Monday, May 02, 2005

Academic Questions

Stephen Greenblatt reminisces:

"In 1969, in my first year of teaching at Berkeley, I was in the English Department office checking my mail (a ritual I repeated several times a day in the vague hope that something, as Mr. Micawber was fond of saying, would "turn up"). I was carrying a copy of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, though I can no longer remember why: perhaps I was actually reading it or perhaps I merely hoped to impress one of my new colleagues. If the latter was my motive, the strategy sorely backfired. A senior professor did indeed notice the book. "You are reading Kant, Greenblatt?" he said. (He was one of those who affect the brusque manner of address of the Oxford Senior Common Room.) "That's right." "I don't like Kant," he declared flatly. "Oh, why is that?" I ventured to ask. "Because Kant had a Jewish mind." "A Jewish mind? What on earth do you mean?" "Clever, sterile, absorbed in endless hair-splitting subtleties—a mind without true culture." "Oh," I said, for want of something better to say."
( From Stanford Humanities Review, 1998)


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