Remembering Helen Tartar

Haun Saussy

Helen Tartar, in memoriam

If she had not been killed in an absurd traffic accident earlier this month, the great editor Helen Tartar would almost certainly be at a conference now, listening to papers, talking to authors and showing the latest books from Fordham University Press. She was a regular at ACLA and MLA meetings, as she was at the gatherings of the philosophers, the phenomenologists, the media scholars, and the religious-studies people. She was on her way to the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy meeting in Denver when she died. At these meetings, her calendar was always full. Many of our readers will have had the enlivening experience of telling her about a project or an idea and receiving in return a flash of enthusiasm and insight: her eyes lit up and her voice rose in the anticipation of what that idea could become if it were realized in all its potential glory. Whether or not one went home and wrote that book, whether or not one published it with Helen, that moment of intellectual warmth was not easily forgotten. It wasn’t a professional trick: she loved framing arguments and she loved tugging them into shape—a job for at least four hands. Being an editor was the full, but not the only, expression of her own powers. We at Critical Inquiry mourn her loss, a loss for American letters and for the worldwide circulation of ideas.

0231

I first met Helen thanks to Cathy Caruth. Helen was visiting Yale, the site of her own graduate work in English and East Asian Studies, and Cathy had given her some names of people who were finishing dissertations and might have something worth publishing down the line. I had written only two and a half chapters by then and was nervous as a cat: a real-live editor coming to call? What was I getting myself into? I invited her to lunch and was so jumpy I broke a plate in the kitchen. She listened to me telling her where I thought the dissertation was going and asked to see a chapter. I sent her one, by mail, and promptly got it back with one of the most thoughtful letters I have seen, before or since, about the tasks of establishing my foothold, wielding my evidence, engaging the reader, moving things along. This attention was deeply flattering. She did not, however, flatter me as an author. “When I read this argument,” she said at one point in that first letter, “I felt I needed to take hold of it like a twisted sock and pull it inside-out.” The simile involving woven material—the sock—was characteristic of her as someone who wove and knitted and sewed. It was part of her daily regimen to untangle fuzzy strands and bind them to each other in structures of knots and empty spaces, so as to turn mere lines into planes and then into volumes, volumes that would maintain the warmth of a body when the garment was complete. She saw things in their intersections, ordinal and cardinal. I don’t remember if I did turn that argument inside-out after all, but I can’t forget the humor, the modesty and the forthrightness of her request. It wasn’t: “I think you could modify a little detail here and there.” But: “Even if you have all your elements in a structure, you need to completely invert and redirect every element of that structure, or you’ll be out there with one bare foot.”

On Helen’s tall frame, clothes that looked hand-woven and probably were of her own making made one think of self-sufficiency, a do-it-yourself ethos, a readiness to plunge into work with wool, cotton, metal, glass, and make something of it. It was the femininity Homer describes when he says of Athena that she took on the appearance among mortals of “a woman, tall and beautiful and skilled at making fine things.” As in the case of me and my sorry sock, her engagement with physical making gave a vivid immediacy to her way of taking hold of refractory intellectual issues.

I published a first book with Helen. Then came other books: a critical edition, an anthology, a book series, an as yet uncompleted book that she read and commented on as the chapters crept forth. Not everything I did matched her interests; some things I published with other editors; but I trusted her judgment and I prized her encouragement. We disagreed about some things, but as friends do. I liked to see the circle of people who had benefited from her attention grow and grow.

Helen had what some would call expensive tastes. I don’t mean diamonds and champagne. I mean that she thought it was important to commission translations of books from abroad—with a subsidy when possible, but to do it at any rate; and that she insisted on publishing the first books of younger scholars. To do this is an act of faith in the profession on the part of a university press, because most first books take a long time to earn back their costs, if they ever do. But without first books, careers will founder and the later books will never be written. To lessen the burden on publishers, Helen played a primary role in devising the Modern Languages Initiative, an agreement between the Mellon Foundation and a number of US university presses to support publishing first books in literary and cultural studies. To speak up for these loss-leading first books was an act entirely characteristic of Helen.

To take the measure of her determination, let us consider the role of a university press editor. In one way, these editors are powerful people, gatekeepers to the reward system of academia. They do the first reading, the triage, the consultation with experts, the developmental work a manuscript may need. They solicit the peer evaluations that result in books being accepted or declined. They present cases, i.e., manuscript reports, to a board, which judges and disposes. This power of theirs is however highly conditional. Unlike most of the faculty members who write the reports and vote on manuscripts, the editors do not have tenure or any of the protections of academic freedom. They have to reckon with budgets and sales figures. They must do the bidding of their boards, to whom they are finally responsible. Their power, even when used wisely, can always be turned against them by opinionated and better-protected faculty colleagues.

Helen used to tell me a story from her very first year as an editor. Some author was not listening to advice and she had written a Strongly Worded Memo laying down the expectations that the author was to fulfill. She showed it to her senior editor at Stanford, who recoiled in horror. He said to her: “You can’t write it like that. You have to understand, we editors are little girls.” Little girls?, she said, and I can imagine the young Helen reddening. University press editors, her senior editor explained, have no power to make anyone do anything. They can suggest and cajole, but they’re going to get in trouble if they start to command. – I have never thought of Helen’s as a little-girl style (quite the contrary: hers was confident and free), but she knew the narrow margin of maneuver an editor has. Aside from its imparting of professional wisdom, the story stays in my mind because of Helen’s hilarious parody of a large older man parodying a little girl: irony to the third power, at least.

Editors, then, if they are going to take risks, put themselves on the line. I found myself on the board of Stanford University Press at a moment when Helen’s priorities—critical theory, Continental philosophy, translations, and above all first books—came into conflict with the wishes of an extremely powerful administrator who later went on to roles of national importance (and who will be remembered for attempting to mislead Congress about the national intelligence estimate’s assessment of the likelihood of a terrorist attack in September 2001).[1] That administrator challenged proposals Helen brought to the board, saying, “I can’t understand this stuff and I don’t see how anyone else is going to.” These exchanges were acrimonious. Helen tensed up. Her patience was less than perfect. But she held her ground and defended the kinds of books that she felt it was her mission, and Stanford’s mission, to continue to produce: difficult philosophy, inventive interdisciplinarity, counter-intuitive interpretations. Her defense of these things came at a high cost to her personally and, eventually, professionally. But I think Stanford has every reason to be proud of the dozens of titles Helen acquired or developed for them, just as Fordham can be proud of the list Helen built up in the ten years since moving to be their editorial director.

0217

Helen kept her balance and strength through a steady engagement with the martial arts. I described her as a knitter but it would be unfair to leave out her qualifications as a swordswoman. The next to last time I saw her, we attended a dinner in honor of the global health care advocate Paul Farmer, who was to be presented with the “Sword of Loyola” for his social-justice work. The sword was a real broadsword, of steel, engraved, and heavy. After the presentation, Helen took it in hand, weighed its heft, and quickly made a few gracious passes. An archbishop leapt backward, startled. I wish I had caught it all with a camera. For in traditional Western imagery when a woman wields a sword, it is almost a guarantee that she is not herself, but an allegory: Justice, or the Motherland, or Truth. Helen, slicing the air with lateral figure-eights, was completely and comfortably herself. Maybe a Chinese martial-arts romance would have been her true home after all.

I would give almost anything to be calling up these moments of Helen’s life a few years hence at her retirement party or seventy-fifth birthday celebration. Instead, here we are baffled by the chance events that leave her life—a good life of dedication, courage and generosity—as an incomplete project. Who, I wonder, will continue it?

(This is the fuller text of a speech delivered on my behalf by Eric Hayot at the American Comparative Literature Association meeting in New York.)


[1] See Steven Strasser, ed., The 9/11 Investigations: Staff Reports of the 9/11 Commission (New York: PublicAffairs, 2004), pp. 222-228. The common point of these two anecdotes: incuriosity raised to the level of principle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Publishing

On Jonathan Franzen’s The Kraus Project

Marjorie Perloff

Shortly after my essay (“Avant-Garde in a Different Key:  Karl Kraus’s The Last Days of Mankind”) went to press, Kraus, whose work has long been neglected in the Anglophone world, suddenly found himself at the center of lively controversy in the press. The occasion was the publication in October 2013 of Jonathan Franzen’s The Kraus Project (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).  Ironically, it has taken the attention of a celebrated novelist like Franzen to bring a great figure like Karl Kraus to the attention of our own literary/intellectual community.  Or so we may conclude from the dozens of serous reviews devoted to The Kraus Project in the autumn of 1913.  Most of these reviews—for example, Michael Hoffmann’s in The New York Review of Books– treated Kraus as a fascinating—but finally flawed—polemicist, whose virulent critique of the Hapsburg monarchy and especially of the media was perhaps too extreme—and certainly too local—to retain its satiric punch today.  One notable exception is Eric Banks’s long and richly documented piece in Bookforum (Sept/Oct/Nov 2013).

Whether praised or denigrated, Franzen’s eccentric study can hardly be taken as any sort of beginner’s guide to Kraus’s oeuvre:  it is much less about Kraus than about Franzen himself—his own progress as a writer, his studies in Berlin, his own withering contempt for the world of the internet and social media   When Franzen compares Kraus’s dichotomy between the Germanic emphasis on literary content versus the French concern for form to that of the “sober” and “functional” PC versus the “cool” and “elegant” Apple, one feels that the author is being little more than frivolous.   And it is never clear why The Kraus Project chooses, as its texts to be translated and annotated, the two youthful essays “Heine and the Consequences” (1910) and “Nestroy and Posterity” (1912).  The critique of the great German lyric poet for his excessive Francophilia is, to my mind, one of Kraus’s least successful literary essays; and the Nestroy essay can’t mean much to contemporary readers, who are not likely to have heard of the obscure nineteenth-century Austrian dramatist.  But then, Franzen uses these essays only as the jumping off point for his own wild and whacky commentary, interspersed with glosses by the scholar Paul Reitter and the German-Austrian writer Daniel Kehlmann.

There are fascinating aperçus scattered throughout this collage-commentary: Franzen is, for example, very perceptive about Last Days, which he calls “the strangest great play ever written,” and remarks, “At first glance, it can be mistaken for postmodern, since the bulk of its 793 pages consists of quotation; it’s unabashedly a play about language.  Kraus maintained that, with the exception of the Grumbler-Optimist scenes and the verse fantasias, every line spoken by it several hundred characters was something he had personally heard or read during the First World War” (p. 257).  Yet, Franzen argues, “what makes the play modern, rather than postmodern, is the figure of the Grumbler, who in most respects is indistinguishable from Kraus himself.  His friend the Optimist keeps coming to him with fresh phrases of propaganda and journalism, trying to persuade him that war is a glorious thing and is going well, and the Grumbler aphoristically demolishes every one of them. . . His coordinating subjectivity is too central to be postmodern” (257).  This description of the roles of Grumbler and Optimist strikes me as quite accurate but it is also the case that the Grumbler’s didactic summations become tedious–he is indeed Kraus’s mouthpiece—and undercut the play’s dramatic power.  And since didacticism is hardly a characteristic of Modernism, my own conclusion would be that The Last Days is best understood as a postmodern work manqué.

The Kraus Project, in any case, is not likely to bring the Austrian writer a new readership:  its technique—translation, commentary, commentary on the commentary by others—is too confusing, its conclusions about politics conclusions about politics too idiosyncratic. But I applaud the book’s publication because it has certainly succeeded in enlarging the discourse about Kraus’s writing, if for no other reason than that the reviews, responses, and letters to the editor have brought new facts to light.  The most important of these is that there is a new translation of Last Days of Mankind.  In November 2013, the British writer Michael Russell, whose career has been in television drama, responded to the ongoing discussion of The Kraus Project by posting the following on his website dedicated to Kraus:

1914 saw the start of the First World War and of Karl Kraus’s bitter, relentless and incomparable dissection of its progress. 11 November 2014 will see the publication of my full translation of ‘The Last Days of Mankind – Part One’ as an e-book on Amazon; that is to say the prologue, act I, act II & act III, with commentary (part two, acts IV & V, & the epilogue, will be published in 2016). Almost 100 years on this will be the first ever English version of Karl Kraus’s complete text of the play. The translation will be revised from the work-in-progress version used to provide the condensed material currently on this website; the commentary notes will be revised and extended…

I am happy to report that Russell’s translation is excellent—certainly the best I’ve seen to date. I only wish it had been available when I began my own work on Kraus!  But now that it is here—and very accessible on line—I urge readers to take a look, especially at the scenes discussed in my own essay.  It seems, then, that in time for the centenary of World War I, Kraus’s great war drama is finally going to get its due in the English-speaking world.

3 Comments

January 13, 2014 · 9:38 am

Forgiveness as a Sovereign Exception: Pussy Riot, Winter Olympics, and the New Russian Biopolitics

Anya Bernstein

“2013 has been a challenging year,” said president Vladimir Putin in his New Year’s address to Russian citizens. “In the coming year, we have a lot of work to do for the prosperity and security of our citizens,” he continued, mentioning the recent suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd and flooding in the Far East. “We also have to ensure that the Olympic Games are held at the highest possible level.” The Winter Olympics, which are to be held in the subtropical city of Sochi in less than a month, are supposed to be a chance to showcase Russia’s economic growth, modernization, and openness to the world. The multi-year preparations for the Games, a ritual spectacle that puts individual bodies on display, subjecting them to intense scrutiny while metonymizing them as the collective body of the nation, have been nothing short of breathtaking. They have included the complete rebuilding of the subtropical city of Sochi, with massive relocations, the widespread use of  migrant labor, and 14,000 runners passing the Olympic flame, starting at the Kremlin, spacewalking at the International Space Station, scuba diving with the torch in the deep waters of the semi-frozen Lake Baikal, zip-lining across Siberia, and boarding a nuclear-powered icebreaker on the North Pole. Yet it is a rather different traffic in bodies that put Russia into the international spotlight in the years preceding the Olympics.

In the summer of 2012, two members of the Pussy Riot collective received two-year prison sentences for performing a protest song in a Moscow cathedral. With limited access to the outside world while doing their time in prison, the Pussy Riot women missed a few momentous developments in Russia’s long 2013. On the eve of the last New Year celebrations, a new law banned foreign adoptions of Russian orphans among vague fears that, with these children, some kind of vital essence was being siphoned away from Russia by hostile forces. Soon after, a law banning “gay propaganda” was passed with overwhelming support, as public display of homosexuality was deemed detrimental to children and, more generally, to the health of the Russian body politic. Moscow’s government cracked down on illegal migrants, conducting street sweeps and forcefully placing them in makeshift detention camps. While denying citizenship to certain populations, the Russian state eagerly invited others—more desirable international subjects such as Gérard Depardieu and Edward Snowden—under its auspices. Finally, a new law punishing blasphemy with up to three years of imprisonment under the guise of protecting the “feelings of religious believers” was passed.[1] A new post-post-Soviet strain of biopolitics aimed at strengthening the collective body of the nation seemed to have dawned.

An alternative form of corporeal politics also came of age in 2013: from Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s hunger strike in prison to the artist Petr Pavlensky nailing his scrotum to the cobblestones of the Red Square in a kind of somber self-sacrifice, these acts suggested the ways in which the body could also be used as a site of resistance. Finally, at the very end of the year, quite unexpectedly, a number of political prisoners, including Pussy Riot members Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, were released two months prior to the end of their sentence under an amnesty related to the celebration of twenty years of the Russian constitution. What was this unilateral release of prisoners meant to signify? Was it, in fact, unilateral, or was there a sacrificial logic hidden in this peculiar non-exchange?

In early 2013, I wrote an essay for Critical Inquiry that argued that the trial and punishment of Pussy Riot ended up acquiring a distinct sacrificial character, where the women’s bodies became a means of communicative practice, such as sacrifice, hierarchical discipline, and legal warning.[2] I suggested that two distinct sacrificial processes were, in fact, at play: the sacrifice of Pussy Riot to various audiences and the sacrifice of the law itself, artfully maneuvered in the sovereign’s enactment of the state of exception. Observers also stressed ascetic denial and martyrdom, emphasizing Christian-like self-sacrifice, while others emphasized the ways in which Pussy Riot became an inadvertent medium for ritual action and communication between multiple actors. Pussy Riot’s bodies, almost inevitably, became appropriated and saturated with signification as they became objects of violence and, at the same time, sites of its vital resistance.

By unexpectedly granting amnesty to certain prisoners to show Russia’s benevolent face in advance of the Winter Olympics, Putin once again engaged in an arbitrary and selective application of law. As Carl Schmitt and Jacques Derrida showed long ago, forgiveness—as well as any amnesty, pardon, or grace—functions exactly as a sovereign exception. Forgiveness presupposes sovereign power, a superior position from which to forgive; it is indeed an “affirmation of sovereignty.”[3] Pussy Riot were released under new amnesty laws that apply to the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, and mothers of small children who have committed minor crimes, including hooliganism, and whose sentence is less than five years. Altogether this was less than 2% of the population of Russian prisons.

It was not the fist time, however, that Nadezhda’s and Maria’s motherhood was invoked in public discourse. During the trial and subsequent parole hearings, many liberals who argued that Pussy Riot should be released did so not because they appreciated their performance (most claimed to find it morally abhorrent) or agreed with their views (which were too far to the left for most), but because they felt it was wrong to keep mothers of small children in prison. Most of Pussy Riot’s liberal supporters did not recognize their performance as political speech at all. Now, after the amnesty and the initial jubilation, the women were subjected to the same or even greater enforcement of gender than ever before. Strikingly, a poignant controversy erupted in the Russian blogosphere when it became known that Nadezhda and Maria did not immediately fly to Moscow to be with their children. Instead, they chose to meet in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk to discuss their plans to form an NGO intended to help political prisoners. The blogosphere exploded in laments and moral outcry, calling the women “soulless robots” and effectively withdrawing moral support for them. Only occasionally someone would question this approach, mentioning that if such a question had been asked about another famous (male) political prisoner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, released around the same time, it would have been seen as utterly absurd.

While liberals decried the fact that Maria and Nadezhda did not justify their expectations, the leftists had their own share of disappointments. They disapproved of the women’s admiration of Khodorkovsky, who, although he may not have deserved his 10-year sentence, remains for many a “slimy” oligarch, too close to power. The leftists declared that Pussy Riot made a joke of those who had made icons out of them, mentioning that during their first press conference at the liberal TV Station Dozhd’, Nadezhda looked not like a punk feminist, but as glamorous as an American top model.[4] Indeed, days after her release, Nadezhda surprised quite a few of her fans by participating in a fashion photo shoot, advertising hip clothes by Evil Twin, American Apparel, and Glamorous, distributed by the company Trends Brands (who, as she later claimed, helped provide her with clothes while she was in prison, which she distributed to other inmates).[5]  In the meantime, the majority of the population remains slightly disappointed with Putin’s leniency, as they believe the women fully deserved to complete their full sentences, and then some. The time in prison and the amnesty, it appears, did nothing to change Pussy Riot’s essential illegibility across the entire Russian political spectrum. The sacrificial processes continue, but the victim, while remaining the medium, has not yet been destroyed.


[1] This past summer the opposition members synechdochally dubbed the Duma—the lower house of the parliament where all of these laws were passed with overwhelming support—the “mad printer,” evoking a hypothetical printer gone wild, spewing out laws without human supervision.

[2] Anya Bernstein, “An Inadvertent Sacrifice: Body Politics and Sovereign Power in the Pussy Riot Affair,” Critical Inquiry 40:220-241.

[3] Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. Jacques Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, pp. 58-59.

[4] Dmitrii Zhvaniia. “Pussy Riot opozorili levakov.” [Pussy Riot Disgraced the Lefties], December 28, 2013.  http://www.sensusnovus.ru/opinion/2013/12/28/17688.html

Anya Bernstein

Anthropology, Harvard University

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Eloquence of a Reflective Silence: On Nelson Mandela

John and Jean Comaroff

Thanks for asking us to write something on Mandela, which we appreciate. Alas, though, we both feel somewhat exhausted on the subject, having done any number of things for the media. The Harvard Gazette has already published a long interview with us , in which we try to contextualize Mandela’s legacy, and move subtly away from the Big Man history that underpins all the empty hagiography now so pervasive in the US and British press. That legacy is not the story of an individual hero, as iconic — or, rather, metonymic — as he may have become. It is the story of a sovereign struggle, one that involved the deaths of many unnamed heroes, innumerable heroic acts without signature, processes both with and without subjects. The reason that we all feel morally orphaned by the death of Madiba, of Rolihlahla, “the troublesome one,” of Tata, our last living grandparent, is that he was our last tangible link to a modernist sense of political possibility, a utopianism without innocence, with critique rather than self-obsessed cynicism. But sadly, he became a living anachronism in the land of his birth, as the latter was overtaken by neoliberal adjustment, despite all that he had done and been. Somehow, while he lived, that older sense of freedom still seemed recoverable. The death of the Man is also the death of an Epoch, of our epoch, one in which people like you and we actually dared to put faith in the ideals of democratic equity, of justice, of a humane humanity, of the sovereignty of citizens. All that seems fanciful, indeed irrecuperable, After Mandela. In short, the reason that we feel unable to write any more about this moment is that we have said, in deliberately few words , everything we think about it. At this point, the greatest eloquence is the eloquence of a deeply reflective silence. Much of the rest is noise, ritual noise most of it, noise often being made by people who have lacked the courage to stand openly for the things to which Madiba — and the movement at large of which he was part, since he was not “apartheid’s conqueror” in the phrase of the US media, just its most famous struggle hero — gave their lives, their freedom, their spirit. Perhaps the lesson of those lives for us in the USA is what we, as a country, did NOT do to fight apartheid while Rolihlahla Mandela languished in prison, what we have done repeatedly to fight AGAINST democracy under the sign of security and self-interest, why we continue to condone the blatant racism and brute inequity in our desperately unequal, cruel society. Rather than mourn Mandela, which South Africans will do in their millions, perhaps Americans should mourn the death, in our own country, of the ideals and principles for which he stood.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

In Memoriam: Edward Francis McClennen II, 16 August 1936 – 2 November 2013

Adrian M. S. Piper

While learning the literature in Ramsey-Savage decision theory in order to come to grips with the Humean model of utility-maximizing rationality that Ned and so many others took for granted, I once complained to him that I could retain the proofs and theorems in mind only long enough to write down what I wanted to say about them, after which I immediately forgot them. Each time I thought I might have something more to add, I had to start over again, virtually from scratch. “It’s like that for all of us,” he replied.

That is the way he was: guileless, with this strange intellectual humility that only a deeply rooted philosophical self-assurance could have produced, an Emperor’s New Clothes wild man, his instinctive reactions unconstrained by strategic professional calculation, blithely letting slip closely guarded secrets about the human vulnerabilities of the field, its treasured theories, and its members; constantly flouting the unwritten rules of silence, stonewalling and obfuscation that governed the decision theory men’s club of which he was a lifetime member; always spontaneously dishing up insights, references, and arguments that called his own views into question, as though knowledge and competence in this arcane subspecialty were intellectual goods to be distributed as widely as possible, regardless of advantage, rather than weapons and armor to be jealously guarded, shared and traded only with other members. He didn’t even seem to get that he was a member: that he wasn’t supposed to confirm the validity of critiques that came from very much outside that club; or to encourage arguments and interpretations that no card-carrying member of it would make; or to initiate into the mysteries of the Sure-Thing principle, the Strong Independence Axiom, dispersion of probability distributions, average discounted value, commodity non-complementarity, the standard reduction assumption, etc. someone who could never have hoped to join. He seemed not to notice that, and treated me as though in fact I had; indeed, as though I were as much a member as he. One time I told him about a decision theory conference he had been unable to attend, where I’d had to explain to one of his presenting colleagues what a money pump was in the Q&A. I joked that it had been my finest hour. “Mine, too,” he answered. As he never tried to hit on me, or even evinced any interest in doing so, I didn’t quite know what to make of him, and of his unstinting support for my work. He had made an about-face transition from student and son of University of Michigan English Professor Joshua McClennen in the 1950s to Port Huron founding member of SDS in the 1960s. Perhaps this metamorphosis had taught him to value outsider challenges to inner-sanctum authority as worthy of cultivation in themselves. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Arthur Danto at Columbia and in New York

Akeel  Bilgrami

 

Arthur Danto has just died.

In two places where Arthur worked for many decades — Columbia’s Philosophy Department and the Journal of Philosophy– there had always been a general feeling among us that much as he loved and laboured here, he found us too confining.  This was a source of pride rather than hurt.  It is an apt measure of the limits of the academy that we should take pride in the fact that every now and then we had among us someone whose talents and intellectual appetites far surpass the nourishment that a mere department or journal or even a professionalized discipline such as Philosophy, can offer.

The larger space, which Arthur occupied with such relish is, of course, the city of New of York.   In fact his whole style was so supremely metropolitan that one gets no sense at all of where he was born and bred.  One might easily have concluded, looking at the style of the man, and of his speech and writing, that everything about his life had been striking, even his birth which was on New Years day of 1924  –yet we mustn’t forget that it was, after all, in Ann Arbor, Michigan that he was born and in Detroit where he was bred.  But like all good New Yorkers and good Columbia men and women, Arthur gave the impression, however wrong, that he really only began to flourish after he came to New York and to Columbia. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mission Underway: A Vigorous US Peace and Human Rights Movement Emerging?

Bernardine Dohrn

In 1998, Eqbal Ahmed, the Pakistani-American scholar and great antiwar activist, warned the US about the dangers of covert operations and low-intensity warfare.  They always have consequences, he said three years before the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001.  They become “breeding grounds of terror and drugs.”  US military policy-makers, Eqbal noted, — even the most scholarly, articulate and experienced among them — are unable to calculate the consequences of US covert operations and low-intensity warfare, and are unprepared to take into account the impact and future blowback of such intervention, bombing, occupation.  Think Lebanon in 1982, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Libya. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized