The Faculty Forum
"Reading maketh a full man; writing, an exact man." --Francis Bacon
Vol. 8, No. 1 OCTOBER 1996
1. Lawrence Evans on Science "Studies"
2. Stanley Fish and Others on Social Text & Sokal's Hoax
3. Stanley Hauerwas on Dappled Things
4. Editorial (Strandberg): Rank Injustice
5. A Menagerie à Trois: Ferret . . . Possum . . . Parrot
5. Ferret's Crackpots on Parade: Sigmund Freud
6. Possum (Passim)
7. Parrot (Faulkner) & Classic Erotica
8. Editorial Board & Policy
9. Note: Academic Council Minutes for Meeting of September 19, 1996 have been transferred to the following Web File, which contains the minutes for every Council meeting since 1992: http://www.duke.edu/web/acouncil/
Should We Care About Science "Studies"?
Lawrence Evans (Physics)
"Sociologists of science aren't trying to do science. They are trying to come up with a rich and powerful explanation of what it means to do it." --Stanley Fish
The second week in May was a busy time in the science "studies" industry. Social Text, a non-refereed and apparently only slightly edited quarterly publication of the Duke Press brought out its troops to engage in what it called "Science Wars." In a special volume with that title [see footnote 1] salvos were fired by several of the veteran gunners: "Science is Good to Think With" by Sandra Harding; "Does Science Put an End to History, or History to Science?" by Steve Fuller; "Gender and Genitals: Constructs of Sex and Gender" by Ruth Hubbard; and so on. At the end of the line was the now celebrated "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" by a newcomer, NYU physicist Alan Sokal.
As everyone who follows the American academic scene knows, the Sokal piece was a spoof designed to mock the pretensions of the group of self-styled cultural critics that spawns such things as Social Text. The editors took the bait completely; if Sokal had not published a confession [fn 2] they would still be unaware that they were had. Instead of laughing it off, those responsible attempted to defend themselves in various ways: the chief editor responded lamely that they published Sokal's piece out of generosity to a scientist trying to get into the cultural studies game; another editor suggested that it was Sokal's confession that was fake; Stanley Fish wrote a long piece for the New York Times denouncing Sokal for having poisoned the air.
Poisoned the air, or let in the light: take your pick. Professor Sokal will be at Duke later this fall, so interested members of our community can hear directly from him what he hoped to accomplish by his prank, along with (presumably) a response by Professor Fish and others from the Social Text side. In the meantime, anyone interested in a distinguished scientist's opinion can read Steven Weinberg's carefully reasoned essay [fn 3] about the affair.
For myself, I delighted in Sokal's learned gibberish, especially his (accurate) quotations from various deep thinkers. I smiled at Derrida's absurd attempt to say something profound about Einstein's relativity, chuckled at Aronowitz's notion that the quantum theory of measurement derives from the liberal hegemony in Central Europe prior to 1914, and laughed out loud at the author's own loony demonstration that the crackpot "morphogenetic field" is essentially the same as quantum gravity. It was a lovely job.
I had already been sensitized to the "cultural studies" view of science earlier in the spring by having learned about a little book, by Harry Collins of the University of Bath and Trevor Pinch of Cornell, called The Golem: What Everyone Should Know About Science. [fn 4] It came to my attention as a result of a pair of articles [fn 5] by Cornell physicist David Mermin. Mermin commented on the book seriously but unfavorably, both in general and specifically on the chapter dealing with relativity.
On reading the book I found that Mermin had been too kind. The Golem is a polemical effort by the authors to hack natural science down to size. It claims to be aimed at an audience of fellow citizens who, according to the authors, have been fed a number of dangerous myths about science. These myths are of the authors' own creation, so they have an easy time exposing them. It is a silly book, telling nobody anything important about science. But it may tell us a lot about science "studies."
A golem, the authors explain, is a humanoid out of Jewish mythology, a creature who grows stronger day by day, can do useful work for its master, but is a clumsy, bumbling and ultimately dangerous giant. Collins and Finch propose this creature as a metaphor for science.
The book consists of an introduction, seven chapters containing case studies, and a conclusion. In the introduction the authors lay out their plan to examine the seven cases, and then give away the ending:
"The results will be surprising. The shock comes because the idea of science is so enmeshed in philosophical analyses, in myths, in theories, in hagiography, in smugness, in heroism, in superstition, in fear, and , most important, in perfect hindsight, that what actually happens has never been told outside of a small circle."
There it is: the reader is about to be let in on a dark, shocking secret, the real meaning of doing science, hitherto known only within a small circle. One wonders where the authors got the notion that "the idea of science" involves all this stuff, or whether they actually believe it. But clearly they hope the reader will accept it; otherwise they would have no book to write.
Knowing what the authors expect the reader to conclude, let us look at their evidence. Because it shows their methods clearly, I will consider here one of the four cases chosen from physics, that dealing with relativity. Then I will comment on the book's concluding chapter.
Chapter 2 is called "Two Experiments that 'Proved' the Theory of Relativity." The two cited are indeed well-known: (1) the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887, an attempt to measure the velocity of the earth's motion through the medium ("luminiferous ether") thought at the time to support propagation of electromagnetic waves such as light; (2) the observation by the 1919 Eddington solar eclipse expedition that light bends as it passes close to the sun, by more or less the amount predicted by general relativity. [fn 6]
So what do these experiments "prove"? To begin with, scientists never say an experiment proves a theory. As a colleague recently noted, "Prove is a math word." Experiments support, conflict with, or say nothing about theories. If enough experiments, done with different approaches, support a theory, and if there are few or no experiments that disagree, then the theory attains credibility, always given tentatively. There is never proof.
Besides, no one who knows the subject would cite Michelson-Morley even as a test of special relativity. Its null result (the earth seemed not to move at all relative to the ether) was a puzzle to those who could not understand waves except in terms of a supporting medium. [fn 7] But in his famous 1905 paper defining special relativity Einstein simply turned the puzzle into a postulate, asserting an equivalent statement that the speed of light is independent of any motion of either source or observer. Michelson-Morley was built into the theory, so how could it also be a test?
The authors describe Michelson-Morley in excruciating detail, perhaps to impress the unscientific reader with their thoroughness. Then they recount the work of Miller, who repeated a similar measurement over and over for decades, often finding a small non-zero value for the earth's speed through the ether. The authors claim that physicists accepted Michelson-Morley and disbelieved Miller, even though his work was carefully done, because they had come to agreement that special relativity was right. Miller's work was not really ignored; I learned about it as an undergraduate at the same time I learned about Michelson-Morley. But the authors' account supports one of their main contentions: once the scientific establishment decides a theory is valid, experiments to the contrary are discounted.
Similar treatment is given to general relativity and the Eddington expedition. The reader is encouraged to believe that physicists ignored the substantial uncertainties in a very difficult measurement of the tiny deflection of starlight by the sun, simply because they wanted to believe in the theory.
If there were no other data than those provided by Michelson-Morley and Eddington, and if on those bases physicists claimed confidently that both special and general relativity are important theories, then the authors would have a strong case. But then physicists would be very stupid people which, by and large, they are not.
From the beginning there has been much more to special relativity than just the invariance of the speed of light. One thinks immediately of the famous energy-mass equivalence relation. Then there are the counter-intuitive disagreements between observers in motion relative to each other over measurements of the distance or time lapsed between two events the so-called "length contraction" and "time dilation" effects. For example, a clock put on an airplane and taken around the world shows, when it returns to its starting point, less time elapsed than an identical clock that stayed put. In the nine decades since 1905 these aspects have been repeatedly subjected to experimental tests, with results that consistently support the theory. There is now a huge body of evidence, from electrodynamics, particle physics and other areas, that has persuaded the physics community that special relativity is an important advance in our understanding of space and time. Michelson-Morley helped to get it started, but no more.
What do the authors say about all this?
"Other tests of relativity ... indirectly bolstered the idea that the theory of relativity was correct...."
Nothing more. They give no account of any of these "other tests," many of which directly confirm the central features of the theory and led physicists to accept it. [fn 8]
As for general relativity, only in very recent years have experiments become good enough to distinguish Einstein's 1916 theory from its competitors, all of which also predict the observed bending of starlight by the sun. When I was a graduate student some of the rival theories were taken very seriously, and Einstein's version was often preferred because of its greater mathematical elegance. In recent years, by use of satellite devices and other techniques previously unavailable, the evidence in favor of Einstein's theory has become substantial if not yet overwhelming.
None of this evidence is discussed by the authors of The Golem, perhaps because they do not know about it, but perhaps because it would undermine their claim that scientists accept experimental results, or do not, according to their own prejudices. As they put it:
"The meaning of an experimental result does not, then, depend only upon the care with which it is designed and carried out, it depends upon what people are ready to believe."
The question, of course, is why they are ready to believe. Miller's work is an example (many can be found in every area of science) of the problem posed by an experiment that does not fit the pattern of an array of other experiments. In such cases those responsible for the anomalous result are likely to work very hard to find where they went wrong, since they can be sure that others will doubt their results. Often they will indeed find a subtle mistake in their work. Sometimes it will never be cleared up why their experiment came out as it did. Once in a great while it will turn out that the mistake was in the other experiments, or in their interpretation, and the anomalous case then becomes an important discovery.
How, then, should one react initially to an experiment producing an anomaly? As with every decision in life, one assesses the probabilities. The scientific community, knowing the statistics on previous cases, is inclined to regard the anomaly as probably erroneous. It is the reasonable thing to do.
Mermin proposes the useful metaphor of a tapestry to describe the development of a consensus in support of a theory. There are many threads in the tapestry (experimental results, interpretations, explanations, etc.) and perhaps only when one looks at the thing as a whole will it make a convincing pattern. There may be an off-color thread or two, but it doesn't matter very much. Collins and Pinch, on the other hand, lead the reader along a particular off-color thread, pointing out dramatically that this thread does not either imply or support the overall pattern. Ignoring all the other considerations that go into building a scientific consensus, the authors argue that the occasional decision to discount a particular experiment shows that science, if not quite a con game, is at best a golem.
To require impeccable consistency in a scientific description is absurd, of course, as every scientist knows. Only mathematics aspires to that kind of perfection, and it deals only coincidentally with the real universe. If Collins and Pinch really think science pretends to have to such lofty standards then they ought to spend more time talking with working scientists and less time inventing myths about them.
The other chapters on physics in The Golem cover the probably illusory discovery of strong gravity waves, the surely illusory discovery of cold fusion, and the mystery of the missing solar neutrinos. In the last case, which could have been used as an excellent example of scientific exploration still in progress, the authors strain very hard to persuade the reader that we physicists have been caught with our pants down because we have not yet been able to explain the situation satisfactorily. Well, we don't know lots of things. What else is new?
Having presented their seven cases the authors are ready to draw some conclusions. In these their animus is on full display. For example, they have a section on things gone wrong, citing the Challenger and Chernobyl disasters and offering this moral:
"When something goes wrong with science, the scientific community reacts like a nest of ants with an intruder in their midst. Ants swarm over an intruder giving their lives for the nest; in the case of science it is human bodies that are sacrificed: the bodies of those responsible for the 'human error' that allowed the problem to arise."
Never mind that it was the technical people who tried to delay the Challenger launch until the weather was warmer, but were overruled by the management. Never mind that Western nuclear power experts cited Chernobyl as a disaster waiting to happen, but were ignored by the Soviet bureaucracy. Never mind that in neither case did anything "go wrong with science": the scientific basis of the technology in these cases remains unchallenged. [fn 9]
Here is what Collins and Pinch have to say about science education:
"It is nice to know the content of science it helps one to do a lot of things such as repair the car, wire a plug, build a model aeroplane, use a personal computer to some effect, know where in the oven to put a soufflé, lower one's energy bills, disinfect a wound, repair the kettle, avoid blowing oneself up with the gas cooker, and much much more."
This bit of triviality speaks for itself. One finds nothing here (or anywhere else in the book) about science as an intellectual movement, easily the most important of the last four centuries. Nothing about examining the universe to learn how it works. Nothing, really, about science.
Of course, the audience the authors seek to persuade is not the scientists but the ordinary citizens. Here is what they think the citizen ought to know:
"What should be explained [to the public] is methods of science, but what most people concerned with the issues want the public to know about is the truth about the natural world --that is, what the powerful believe to be the truth about the natural world."
Some instructive points are illustrated by this. First, the authors consistently put down learning about the natural world in favor of discussing method. This could be a case of the occupational disease of social scientists, who seem obsessed by methodological matters while natural scientists seldom discuss them as such, although the methods scientists actually use are diverse and often highly sophisticated. But concentrating on method also promotes the status of the authors, who (obviously) have no expertise with respect to "content" yet want the reader to think they have something important to say about science. Second, "what the powerful believe" is a typical cheap shot. Who are "the powerful"? Members of the National Academy? Winners of the Nobel Prize? Corporate executives? Whoever they might be, the ordinary citizen reader is encouraged to suspect that they are somehow manipulating scientific knowledge to sustain their power.
Why do people like Collins and Pinch downplay "the content" of science? It is really not surprising. Scientific statements about how the universe works are either right or wrong, irrespective of cultural and social factors that may or may not be important at various stages in the scientific analysis that decides the issue. Such statements are impervious to the shallow polemical "scholarship" represented by The Golem, so the authors understandably want to change the subject.
There are good reasons why scientists, as "people concerned with the issues," would like to enhance public knowledge about basic natural laws. First, public debate involving technical issues might be more effective and focused. Second, in many cases our understanding of nature is simply inadequate to permit clear decisions or to prescribe solutions for technical problems; a scientifically literate public could understand and take account of those limitations. Finally, we dare to hope that an informed citizenry might regard scientific research expenditures as a good investment of public money.
Simple-minded socio-cultural accounts of scientific activity contribute nothing toward any of these goals. But they do seem to provide employment in universities for people like Collins and Pinch. That, of course, goes to the basic reason for books like The Golem. They arise not to meet a public need to understand better the workings of scientists but out of the usual academic imperative to publish or perish.
Many of today's would-be professors have discovered that current "progressive" academic mantras (interdisciplinarity, multiculturalism, diversity, etc.) can provide cover for almost anything that poses as scholarship; the result is a proliferation of "studies" programs. Those doing science studies often seem also to have delusions of power; by influencing the rhetoric they hope to reshape science to fit a utopian model some of them call "democratic science." These games can be played by nearly anyone; they require next to nothing in special knowledge or skills and offer the possibility of academic prestige and tenure. All that is needed is the complaisance of gullible or gutless university administrators.
Apart from squandering university resources, is any harm done? Scientists will surely not be much distracted from their proper work, but what about students? The account of what science is and how scientists work presented by people like Collins and Pinch is largely claptrap, but it is easy enough to grasp, which makes its study attractive to the many students looking for an easy path to a degree. In some universities science studies can be substituted for real science to satisfy curricular requirements; anyone who cares about the integrity of a university degree ought to be worried about that. And to the extent that what one studies in the university shapes one's attitudes through life, anyone concerned about the future of science in a democratic society should be worried.
Then there is a more far-reaching danger pointed out by Weinberg: [fn 10]
"If we think that scientific laws are flexible enough to be affected by the social setting of their discovery, then some may be tempted to press scientists to discover laws that are more proletarian or feminine or American or religious or Aryan or whatever else it is they want. This is a dangerous path, and more is at stake in the controversy over it than just the health of science.... We will need to confirm and strengthen the vision of a rationally understandable world if we are to protect ourselves from the irrational tendencies that still beset humanity."
Unfortunately, such tendencies have become chic inside today's universities.
Is The Golem a step toward a "rich and powerful explanation" of anything one should care about? Hardly. It is just another product of academics on the make, who dress up the commonplace in melodramatic prose, who manufacture myths to be exploded and strawmen to be picked apart, and who interpret carefully selected data to fit their prejudices, all to improve their standing in the academy without having to do any intellectual heavy lifting.
1 Social Text, Spring/Summer 1996.
2 Alan D. Sokal, "A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies," Lingua Franca (May/June 1996), pp. 62-64.
3 Steven Weinberg, "Sokal's Hoax," The New York Review of Books (8 August 1996), pp. 11-15. Weinberg is a Nobel Laureate theoretical physicist.
4 Cambridge University Press, 1993.
5 N. David Mermin, "What's Wrong with this Sustaining Myth?" Physics Today (March 1996), pp. 11-13; "The Golemization of Relativity," Physics Today (April 1996), pp. 11-13.
6 The authors refer confusingly to "relativity" without distinguishing between the general and special theories; the former is a theory of gravity which even today has serious competitors, while the latter is a description of local space and time universally accepted by today's physicists.
7 Familiar waves, such as waves on water or sound waves in air, arise from to-and-fro motion of particles in the medium; for such waves the speed measured by an observer depends on the motion of the observer relative to the medium. Light, as Michelson-Morley indicated, is not like that.
8 The confusion over Michelson-Morley and Miller was resolved in the 1960's when it became possible to measure directly the speed of light from sources themselves moving at nearly the speed of light. The results dramatically support Einstein's postulate of the constancy of the speed of light.
9 And, finally, never mind that the "scientific community" is remarkably unsusceptible to the kind of organized action that might support the authors' demeaning "nest of ants" simile.
10 S. Weinberg, op. cit.
Editor's Note: In his essay on Science "Studies," Lawrence Evans refers to essays by Stanley Fish and Steven Weinberg. We here provide a sampling of excerpts:
From Stanley Fish's "Professor Sokal's Bad Joke," in The New York Times (May 21, 1996):
" When the editors of Social Text accepted an essay purporting to link developments in quantum mechanics with the formulations of postmodern thought, they could not have anticipated that on the day of its publication the author, Alan Sokal, a physicist at New York University, would be announcing in the pages of another journal, Lingua Franca, that the whole thing had been an elaborate hoax.
He had made it all up, he said, and gloated that his 'prank' proved that sociologists and humanists who spoke of science as a 'social construction' didn't know what they were talking about. Acknowledging the ethical issues raised by his deception, Professor Sokal declared it justified by the importance of the truths he was defending from postmodernist attack: 'There is a world; its properties are not merely social constructions; facts and evidence do matter. What sane person would contend otherwise?'
Exactly! Professor Sokal's question should alert us to the improbability of the scenario he conjures up: Scholars with impeccable credentials making statements no sane person could credit. The truth is that none of his targets would ever make such statements. What sociologists of science say is that of course the world is real and independent of our observations but that accounts of the world are produced by observers and are therefore relative to their capacities, education, training, etc. It is not the world or its properties but the vocabularies in whose terms we know them that are socially constructed--fashioned by human beings--which is why our understanding of these properties is constantly changing."
From Steven Weinberg's "Sokal's Hoax" in The New York Review Of Books (August 8, 1966), 11, 12, 14:
"Where the article does degenerate into babble it is not in what Sokal himself has written but in the writings of the genuine postmodern cultural critics he quotes. Here, for instance, is a quote he takes from the oracle of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida:
'The Einsteinian constant is not a constant, not a center. In is the very concept of variability--it is, finally, the concept of the game. In other words, it is not the concept of something--of a center starting from which an observer could master the field--but the very concept of the game.'
. . . In other quotations cited by Sokal, Stanley Aronowitz
misuses the term "unified field theory."
The feminist theorist Luce Irigaray deplores mathematicians' neglect of spaces with boundaries, though there is a huge literature on the subject. The English professor Robert Markley calls quantum theory nonlinear, though it is the only known example of a precisely linear theory. Michael Serres. . . and Jean-Francois Lyotard grossly misrepresent the view of time in modern physics. Such errors suggest a problem not only in the editing practices of Social Text, but in the standards of a larger intellectual community."
Joyce Carol Oates (New York Times, 7/22/96, A15):
"[Sokal's essay is a] devastating (and wonderfully funny) critique of postmodernist social science theory."
Andrew Ross & Bruce Robbins (co-editors of Social Text):
"Your readers should not be left with the impression that Alan Sokal has caught the editors of Social Text championing a disbelief in the existence of the physical universe. . . . There is every difference in the world between such nonsense and questioning, as we do, the scientific community's abuses of authority, its priestly organization and lack of accountability to the public."
Jerry Coyne (U. of Chicago professor of ecology and evolution):
"Mr. Sokal has shown the intellectual vacuity and trendiness of much current work on culture. . . . As George Orwell remarked, 'One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.'"
Steve Fuller (U. of Durham, England, professor of sociology):
"Perhaps we need guidelines for interdisciplinary fraud, because had [Sokal] committed a comparable stunt in his own field, he would have been quickly and rightly expelled by now."
E. D. Hirsch, Jr. (U. of Virginia professor of education and humanities):
"The indignation of Stanley Fish is the indignation of Tartuffe on being exposed. . . . But there was no fraud. Professor Sokal meticulously quoted and footnoted the anti-science social constructivists themselves."
Gwen Cerasoli (no affiliation stated):
"I agree with Mr. Fish that it was an evil trick, but I also agree with Mr. Sokal that there are many pretenders in academia, and I thank him for a good laugh."
FOR DAPPLED THINGS
Commencement Address for Ph.D. Ceremony Duke University, 1996
--by Stanley Hauerwas
The Divinity School, Duke University
Being the smart people I know you to be I assume most of you have just discovered one of the most important survival skills an academic needs--that is, how to get through commencement exercises without dying of boredom. It has been some years since you went through a commencement. You had forgotten how long they can be. You forgot to bring anything to read. Desperate, you turned to the Commencement program and to your delight discovered the listing of the dissertation titles. Even better, you discovered your dissertation title. Then you thought, "I can get through the rest of this event by reading the other dissertation titles."
Of course that is when the trouble begins. You are on the brink of having your Ph.D conferred--which surely puts you among the brightest of the bright in this society--but you discover not only do you not have a clue to what most of the other dissertations are about, but you cannot even read their titles with understanding. After discounting the hypothesis that this might have to do with your limitations, you then begin to wonder about the institution from which you are graduating. For you could understand just enough about some of the titles to make you wonder what kind of university would allow someone to graduate with a Ph.D working on this kind of stuff. Just remember the person sitting next to you is probably thinking the same thing about your dissertation.
All of which is to say, "Congratulations on the completion of your work and welcome to the rest of your life!" I realize that some of you will not stay in the university, but from this moment on, for better or worse you are citizens of the university. You owe us. I realize this is not a time to tell you, "You owe us," but if we are to continue to be a place that can graduate people who cannot understand the person next to them at graduation, we are going to need your help. We need you to help us tell those who are not part of the university why they should want to support communities and institutions who produce people like you and me.
The humbling experience of not being able to communicate with the person next to you is not something that is peculiar to this occasion. It is in the character of the modern university. I served on a committee in the university for some years that required me to be confronted by people from other disciplines. When I first heard about random walks, I thought this must be someone's project from the School of the Environment to lay trails in Duke Forest. Imagine my surprise to discover "random walks" is a subject in the Department of Mathematics. Then there was tribology. I thought surely this was an area in the Program in Literature dealing with the Star Trek episode about "Tribbles." That is, I thought it possible this was another profound probing by cultural studies to illumine the production and reproduction of the capitalist subtext. It turns out the subject does have to do with capital, since it involves oil. For tribology is the study of friction, and oil can reduce friction. There is, moreover, a Journal of Tribology, so we know it must count as an academic discipline!
Some within the university, and many external to the university, think the fact that we cannot understand one another's dissertation titles is surely an indication that something has gone wrong with the contemporary university. They assume what is wrong with the university is nicely exemplified by occasions like this. What could I possibly say that would be of interest to such a diverse group? Yet this occasion but reproduces the everyday politics of most universities, whether they be large or small, research universities or liberal art colleges. When faculties come together to discuss matters of common concern, we discover the only matters about which we have a common concern are which parking lot we got assigned, the conditions of Card Gym, or perhaps, health insurance. The issue is no longer the two-cultures made famous by C. P. Snow, but the many cultures both between departments and within departments. Departments often are names for diverse methodologies which share nothing in common other than perhaps proximity of offices and labs.
Yet I am not convinced that such a view of the university, and/or of your work in it, is justified. This is an odd position for me to take since I am a theologian. Theology may once have aspired to be the queen of the sciences, but such an ambition today by any discipline would only be laughable. Moreover, theology--like philosophy and, I think, many of the humanities--is a discipline where there is nothing new to learn. For us all the "data" is in. So we cannot pretend to produce the kind of knowledges that seem to legitimate the current proliferation of disciplines. The problem for theology is how to understand what we know by attending to those in our past who struggled to say what defies saying. That, of course, requires being initiated into a discipline, which means theologians also write dissertations with titles that are not immediately understood.
Our inability to read and understand one another's dissertation titles is not in itself a sign that something has gone wrong, but rather a testimony to the discipline, the sheer hard work, necessary to understand a few things well. That you are all receiving a common degree at this time indicates you share more in common than your dissertation titles suggest. You have each submitted yourselves to the discipline of the past and current masters of your craft in order that you exemplify in your own life the passion of your subject.
I realize, of course, that the language of passion may seem far too dramatic to characterize the years you have spent in your doctorate work. Drudgery may seem closer to the mark. Yet surely passion must infuse the drudgery; for otherwise how are we to explain the exactness of your dissertation titles? Such exactness is required by the details--details, moreover, that can be appreciated only by those who have submitted themselves to the discipline necessary to see why such details matter. That you have now made those details matter surely suggests that at one time and at one place you fell in love. Or put differently, at one time and at one place you were possessed with the desire to want to know, for example, why butterfly wings differ, how songbirds sing, or why Trollope is the greatest English novelist. The reason you cannot easily communicate what you have learned is that the truth is in the details of such study, details that can only be appreciated by undergoing the discipline you have undergone.
But why would anyone want to undergo such discipline? Stanley Fish explains it this way:
"Literary interpretation, like virtue, is its own reward. I do it because I like the way I feel when I'm doing it. I like being brought up short by an effect I have experienced but do not understand analytically. I like trying to describe in flatly prosaic words the achievement of words that are anything but flat and prosaic. I like savoring the physical 'taste' of language at the same time that I work to lay bare its physics. I like uncovering the incredibly dense pyrotechnics of a master artificer, not least because in praising the artifice I can claim a share in it. And when those pleasures have been (temporarily) exhausted, I like linking one moment in a poem to others and then to moments in other works, works by the same author or by his predecessors or contemporaries or successors. It doesn't finally matter which, so long as I can keep going, reaping the cognitive and tactile harvest of an activity as self-reflexive as I become when I engage in it." (Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change, p. lb)
But remember, Stanley also reminds his students when they express admiration or Milton's poetry that Milton does not want their admiration: he wants their souls.
Fish's account may be peculiar to literary criticism and, no doubt, other literary critics would be quite critical of his understanding of why he does what he does. Yet I think he rightly indicates why many of us are attracted to the details of our disciplines. I have noticed, for example, that the highest accolade one mathematician can give another is to describe her work as "deep." A physicist's work must be "elegant." Yet just to the extent our work attains such beauty, it becomes hard for us to understand one another, though we may and should come to appreciate what one another does. Yet such appreciation is hard won and even harder for those who are not part of the world we call the university. Which means they (that is, those not part of our world) can rightly ask why they should pay for Stanley Fish to get such pleasure from the study of poetry?
There is no easy answer to this question, though I think there are answers. We can begin by observing that there exists no intrinsic tension between a Fish-like understanding of our work and our work being useful. I was once giving a lecture at Iowa State University (long before the wonderful novel Moo had been written). Since I am a compulsive jogger, I was running around the campus in the dark of the early morning. I passed a huge building that was fronted by enormous Greek columns, but because of the dark I could not read the inscription above the columns. I came around later after the sun had come up and discovered that chiseled in marble above those columns was the wonderful word, "MILK." I thought, what a wonderful way to organize knowledge! Indeed I hope that chairs of the departments of Physics and/or English at Iowa State University report to the Dean of the School of Milk.
Yet as useful as the study of milk is, such usefulness often cannot provide adequate justification for the practices actually required for such study. For milk, no more than poetry or virtue, is not an end in itself but rather gains its significance as part of a network of needs and goods that represent a community's traditions. The university represents those set aside to serve and remember those goods through the patient love of details. Why we should be paid, or better--privileged, to do such work is because we believe the world in which we live would be the poorer if people like us and our passions did not exist. As those who have been privileged to have been given the time for the work represented by this ceremony, you now have the duty to help those not so privileged understand our passions as a contribution to our common goods.
That we cannot read one another's dissertation titles, therefore, may not be a sign of failure, but rather an indication we are rightly reflecting the truthful differences that make our world so beautiful. Such beauty makes it difficult for us to understand one another and in the process we are humbled not only by having to acknowledge all that we do not know, but even more by that which we have tried to know. And humility is that virtue most required if we are truthfully to tell one another what we know but do not understand. Moreover, I believe God enjoys the details, and we would not truthfully reflect God's creation if we hid the differences required by the details. Accordingly, I can do no better than to close with the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins:
Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscapes plotted and piecedfold, fallow, and plow;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
And so, I pray, may your life and work be dappled, as
you go forth from this place.
To my Arts and Sciences colleagues, I would like to propose a mildly radical idea. Let's do away with the rank of Associate Professor, that purgatorial interlude which intrudes upon the three potentially meaningful ranks of our academic hierarchy: assistant, professor, and chaired professor--which is to say, untenured, tenured, and distinguished. (This reform should include expanding the latter category by about--I reckon--a quarter.) Although a case can be made for a second period of apprenticeship following the assistant level, that case grows weaker as the period of "apprenticeship" lengthens. After several decades, the "apprentice" has become a professional master of his field by any reasonable standard, while along the line of demarcation, the distinction between an associate and a full professor may consist of little more than a God complex. Let's look at the arguments.
First, there is precedent for such action. In 1962, the year my newly minted PhD got me a job as Instructor in English at the University of Vermont, the University of Wisconsin broke with tradition by offering the rank of Assistant Professor to newly anointed PhDs. The following year, the huge University of California system followed suit, and shortly thereafter the rank of Instructor had virtually ceased to exist. So far as I know, this diminution of hierarchy has gone unlamented.
Second, the standards for tenure have become so elevated over the years as to sometimes match what used to be the standard for a professorship. Having scanned Tim Lomperis's three books (plus a 400-page manuscript now being published by the UNC Press) a couple of years ago, I would have to ascribe his denial of tenure either to an enormous elevation of standards or to unprofessional motives. And there have been other tenure denials in recent years to bear out this impression, including the Timothy Jacobs case last spring. To move from assistant to professorial status is not at all as big a jump as it used to be.
Third, both at the departmental and the APT Committee levels, the ordeal of judgment has become grossly burdensome for the judges, who confront wheelbarrow-loads of paper and a minefield of academic regulations, legal strictures, and snowjob tactics (both pro and con) for each candidate. It would be a boon to everyone concerned--and above all, to the APT Committee--if the nearly impossible task of making fair and error-free judgments were limited to the crucial question of who gets tenure.
Erasure of the associate rank will also limit the perversity of a system that punishes faculty for investing themselves heavily in teaching, committee work, and administrative responsibilities at the expense of publication and research. Given the substantial number of bad books that get published in my own field of literary study, I believe we are misguided to insist that the production of pages have such absolute priority over decades of outstanding teaching and service.
Moreover, as anyone who reads a lot of book reviews knows (including faculty who are victims of bad reviews), so-called expert judgment is at best a wild crapshoot. Whether out of bias, ignorance, arrogance, professional rivalry, or other forms of fallibility, the nabobs who are called upon to pronounce judgment on a colleague's ouevre routinely fail to produce a reliable evaluation. That's not surprising when you consider the many figures of genius who were trashed by the foremost cultural authorities of their time--Melville, Whitman, Joyce, and Faulkner, to name a few. Not everyone gets it wrong, of course, but all too often potluck chance rules the day, and when a colleague's career hangs in the balance, that's disheartening.
My strongest reason for wanting to abolish the associate rank has to do with this irremediably faulty system of evaluating faculty achievement, which can be further deranged by malice, bad judgment, and political intrigue within a department. Reducing the opportunity for these traits to come into play would in itself be a good thing. But even if we assume the good faith of every participant in the judging process, the evaluative system regularly imposes a profoundly repugnant intellectual orthodoxy on its victims. Because the whole process is normally confidential, a shroud of secrecy usually hides this effect, but the publicity attending the Tim Lomperis case afforded the campus at large an exceptional view of the problem. I refer to a letter in the Duke Chronicle of December 10, 1992, written by Professor Jerry Hough to explain his vote against Lomperis. It was a painful decision for the whole department, he says, but contemporary practice left no other choice:
"In the evaluation, the judgment of 'quality' is not some abstract assessment of how well or interesting [sic] a scholar writes, but also of his or her contribution to the major research and debates in the field. . . . In geophysics, deep earth geology is considered more 'the frontier' than earthquake geology and prediction; in biology, biochemistry is more 'the frontier' than traditional botany. . . . Professor Lomperis never really engaged his work with current 'frontiers' of international relations theory. . . . His work was more historical. "
Professor Hough does include a note of doubt about the process--"I personally may have my cynical judgment about current international relations theory"--but, he observes, "professors who want tenure have to play by these rules."
So it seems that Lomperis was denied tenure because of his, shall we say, bad taste in subject matter: his "historical" interests lay outside "the major research and debates in the field." As it happens, I too have maintained a profound indifference to major research and debates in my field--that is, to literary study based on deconstruction, Marxist theory, and a plethora of ideological isms which I consider the most deadly boring stuff in the history of criticism. But I can feel assured of saying so without penalty only because I am a tenured full professor. I would judge that the orthodox guidelines imposed on Lomperis are a routine, if not universal, feature of faculty life outside the natural sciences. That is the most compelling reason why I want to abolish the rank of associate professor: to extend true academic freedom to all tenured colleagues.
Towards untenured colleagues, we can only apologize for not having any better system of evaluating merit in scholarship than the one Professor Hough describes. Regrettably, tenure candidates may have to propitiate the fashionable gurus and paradigms of the hour regardless of how irrelevant or counterproductive these candidates may find such material to be. Perhaps that is why my department colleague, Marianna Torgovnick, recalls her own subjection to the system (not at Duke) with utter revulsion: "I experienced the process leading up to tenure as a sustained attack on my identity and self-esteem" (Crossing Ocean Parkway, 67). Not coincidentally, she decries the intellectual coercion of the system:
"My time at the College taught me some bad lessons about writing that it took years to unlearn. . . [A]cademic writing [is] like building an armadillo: an armored shell designed to repel criticism that one sets gingerly before colleagues to run for its life" (70).
I say one such ordeal in a lifetime is enough. Once they are tenured, let's not subject our colleagues to these degrading strictures yet again.
There remains one serious reason for retaining the associate rank: Money. The annual ranking of faculty salaries by the AAUP is a crucial ritual for American universities, and Duke's place within the top rank could be jeopardized by averaging our professors' salaries with those of associate professors. On the other hand, probably the AAUP statisticians could be persuaded to grant us a new category for such an innovation. And even without their cooperation, there are some reforms we could install on behalf of long-term associate professors without risking the AAUP salary ranking. At the very least, no one who has spent decades mastering a field should retire at the lower rank. Because their numbers are so small--barely a half dozen at the last Commencement--promoting associates near retirement age would not affect the university's salary rating.
In addition, there should be an automatic review of associates about ten or twelve years after tenure and at routine intervals (three years?) thereafter, in which progressively heavier consideration should be given to excellence in non-research activities--holding administrative office, extra teaching efforts (independent studies, directing theses, developing new courses), committee work, and so forth. Given the substantial, irremediable unreliability of the evaluation process, I would rather get rid of the rank division altogether, but if that seems unfeasible, can't we at least loosen this ossified system of petty hierarchy?
A Menagerie à Trois: Ferret . . . Possum . . . Parrot
Although a lifelong animal aficionado, your new FF editor has been unable to impose academic discipline upon the two beasties he inherited from previous editors of this page, not to mention the new critter that flew in through the window. The best the editor could do was to assign a rough division of labor among his perverse crew, so as to fill with black marks any open space that the faculty at large has left to languish. Putting to use his late-night habit of random reading, POSSUM will try to entice the faculty away from their overspecialized regular diet for a few tastibits of general education. As suits his nature, 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 Allen Building (90015) or sent by e-mail to email@example.com Voicemail is 684-3976.
FERRET: CRACKPOTS ON PARADE
The Nether Side of Genius. . . .
Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939
Ur-phallocrat, cigar addict (cause of death), befuddled about his sexual identity (he spoke of "having overcome my homosexuality"*), and paranoid about one-time followers like Jung and Adler who went their own way, Sigmund Freud was a man desperately in need of having his head examined. Not for any of the above reasons, but because of the brutal misogyny that attended his role in deconstructing the noses of hapless young women, all of whom suffered horrible pain and at least one of whom nearly died of a hemorrhage.
Naturally, he and his accomplice, Wilhelm Fliess--the man toward whom Freud felt those homosexual yearnings--rationalized their sadism as necessary therapy for their victims, mostly well-to-do young women whose "hysteria," they claimed, arose from something gone awry in the genital region, and whose cure could be effected by taking apart their nose. The fact that any half-wit plucked off the street would have known better was of no help to these poor females, whose ordeal was vividly described by Freud himself in his correspondence with Fliess. Consider the following specimen dated August 4, 1895, regarding the aftermath of one such nose operation:
". . . Eckstein's condition is still unsatisfactory: persistent swelling, going up and down 'like an avalanche'; pain, so that the morphine cannot be dispensed with; bad nights. The purulent secretion has been decreasing since yesterday; the day before yesterday (Saturday) she had a massive hemorrhage, probably as a result of expelling a bone chip the size of a heller [a coin]; there were two bowls full of pus. Today. . . since the pain and the visible edema had increased, I let myself be persuaded to call in Gersuny. . . . He explained that the access was considerably narrowed and insufficient for drainage, inserted a drainage tube, and threatened to break it [the bone?] open if that did not stay in. To judge by the smell, all this is most likely correct."
Two days later, Freud says,
" . . . profuse bleeding had started again. . . ; the fetid odor was very bad.
Rosanes. . . removed some sticky blood clots, and suddenly pulled at something like a thread, kept on pulling. Before either of us had time to think, at least half a meter of gauze had been removed from the cavity. The next moment came a flood of blood. The patient turned white, her eyes bulged, and she had no pulse. . . After she had been packed, I fled to the next room. . . ."
I suppose anyone can make a mistake, but one would think that after such a horror Freud would at least renounce this dangerous quackery. Quite the contrary, a year later Freud was proposing to Fliess that they write "a full-fledged pamphlet on 'The Nose and Female Sexuality.'" It is worth noting that although Freud conceded the existence of "male hysteria," he and his friend never considered perpetrating a nosectomy on any male patients.
By the following year (1896), the father of psychoanalysis had it all figured out: the wretched young woman had willed the whole thing:
"I know only that she bled out of longing [emphasis Freud's]. . . . When she saw how affected I was by her first hemorrhage. . . , she experienced this as the realization of an old wish to be loved in her illness. . . . Then. . . since I did not come in the night, she renewed the bleedings, as an unfailing means of rearousing my affection."
A comforting certitude settles upon Freud's subsequent references to the case: "Her story is becoming even clearer; there is no doubt that her hemorrhages were due to wishes." Not at all incidentally, Fliess is repeatedly assured of his share in the exculpation: "As far as the blood is concerned, you are completely without blame!"
No doubt, like the future inhabitants of this column, Sigmund Freud was a genius, but the near-homicidal nature of the foregoing episode gives him pride of place as the leader of our parade. Some of his other absurdities, such as his vagina dentata or castration complex fantasy, would have surely merited a place in the procession, but not as Crackpot Number One. Next month--diversity be damned--he will be joined in his march to Valhalla by another Dead White Male.
*Ferret-Source: The Complete Letters of Sigmund
Freud to Wilhelm Fliess 1887-1904 (Translated and edited
by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1985), 4. Subsequent
citations are also drawn from this book, in the following order of appearance:
pages 113-114, 116-117, 141, 186, 191, 225.
Random Readings of a Near-Sighted Omnivore
1. ETHNIC STUDIES:
IRISH IN ICELAND (7th c.):
"Iceland lay beyond the horizon of humans until the seventh or eighth century, when Irish monks sought solace on the remote island more than 500 miles away in the North Atlantic. . . . In about 874, Vikings from Norway and the British Isles began to survey the island. Complaining that they 'did not want to live among heathens,' the monks withdrew to Ireland."
--David G. Campbell, Natural History 6/96 (53)
IRISH IN MEXICO (1846):
"Thousands [of poor Irish immigrants] volunteered for the war (monthly pay $7). Of these enough deserted to the Mexican side to form the 'San Patricio' battalion. The Mexicans promised 320 acres of free land and did not fail to point out that fellow Catholics should not be fighting alongside black-hearted Protestant gringos."
--Timothy Foote, Smithsonian April 1996 (41)
WHAT'S IN A NAME (1):
"We do not know what they called themselves, but they have become known to archaeologists as the Anasazi--an unfortunate name, because the word is Navajo rather than Pueblo: it means 'ancient enemies.'"
--David Roberts, The National Geographic April 1996 (93)
WHAT'S IN A NAME (2):
"Despite fierce British resistance in the west, the Anglo-Saxon conquest and appropriation of Britain rolled on. . . . The fact that the Old English word characterizing them--Wealh (Welshman, Briton)--came to mean 'slave' says a good deal about their condition."
--Caroline Alexander, Smithsonian February 1996 (36)
"[Indian activist Russell Means] maintains, for example, that it is a Eurocentric lie that Aztecs sacrificed captives by ripping their hearts out: they had secret drugs, he said, and were actually practicing open heart surgery."
--Richard White, The New Republic July 8, 1996 (38)
2. GENDER STUDIES:
THE ANGRY WHITE MALE:
"The 'black spirituality' to which [Jesse] Jackson appeals has the great merit of restoring sin to Protestant discourse, from which it has been disappearing. . . . But the sins in question usually turn out to be racism, sexism and social oppression--a tiresome left-wing gambit that makes sin virtually a monopoly of white heterosexual males. When poor people, blacks, women or homosexuals slip into antisocial behavior of an incontrovertibly sinful sort, they are allegedly only manifesting their victimization by an oppressive society."
--Eugene Genovese, The New Republic July 15 & 22 1996 (30)
(EN)GENDERING ART, CRO-MAGNON STYLE:
"French stucturalism as embodied in the work of anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. . . searches for timeless and integrative themes based on dichotomous divisions that may record much of nature's reality, but mostly reflect the brain's basic mode of operation. Thus, we separate nature from culture (the raw and the cooked in Levi-Strauss's terminology), light from darkness, and above all, male from female.
Leroi-Gourhan therefore viewed each [Cro-Magnon] cave as an integrated composition, a sanctuary in which the numbers and positions of animals bore unified meaning within a scheme set by the primary duality of male and female. Each animal became a symbol, with a primary division between horses as male and bisons as female. He also interpreted. . . spears (for example) as male and wounds as female. He viewed the cave itself as fundamentally female. . . ."
--Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History 7/96 (22)
HOW THOSE WIDOWS' MITES GOT SPENT:
"In the Virginia Tidewater country, where Marion G. 'Pat' Robertson planted his roots 35 years ago, the weather can quickly turn biblical. Thunderheads form at sea before rumbling ashore to dampen the daily bacchanal at Virginia Beach, snapping a few bolts at the resort town's devilish New Age delis and T-shirt shops before. . . moving inland toward God's compound.
The place looks as if it can take it. Its buildings have been called neo-Georgian but appear neo-fortress, with red brick walls and small, restrictive windows. Housed within are a television network connected to the most powerful satellite dishes in Christendom; a university founded to prepare its students for business, law, journalism, and the Second Coming; and a luxury hotel. . . . By the end of the century it [his Christian Broadcasting Network] will have raised, from those 800-number donations alone, at least $2 billion.
The frontispiece of the complex is the Founder's Inn, a 249-room hotel with a Monet as well as oil portraits of three distinguished Virginians--Washington, Jefferson, and Robertson. Behind the inn is one of Robertson's homes, a brick mansion built with his book royalties. Nearby, his prized Arabian horses graze. Beneath the manicured lawns, tunnels enable him to move from home to office in secrecy and safety. . . . The house is surrounded by a brick wall, which is surrounded by a wooden fence, which is surrounded by an electric fence, which is surrounded by sensors. Secret cameras, other security devices, and a private police force of 42 patrol the house and the 700-acre compound."
--William Prochner and Laura Parker, Vanity Fair July 1996 (84-85)
THE HOLY CITY SYNDROME:
"The distance between the ideal and the real in Jerusalem can often be painful, and the gap leads some visitors down the path to an illness known as Jerusalem syndrome. . . . 'All my recent patients were from families that were very religious,' said the doctor. 'We suppose that they developed an ideal subconscious image of Jerusalem, and the shock between this ideal image and Jerusalem today causes a break. They are unable to cope. They develop this psychotic reaction as a means to make a bridge between the ideal and the reality.'"
--Alan Mairson, The National Geographic April 1996 (29)
4. SCIENCE FOR LAYPERSONS:
SCIENCE WARS ( Pace Social Text):
"And because science is not a belief but a search for reality, there can be no casual agreement to disagree; with something as tough as truth at stake, arguments, though sometimes courteous, are conducted with knives."
--Michael Parfit, Smithsonian April 1996 (54)
THE COMPLEXITY PERPLEX:
"Back at the beginning of time, when I took introductory biology, living things were divided into a neat hierarchical series of inter-nesting boxes, called taxa, with the higher taxa containing the lower: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. Of the first, kingdom, there were two: animal and vegetable, although even then bacteria were something of a problem, off to one side. . . . The biological source book I now use lists eight kingdoms, elevating several kinds of bacteria, slime molds and other organisms to that status. Other reputable texts list as many as 30. Interlarded between all those old familiar taxa are such new ones as 'superfamily' and 'subgenus.'"
--Sue Hubbell, Smithsonian May 1996 (141)
"At the beginning of the twentieth century, black-tailed prairie dogs occupied more than one hundred million acres of the Great Plains. . . . One town in the Texas Panhandle stretched 250 miles long and 100 miles wide and contained an estimated 400 million animals. . . . Bubonic plague. . . now finds prairie dog towns as ripe a breeding ground as the crowded cities of medieval Europe. . . . Typically, an epidemic of plague will wipe out 90 to 95 percent of the prairie dogs in an affected colony and then move on. The survivors gradually repopulate the colony over the next few years. . . ."
--Bob Holmes, National Wildlife June/July 1996 (14, 17)
TALES FROM THE ICE AGE:
"It was called Glacial Lake Missoula. It had been created when a glacier blocked a river. From the lines of old lakeshores that stand high above the city of the same name, . . . the lake had been about the volume of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined. . . some 500 cubic miles. . . . The ripple marks . . . were up to 50 feet high and had a wavelength of between 200 and 500 feet. They were enormous. The marks could have been made only by a vast pouring of waters over the slope, which would have happened only if the ice dam that made the lake had suddenly failed."
--Michael Parfit, Smithsonian April 1996 (54)
From William Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun ("The Jail"), 1950:
(Ferret-Question: But how did he foresee the 1990s with such clairvoyance?)
". . . and, now and at last, the last of silence too: the country's hollow inverted air one resonant boom and ululance of radio: . . . the patter of comedians, the barritone screams of female vocalists, the babbling pressure to buy and buy and still buy arriving more instantaneous than light, two thousand miles from New York and Los Angeles; one air, one nation. . . [connected by] long looping skeins of electric lines bringing electric power from the Appalachian mountains, and the subterrene steel veins bringing the natural gas from the Western plains, to the little lost lonely farmhouses glittering and gleaming with automatic stoves and washing machines and television antennae;
One nation: . . . one world. . . ; one universe, one cosmos:
contained in one America: one towering frantic edifice poised like a card-house
over the abyss of the mortgaged generations; one boom, one peace: one swirling
rocket-roar filling the glittering zenith as with golden feathers, until
the vast hollow sphere of his air, the vast and terrible burden beneath
which he tries to stand erect and lift his battered and indomitable head--the
very substance in which he lives and, lacking which, he would vanish in
a matter of seconds--is murmurous with his fears and terrors and disclaimers
and repudiations and his aspirations and his dreams and his baseless hopes,
bouncing back at him in radar waves from the constellations. . . ."
Ferret-Query for John Milton-- Did the Angel Really Blush?
Bear with me then, if lawful what I ask;
Love not the heav'nly Spirits, and how their love
Express they, by looks only, or do they mix
Irradiance, virtual or immediate touch?
To whom the Angel with a smile that glow'd
Celestial rosy red, Love's proper hue,
Answer'd. Let it suffice thee that thou know'st
Us happy, and without Love no happiness.
Whatever pure thou in the body enjoy'st
(And pure thou wert created) we enjoy
In eminence, and obstacle find none
Of membrane, joint, or limb, exclusive bars:
Easier than Air with Air, if Spirits embrace,
Total they mix. . . .
(Paradise Lost, Book VIII, 614-627:)
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: Buford Jones (English), Howard Clark (Biomedical Engineering), Matt Cartmill (Biological Anthropology & Anatomy), Seymour Mauskopf (History), and Miriam Cooke (Asian and African Languages & Literatures)
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 to 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 Coucil 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 scibblings 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. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org FAX (English department) is 919-684-4871. The deadline for submissions is the 25th of each month.