world? Usury. What is his worldly god? Money" (37). These Hitlerian slanders emerged -- shall we say in Crackpot fashion? -- from a pampered son reared in the bosom of a quintessentially Jewish family. "For it would be difficult to find anyone who had a more Jewish ancestry than Karl Marx," McLellan observes. "The name Marx is a shortened form of Mordechai, later changed to Markus" (2-3). Both parents were descended from a long line of greatly distinguished rabbis, and though his father converted to Protestantism for professional reasons, KM's own daughter retained enough Judaic pride to assert "I am a Jewess" at workers' meetings in London (5).

Whether or not KM's antiSemitism reflected pathological self-hatred, most assuredly it revealed an appalling self-ignorance. Marx's enduring appeal has little to do with either the soporific arguments of Capital or his other theoretical formulations, many of them subsequently undermined by actual history. It springs instead from the searing hunger for social justice that blazes through his best work, including the Communist Manifesto. And what could be more Jewish than that righteous hunger, with its 4000-year pedigree? Or, to reverse time's arrow, what could be more Marxist, as it were, than the cry of Isaiah against the capitalist expropriators of his time:

"Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!" (Isaiah 5:8)?

As for proletarian protest, who says it better than the God of Israel?

"The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of Hosts" (Isaiah 3:14-15).

For all his Jew-slandering ways, KM was not ignorant of these antecedents. During his last three years of university study the only two courses he attended centered on the two greatest voices of social conscience in classical antiquity: Isaiah and his Greek counterpart, Euripides.

Enough has been said, we think, to establish the Great Theorist's crackpot tendencies, but justice requires a similar reckoning of his personal virtues. These cohere most vividly around his family life -- not the global family of Marxist fantasy but his bourgeois, nuclear family. Without exception, all the evidence attests to KM being a loving husband and a caring, even doting (if improvident) father to his three daughters. To his wife Jenny he admitted that his humanist abstractions were a load of grass-nourishment: "But love -- not of Feuerbachian man, . . . not of the proletariat, but love of one's darling, namely you, makes a man into a man again" (274). The one blemish on KM's family virtue was his siring of an illegitimate son, Frederick. To avoid domestic conflict as well as the scandal so fearful to the bourgeois mind, Marx fobbed off the paternity on his long-suffering buddy Engels (a bachelor), to the disgust of Engels' housekeeper (one of the few let in on the secret), who described the situation as follows:

"For Marx separation from his wife, who was terribly jealous, was always before his eyes: he did not love the boy; he did not dare to do anything for him, the scandal would have been too great. . ." (272).

We conclude, then, by placing another figure of genius within our Crackpot parade -- in fact, making Karl Marx the anchor man to the procession that started last October with Sigmund Freud. It seems appropriate that these two leading prophets of the twentieth century bring up the front and rear of our little troupe of marchers: no other men have had so massive an influence on the passing century, or have seen it followed by so sudden and radical a decline in credibility. With pride and affection we will leave these comrades at their ease for the summer; and in the fall we shall see if other candidates may be elected to this elite company. In the meantime, we hope that readers who have quaffed our Ferret-column to this last drop will enjoy their summer.

POSSUM (Passim):

Random Readings of a Near-Sighted Omnivore


"In one survey Harvard conducted of the 1995 recipients of its Ph.D., it discovered that only 27 percent had found teaching positions. The academic job market is bad everywhere, but the reason often given by elite universities -- which is that there are too many 'lesser ranked' doctoral programs -- is disingenuous. In many cases, the top-ranked programs are the ones having trouble placing their graduates. The reason may be that their students' training is perceived as too specialized, and their teaching experience as too narrow, by many of the schools where jobs are available. . . .

People sometimes fret about the emergence of a two-tier systema hundred or so select institutions where the traditional liberal arts are still taught and everyone else. But most of the jobs in the academy today are jobs teaching 'everyone else.' Sooner or later, universities engaged in the production of new professors are likely to decide that if they want their graduates to get these jobs, they will have to train them appropriately. And when the way professors are trained changes, the whole picture will start to change. The dog is finally big enough to wag the tail."

--Louis Menand, The New York Times Magazine 4/20/97 (49)


"Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won't survive. . . . Do you realize that the cost of higher education has risen as fast as the cost of health care? . . . SUCH TOTALLY UNCONTROLLABLE EXPENDITURES, WITHOUT ANY VISIBLE IMPROVEMENT IN EITHER THE CONTENT OR THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION, means that the system is rapidly becoming untenable. . . . Already we are beginning to deliver more lectures and classes off campus via satellite or two-way video at a fraction of the cost. The college won't survive as a residential institution. Today's buildings are hopelessly unsuited and totally unneeded."

Peter Drucker, Interview (at age 87), Forbes 3/10/97 (127)


"It's absolute nonsense that the population of the globe is going to double. . . . The population is already peaking. It's beginning to decline. By the end of the next century there will be no Italians left. Very few Spaniards and very few Japanese. . . . These are the official forecasts, not mine. The birthrate is not increasing. The reproductive rate is down to almost 1 in southern Europe and about 1.5 in Japan. . . . The European Union forecasts say the Italian population, about 60 million now, will be down below 40 million by 2050. That's an endangered species.

"The official Japanese forecast is that unless the birthrate turns around very soon, the population could decline from 125 million to about half that in 2100. There won't be enough people to work. There'll be only older people.. . . The main reason for the decline in births is the enormous burden on people of working age supporting older people in retirement who are hale and hearty. You cannot cut the Social Security payments of older people because that's the law. So [the Europeans] cut where they have control, which is having babies. . . . The retirement age in all developed countries will have to go up to 75. Most people who reach 65 are perfectly capable of functioning. All present talk of financing Social Security is beside the point. The point is not money. The point is production."

Peter Drucker, Forbes 3/10/97 (126)


"The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language. When simplicity of character and the sovereignty of ideas is broken up by the prevalence of secondary desires--the desire of riches, of pleasure, of power, and of praise--and duplicity and falsehood take place of simplicity and truth,. . . new imagery ceases to be created, and old words are perverted to stand for things which are not; a paper currency is employed, when there is no bullion in the vaults. In due time the fraud is manifest, and words lose all power to stimulate the understanding. . . .

But wise men pierce this rotten diction and fasten words again to visible things. . . ."

Classic Erotica:

--from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: May 15-16 1663

". . . I took leave, and by coach to St. James's, . . . and so well pleased home, where I found it almost night, and my wife and the dancing-master alone above, not dancing but talking. Now so deadly full of Jealousy I am that my heart and head did so cast about and fret that I could not do any business possibly, but went out to my office, and anon late home again and ready to chide at every thing, and then suddenly to bed and could hardly sleep, yet durst not say any thing, but was forced to say that I had bad news from the Duke concerning Tom Hater as an excuse to my wife, who by my folly has too much opportunity given her with the man, who is a pretty neat black man, but married. But it is a deadly folly and plague that I bring upon myself to be so jealous and by giving myself such an occasion more than my wife desired of giving her another month's dancing. Which however shall be ended as soon as I can possibly. But I am ashamed to think what a course I did take by lying to see whether my wife did wear drawers today as she used to do, and other things to raise my suspicion of her, but I found no true cause of doing it.

16th. Up with my mind disturbed and with my last night's doubts upon me, for which I deserve to be beaten if not really served as I am fearful of being, especially since God knows that I do not find honesty enough in my own mind but that upon a small temptation could be false to her, and therefore ought not to expect more justice from her, but God pardon both my sin and my folly. . . ."

Editorial Policy

The Faculty Forum is published monthly by the Academic Council of Duke University.

Editor: Victor Strandberg (English). Assistant Editor: Sara Cohen (Trinity '97).

Editorial Advisory Board: Matt Cartmill (Biological Anthropology & Anatomy), Howard Clark (Biomedical Engineering), Buford Jones (English), Seymour Mauskopf (History), Miriam Cooke (Asian and African Languages and Literature).

The purpose of the Faculty Forum is to provide an opportunity for faculty members to discuss topics of common interest. The FF therefore welcomes, and indeed depends on, contributions by faculty members. Absent ad hominem matter, contributions may be published anonymously, but the editor will need to know the identity of all contributors so as to authenticate the contribution and permit appropriate editing procedures.

The design of this publication figures to take the shape of a sandwich. Somewhere near the middle will be our presentation of the latest Academic Council minutes -- an entry that controls the date of our appearance in print. Working toward this midpoint from Page One will be the contributions we receive from faculty members. Working backward from the last page will be the scribblings of the three helpers who have been assigned the task of filling the space left vacant after the faculty has had its say.

Contributions of every kind should be sent, in both print and (if lengthy) computer disk, to the editor, Victor Strandberg, in 315 Allen Building. Voicemail is 684-3976; no objection to calls at home, 489-5531. E-mail is FAX (English department) is 919-684-4871. The deadline for submissions is about the 20th of each month.