At Pacific University, all faculty teach a variety of different courses. Typically, we do not use graduate teaching assistants, which means that your classes will be taught by professors and that you will have plenty of opportunities to get to know the faculty in your discipline.
Below I have listed some of the courses that I teach. We are always developing and trying out new classes, so the list may change now and then.
ENGL 341 | Studies in Poetry
ENGL 306 | Advanced Poetry Writing
A “faculty page” is, read cynically, an inducement for the consumer or — read in ways I would prefer for you to read this — a warning shot, a fireworks display, or a candle lit. A “faculty page” is an advertisement for one’s self, one’s pedagogy.
I am charged with describing myself and my work in this space. To do so, I will, in part, point to filmmakers and musicians because creators such as these I will mention have given--and continue to give--meaning to my life. I’m so impressed by them and excited by their work and their example that I want to share them with you. I’ll have to stop somewhere: I would prefer to write about artists as well, having just returned from visiting the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. (I don’t know if anyone in Amsterdam was as high as I was--though I was completely straight, completely sober--standing in front of three particular paintings by Vermeer on one wall in the Rijksmuseum.) In addition, I’ll let some writers represent themselves in quotations near the end of this “description of myself.” But, obviously, I am quoting them, as well as pointing to filmmakers and musicians, because I admire the work they have given us. And that tells you something about me and my pedagogy.
Consider the following passage from a letter Emily Dickinson wrote in 1862; in this particular section of her letter, she describes herself by describing her immediate family:
“I have a Brother and Sister--My Mother does not care for thought — and Father, too busy with his Briefs — to notice what we do — He buys me many Books — but begs me not to read them — because he fears they joggle the Mind. They are religious--except me--and address an Eclipse, every morning--whom they call their ‘Father.’”
Why was Emily Dickinson’s father so conflicted about giving her books she would read? (That’s an important question for students who have entered a university.) On one hand, like a quality parent, he probably wanted to provide his daughter with both pleasure and instruction (to “delight and instruct” is a classical definition of what poetry, for example, does). But, on the other hand, like a cautious, concerned father, and as a professional man who had briefs to study, he was learned enough to realize that books actually do “joggle the Mind.” Reading seriously, reading for transformation, will make you see from various vantage points, will make you consider ways of being you may never have considered before, will challenge you to your very core, will change you.
Many Americans can tell you how many calories they consumed in a given day and all about what they ate and when and why. They eat either high- or low-protein meals and no snacks or eat only the right kind of carbs and fats or drink a lot of water and so on. Yet a detailed listing of their intake of reading matter would reveal a diet of an occasional trashy or third-rate novel, with no poetry, no history, no politics, etc. That’s not reading. Many Americans will happily wear a “No Pain, No Gain” T-shirt in a gymnasium or on a playing field, and they will believe in the stress they willingly create and accept to build themselves through athletics; unfortunately, far fewer Americans, in my experience, would even think to wear such a shirt in a library, could even understand the significance of such a saying in that place where they could struggle to build a self through the work of words. Such reading can take you far from family, from hometown, from church, from anyone with whom you once felt a kinship. And that uncertainty is a great thing to be celebrated. It’s easy to understand that Emily Dickinson’s father probably did not want to lose her, and he wanted to protect her, if he could, from the turmoil of consciousness; but his reticence to help his daughter grow, to help her dive into the complexities of books, illustrates that he--whether he meant to or not--was willing to inhibit his own daughter’s growth into personhood.
There are times when I enjoy language; and if it will confound your stereotype of an English professor as well as tell the truth about me, then let me rush to write that there are times when I do not. “Fun” is not the only--or even the primary--reason for my reading. By “fun,” here, I mean to say that I do not enjoy reading genre fiction or reading to pass the time or reading while tanning on the beach or reading to put myself to sleep. “Fun” is too often used as an interchangeable synonym for the word “pleasure.” For many people, “fun” can be defined by that time when they are not at work. But I think of “pleasure” as something deeper than the word “fun.” There is, or can be, for example, pleasure in work. This is a primary lesson to be learned and a muscle to be built during the university experience. The poet Dana Gioia said the following in his commencement address to the 2007 graduates at Stanford: “Marcus Aurelius believed that the course of wisdom consisted of learning to trade easy pleasures for more complex and challenging ones.” I read because reading is important for transforming the self. That transformation is often difficult and requires discipline; but, ultimately, that reading is important and, finally, a kind of “pleasure” that transcends mere “fun.”
(Sometimes the singers listed below wrote the songs; sometimes not. Some of these versions are covers. I appreciate the following songs in particular for their lyrics, and I’ve specified various singers, even on covers, because I prefer those renditions.)
This is fun, but difficult. Where do I stop?
Artists below deserve several slots. Consider these four great tracks from Diana Krall:
“Body and Soul”
“Maybe You’ll Be There”
“Cry Me a River”
(And how do I recommend her great version of “Cry Me a River” without also recommending Joe Cocker’s?) This is similar to the difficulty I face when creating a syllabus for a course. Consider “Introduction to Literature.” So much great work to choose from!
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll--Bob Dylan
Diamonds & Rust--Joan Baez
If I Ever Lose My Faith In You--Sting
The Boxer--Simon & Garfunkel
Don't Let It Bring You Down--Neil Young
Human Touch--Bruce Springsteen
The Same Thing--Muddy Waters
Love Me Like a Man--Bonnie Raitt
The Cold Hard Truth--George Jones
Kathy's Song--Simon & Garfunkel
Guess Who I Saw Today--Nancy Wilson
I Can't Get Started--Arturo Sandoval
Don’t Tell Me About the Blues--Buddy Guy
I Want to Sing that Rock and Roll--Gillian Welch
Pancho & Lefty--Emmylou Harris
Son of a Preacher Man--Dusty Springfield
What's Going On--Marvin Gaye
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow--Roberta Flack
Lost Highway--Hank Williams
Family Tradition--Hank Williams, Jr.
Over the Rainbow--Eva Cassidy
When Love Comes To Town--U2 with B. B. King
Both Sides, Now--Joni Mitchell
Only a Pawn in Their Game--Bob Dylan
How High the Moon--Dianne Reeves
Jeremy Engle--Liz Phair
This Note’s for You--Neil Young
Handsome Johnny--Richie Havens
Silver Dagger--Joan Baez
Here Comes that Rainbow Again--The Highwaymen (Kristofferson’s song, thanks to Steinbeck)
Dirty Laundry--Don Henley
God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)--Etta James
Cash on the Barrelhead--Joe Nichols & Rhonda Vincent
I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing--James Brown
The Rebel Jesus--Jackson Browne
Wonderful World of Sex--Steve Goodman
Hold On, Hold On--Neko Case
Peace Like a River--Paul Simon
A Change Is Gonna Come--Sam Cooke
The Magdalene Laundries--Emmylou Harris
by Ingmar Bergman: Winter Light, The Seventh Seal, Persona, Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander, Shame.
by Woody Allen: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Stardust Memories.
starring the Marx Brothers: Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Monkey Business, Animal Crackers.
and these “one shots”:
8 1/2--Federico Fellini
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (Brando/Leigh)--Elia Kazan
BABETTE'S FEAST--Gabriel Axel
BELLE DE JOUR--Luis Buñuel
BLUE VELVET--David Lynch
CARNAL KNOWLEDGE--Mike Nichols
CITY OF WOMEN--Federico Fellini
DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB--Stanley Kubrick
ELVIRA MADIGAN--Bo Widerberg
HENRY FOOL--Hal Hartley
IL POSTINO--Michael Radford
JESUS OF MONTREAL--Denys Arcand
LA FEMME NIKITA--Luc Besson
ON THE WATERFRONT--Elia Kazan
PARIS, TEXAS--Wim Wenders
REAR WINDOW--Alfred Hitchcock
TAXI DRIVER--Martin Scorsese
TENDER MERCIES--Bruce Beresford
THE BICYCLE THIEF--Vittorio DeSica
THE ELEPHANT MAN--David Lynch
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW--Peter Bogdanovich
THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE--Ronald Neame
THE RED BALLOON--Albert Lamorisse
THE TIN DRUM--Volker Schlöndorff
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING--Philip Kaufman
THE WAR AT HOME--Glenn Silber & Barry Alexander Brown
THE LIVES OF OTHERS--Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
COFFEEHOUSES. (Where people drink a liquid that sharpens the mind rather than dulls it. Where people think and write in smoke-free silence. Where people speak to other people in stretches of time that last beyond 52 seconds and speak about much more than is ever even approached in amiable chit-chat. Where people have what was once called “conversation.”)
LIBRARIES. (Where people question and think and write in smoke-free silence and speak to others quietly.)
ART MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES. (Where people are stunned by great works of the imagination and feel life more intensely and live it more fully because of those experiences.)
CLASSROOMS. (Where people do an active and ultimate kind of work by facing various problems and flaws of mind and soul and, by facing those deficiencies, overcome them or find what Robert Frost calls “a momentary stay against confusion.” A dangerous place where more is risked than in any casino; an exhilarating place that can be as simple as a shack and yet more grand than a cathedral given what can go on there.)
1. People who leave me an “urgent” message on the phone but slur their phone number so I can’t reach them.
2. People whose handwriting (or attention to detail) is so pitiful I cannot decipher a “G” from a “6,” and, similarly, fonts beloved by some people that make a comma look like one fiber from a carpet in a field of grain and that make semicolons look like an appendage of the letter they are supposed to follow.
3. People who turn to jet fighter pilots for decisions concerning how small to make text we’re all supposed to be able to read.
4. People in academe who are excessively concerned about and preen over their grades and/or their degrees.
1. People who write work--critical or “theoretical” or creative--that is unintelligible to the educated person who wants to know more about something worth knowing.
2. People who make the elementary mistake of misquoting an author, and, similarly, people who make the supposedly sophisticated move of misrepresenting or distorting an author and calling that “theory.”
3. People who fail to try to “write large,” that is, to write something ambitious. (It’s not that they try and fail. Who among us hasn’t? It’s that they don’t try.)
4. People who may have studied hard enough to make stellar grades and/or people who attended quality institutions and took advanced degrees who, nevertheless, completely ignore what they were taught (and supposedly learned) about hard-won discoveries and advancements in such subjects as biology, psychology, philosophy, history, and archaeology when it comes to what they “believe” about questions of ultimate value.
Favorite Joke (Well, one of many)
See Ted Cohen’s book Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters, p. 23: It’s the joke that begins with this line, “A musician was performing a solo recital in Israel.” See the joke and Cohen’s commentary on it.
Books I have recently purchased and have read or look forward to reading...
The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart.
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens.
PUBLISHED CHAPBOOK OF POEMS (AND SOME PROSE ON POETRY):
Greatest Hits: 1979-2008. Pudding House Publications, 2008.
PUBLISHED WORK IN BOOKS:
Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems, eds. Brooke Horvath and Tim Wiles, Southern Illinois UP, 2002.
In Praise of Pedagogy: Poetry, Flash Fiction, and Essays on Composing, eds. Wendy Bishop and David Starkey, Calendar Islands Publishers, 2000.
Essential Love: Poems About Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons, ed. Ginny Connors, Poetworks/Grayson Books, 2000.
Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry, ed. Jim Elledge, Indiana UP, 1994.
From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry, eds. Ingrid Wendt and Primus St. John, Oregon State UP, 1993.
African-American Reflections (a collection of poems published by U.S. Bank and The Oregonian in honor of Black History Month--February 1992).
Wisconsin Poetry, eds. Carl N. Haywood and Bruce Taylor, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Transactions, vol. 79, no. 2--Special Issue, 1991.
The Texas Anthology, ed. Paul Ruffin, Sam Houston State UP, 1979.
Recent Papers Delivered
“Why Every Professor in the Humanities Who Desires to Promote Thinking, as Opposed to ‘Right Thinking,’ Should Be Teaching Robert Frost’s ‘Mending Wall.’” Paper presented in Madrid, Spain--June 12, 2014--at the 12th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities.
“The Sacred Imperative to Teach the Erotic in Literature, Despite the Restrictions--Legal and Tribal--that Bar the Door and Demand the Veil.” Paper presented in Oxford, England--September 17-19, 2013--at the 8th Global Conference on “Exploring the Erotic” at Mansfield College, Oxford University.
“A Curvaceous Blonde and a Gideon Bible Complete with a Gloss in the Gospel of John: The Sacred Nude Image and the Word as Sacrilege in a Hotel Room Photo Shoot.” Paper presented in New York City--October 19, 2012--at the 26th Annual Meeting of the National Conference on Liberal Arts and the Education of Artists, Sponsored by The School of Visual Arts. The conference had this theme: “Wordimage/Imageword.”
“Be True to What You Read on Paper: A Challenge to Professors in the Humanities Who Must Push Students Toward Something More Vital than the Admissions Office and the Bursar’s Office.” Paper presented in Montreal, Canada--June 15, 2012--at the 10th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities.
“Why the Professoriate Must Attack All Religions with the Weapon of Reason.” Paper presented in New York City--October 18, 2007--at the 21st Annual Meeting of the National Conference on Liberal Arts and the Education of Artists, sponsored by the School of Visual Arts. The conference, held at the Algonquin Hotel, had this theme: “Art Education, Religion, and the Spiritual.”
“George W. Bush, Albert Camus, and The Stranger: The Demands of Thought.” Paper presented in Paris--July 19, 2007--at the Fifth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities. American University Paris.
Recent Grant Received and Related Photo Site:
Faculty Development Grant, Pacific University:
My grant involved my taking photographs of women and writing about the thinking I have done during this process as well as the images “made.” (As an 18-year-old in 1972, I voted for the Equal Rights Amendment; I have long been committed to fairness and equality concerning gender issues. Similarly, my interest in the physical allure of women goes back farther than 1972, and I remain committed to honesty about that passion.) As I began taking photos, I held the idea of “feminine beauty” before me; however, it soon became obvious to me that the concept of “physical feminine attraction” (specifically for the heterosexual male) was the better approach and description because “attraction” covered the gamut from the “beautiful” portrait that might satisfy the restrictions of a Victorian censor to the more “erotic” visual depictions that so easily anger the strange bedfellows on the Right and the Left of the political spectrum. Say “beauty” and the listener can gravitate toward any “acceptable” version he or she might envision (and be blissfully ignorant of the point I hope to make about complexity); say “attraction” and an eyebrow might well be raised with good reason. (And, frequently, I want to photograph the face of the woman with that raised eyebrow.) In creative writing classes, it is standard (and sound) advice to encourage the students to “say the difficult thing” to “go to the conflict.” “Beauty” plays safe. “Attraction” goes to the core of the conflict.
"Art and Story," with a focus on the teaching of artists, was the theme for the 18th annual meeting of the National Conference on Liberal Arts and the Education of Artists sponsored by the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I read my paper--"Photographs I Have Taken of Women, Words I Have Written: Conflict and Celebration"--then showed approximately 100 of my photographs. The Algonquin Hotel, New York City, October 20-22, 2004.
Photography Accepted for Juried Show:
Title of photograph: Glorious Wolfpup. One of more than 200 pieces chosen from some 2,000 submissions received for the Seattle Erotic Art Festival (summer 2012).
Poetry in Literary Magazines:
Abraxas, Amelia, The Antigonish Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Bits, The Bluegrass Literary Review, The Blue Moon, The CEA Forum, Cimarron Review, Cross Timbers Review, Curious Rooms: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, Descant, Eye-Rhyme: Journal of New Literature, Farmer's Market, The Glass Cherry, Harvest, Interim, Jam To-Day, Kentucky Poetry Review, Kudzu, Light Year '85, The Listening Eye, The Lyric, The Madison Review, The Minnesota Review, Negative Capability, The New Laurel Review, New Mexico Humanities Review, New York Quarterly, No Exit, The Oregonian, Pacific, Paragraph, Pax: A Journal for Peace through Culture, Pig Iron, The Pikestaff Forum, Poet and Critic, Poultry: A Magazine of Voice, Publications of the Arkansas Philological Association, Pudding, Puerto del Sol, RE: Artes Liberales, Rhino, Riversedge, Slant: A Journal of Poetry, Sou'wester, Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine, The Texas Observer, Two Girls Review, Typewriter, Vanderbilt Street Review, Wisconsin Academy Review, Wisconsin Review, The Wooster Review.
My poems in New York Quarterly are available online:
Black Dirt, Bookslut, Dallas Times Herald, North Dakota Quarterly, The Cream City Review, The Small Pond Magazine of Literature, Two Girls Review, Under the Sun, Willamette Week, Wisconsin Academy Review, Writing on the Edge, The Irascible Professor.
The essay published by Bookslut is online:
The essay published by The Irascible Professor is online:
New Mexico Humanities Review and Sands (Dallas).
Two essays in Exercise Exchange and one in Notes Plus: A Quarterly of Practical Teaching Ideas.
On Flannery O’Connor and the Bible in The Explicator.
On Richard Wright and Black English Vernacular in American Literature.
On Peter Shaffer’s Equus and Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy in Modern Drama (most of this article was reprinted in Contemporary Literary Criticism, vol. 60).
cartoons related to literature and/or the academy:
Sands, Chouteau Review, and Thalia: Studies in Literary Humor.
At the invitation of the host--Barbara LaMorticella--of the Portland, Oregon, radio program “Talking Earth,” on KBOO, 90.7 FM, I gave a one-hour program on “Poetry and Rock and Roll” on January 29, 2001.
The program is available on CD at the Pacific Library.
Words Worthy of Further Discourse...
“There was, among certain filmgoers in the 1960s, an appetite for difficulty, a conviction that symbolic obscurity and psychological alienation were authentic responses to the state of the world. More than that, the idea that a difficult work had special value--that being challenged was a distinct form of pleasure--enjoyed a prestige, at the time, that is almost unimaginable today. We would rather be teased than troubled, and the measure of artistic sophistication is cleverness rather than seriousness.”
--A.O. Scott, “Before Them [Ingmar Bergman / Michelangelo Antonioni], Films Were Just Movies,” The New York Times, August 1, 2007.
"Art is the habit of the artist; and habits have to be rooted deep in the whole personality. They have to be cultivated like any other habit, over a long period of time, by experience; and teaching any kind of writing is largely a matter of helping the student develop the habit of art."
--Flannery O'Connor, "Writing Short Stories," Mystery and Manners, p. 101.
Poetry is "an antidote, a sovereign antidote, for passivity. For the basic fact about poetry is that it demands participation, from the secret physical echo in muscle and nerve that identifies us with the medium, to the imaginative enactment that stirs the deepest recesses where life-will and values reside. Beyond that, it nourishes our life-will in the process of testing our values."
--Robert Penn Warren, Democracy and Poetry, pp. 89-90.
"A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them."
--William Stafford, "A Way of Writing," Claims for Poetry, ed. Donald Hall, p. 450.
"But for women, I thought, looking at the empty shelves, these difficulties were infinitely more formidable. In the first place, to have a room of her own, let alone a quiet room or a sound-proof room, was out of the question . . . . Such material difficulties were formidable; but much worse were the immaterial. The indifference of the world which Keats and Flaubert and other men of genius have found so hard to bear was in her case not indifference but hostility. The world did not say to her as it said to them, Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What's the good of your writing?"
--Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, Harcourt, Brace and Co., chapter 3, p. 52.
Our job is to become more and more of what we are. I have said elsewhere that the growth of a poet sometimes seems to me to be related to his or her becoming less and less embarrassed about more and more."
--Marvin Bell, Old Snow Just Melting, p. 25.
Some "aspects of quality" as defined by the protagonist in Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (p. 208): unity, vividness, authority, economy, sensitivity, clarity, emphasis, flow, suspense, brilliance, precision, proportion, depth.
“give vision, direction, flavor, a new slant, force, uniqueness, permanence, inspiration, a glow, motivation, enchantment, blend, enlighten, invigorate, enthrall, take seriously, precise care, out of the ordinary, enjoy, charm, influence, interest, delight, arouse, communicate, cultivate, nurture, plan intelligently, detach, transfer, challenge, elevate, satiate, improve, value, flagrance, discipline, delicate, command attention, exalt, develop, satisfy, beautify, identify, inspire, originate, create, associate, cherish, alter, revise, criticize, impress, impart.”
--from the art work titled Terms Most Useful in Describing Creative Works Of Art by John Baldessari, as seen at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Poems tell personal lies in order to express impersonal truths."
-Robert Pack, "Lyric Narration: The Chameleon Poet," The Hudson Review, spring 1984, vol. 37, #1, p. 54.
"The act of getting a story or a novel published is an act of communication, an attempt to impose one's personality and beliefs on other people. If a writer accepts this responsibility, he must see himself . . . as an architect of the soul."
--Doris Lessing, quoted at the beginning of chapter two in Wayne Booth's The Company We Keep.
"I write poems because I've never learned to play blues harmonica or flamenco guitar, and had to make words my instruments or be riddled with the silences of the music I could not otherwise tell."
--William Pitt Root, The Generation of 2000, ed. William Heyen, p. 264.
"My guess is that there aren't a hundred top-flight professional comedians, male and female, in the whole world. They are a much rarer and far more valuable commodity than all the gold and precious stones in the world. But because we are laughed at, I don't think people really understand how essential we are to their sanity. If it weren't for the brief respite we give the world with our foolishness, the world would see mass suicide in numbers that compare favorably with the death rate of the lemmings."
--Groucho Marx, Groucho and Me, p. 88.
"Having once experienced the mystery, plenitude, contradiction and composure of a work of art, we afterwards have a built-in resistance to the slogans and propaganda of over-simplification that have often contributed to the destruction of human life."
--A. R. Ammons, "A Poem Is a Walk," Claims for Poetry, ed. Donald Hall, p. 8.
"People can think only in images. If you want to be a philosopher, write novels."
-Albert Camus, Notebooks 1935-1942, trans. Philip Thody, Knopf, 1969, p. 10.
"Discrimination is a dirty word in the vocabulary of politics, but in literature it is one of the holiest of concepts. Without it all is offal."
--Karl Shapiro, "The Poetry Wreck," The Poetry Wreck: Selected Essays 1950-1970. (New York: Random, 1975) 361.
"We talked endlessly about his work, always in the same manner, Henry [Miller] flowing, gushing, spilling, spreading, scattering, and I weaving together tenaciously. He ends by laughing at my tenacity. Until I reach a clear finality of some sort, I can't stop. I am always seeking the core, the hub, the center of all his chaotic and abundant ideas. I struggle to coordinate, to tie up loose ends."
--Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. One 1931-1934, p. 154.
"No one worries about kids going out for football and competing to be on the team--that's ability grouping, and so is the band and cheerleading squad. But when we do these things in academics, it becomes 'undemocratic, un-American.'"
--Carol Mills, (from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth), A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing, ed. James Charlton, p. 3.
"The college was not founded to give society what it wants. Quite the contrary."
--May Sarton, A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing, ed. James Charlton, p. 16.
"But even if it could be demonstrated that the humanities contribute nothing directly to a job, they would still be an essential part of the educational equipment of any person who wants to come to terms with life. The humanities would be expendable only if human beings didn't have to make decisions that affect their lives and the lives of others; if the human past never existed or had nothing to tell us about the present; if thought processes were irrelevant to the achievement of purpose; if creativity was beyond the human mind and had nothing to do with the joy of living; if human relationships were random aspects of life; if human beings never had to cope with panic or pain, or if they never had to anticipate the connection between cause and effect; if all the mysteries of mind and nature were fully plumbed; and if no special demands arose from the accident of being born a human being instead of a hen or a hog."
--Norman Cousins, "How to Make People Smaller Than They Are," Saturday Review, December 1978, p. 15.
"Even in a popular art form like film, in the U.S. most people haven't seen The Bicycle Thief or The Grand Illusion or Persona. Most people go through their whole lives without seeing any of them. Most of the younger generation supporting the films that are around now in such abundance don't care about Buñuel or Bergman. They're not aware of the highest achievements of the art form."
--Woody Allen, in an interview with Michiko Kakutani, The Paris Review, no. 136, fall 1995.
"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor."
--Henry David Thoreau, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," Walden, in The Portable Thoreau, ed. Carl Bode, p. 343.
“Every nation has the government it deserves.”
--Joseph de Maistre, in his Letter to X (1811). Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 14th ed., p. 482.
"Poets should moralize, and they are uniquely fitted to do so. In the first place, they are masters of concrete reflection, the representation of universal patterns in the rich complexity of individual experience, and so combine the gifts of storyteller, historian and philosopher."
--Emily Grosholz, "Arms and the Muse: Four Poets," Writing in a Nuclear Age, ed. Jim Schley, UP of New England, p. 210.
"He challenges the reader not so much to agree or disagree as to grow."
--Walter Kaufmann on Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufmann, p. 19.
"Dunn: . . . even by talking about or acknowledging isolation, by acknowledging a fragmentary life, an incoherent life, you are making contact with other people who might feel equal isolation. A good poem is a communal act, though I never think of that when I'm writing. I'm just trying to get things right. To get experience right, whatever the experience, is to make a communal gesture.
Thorndike: Even if getting it right is an expression of disappointment or failed expectations?
Dunn: All the more. There are the Hallmark cards that talk about apparent happinesses and joys for all those who live unexamined lives. Those are the communal lies. I think Kinnell's Book of Nightmares, which I thought was a very dark book when I first read it years ago, seems to me now to be highly affirmative because he takes on the darkness. And the taker-oner is a survivor. The book, if you read it right, I think, affirms that you could talk about almost anything. Anything unpopular, unsavory, dark, and if you get it right, and have embodied it, you have affirmed at least the difficulty of living, which is solace to me. Always if you get it right, it's solace to someone. I've never understood why people have gotten depressed by Ingmar Bergman movies. I'm mostly elated after a Bergman movie. Even though I've been affected and maybe I've wept, I'm pleased that he's gotten it so right."
--Stephen Dunn, "An Interview with Stephen Dunn," conducted by Jonathan L. Thorndike, AWP Chronicle, vol. 25, #2, (Oct. / Nov. 1992), p. 7.
"Man almost never avails himself of his freedoms, freedom of thought, for instance; instead he demands freedom of speech."
--Søren Kierkegaard, The Diary of Søren Kierkegaard, ed. Peter Rohde, p. 17.
"Works of art, however politically progressive, are powerless if they lack artistic quality."
--Mao Tse-Tung, "Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature," The Borzoi College Reader, 3rd ed., Charles Muscatine & Marlene Griffith, eds., 1976, p. 603.
"It's silly to suggest the writing of poetry as something ethereal, a sort of soul-crashing emotional experience that wrings you. I have no fancy ideas about poetry. It doesn't come to you on the wings of a dove. It's something you work hard at."
--Louise Bogan, The Writer's Quotation Book: A Literary Companion, ed. James Charlton, p. 59.
"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence."
--Bertrand Russell, The Portable Curmudgeon, ed. Jon Winokur, p. 32.
"Marrying, founding a family, accepting all the children that come, supporting them in this insecure world and perhaps even guiding them a little, is, I am convinced, the utmost a human being can succeed in doing at all."
--Franz Kafka, Letter to His Father, Schocken Books, trans. Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins, bilingual edition, p. 99.
"My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word 'tension.' I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."
--Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail," The Art of the Essay, ed. Lydia Fakundiny, Houghton Mifflin Co., p. 443.
". . . let me make a general observation--the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack-Up," The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, ed. Phillip Lopate, p. 520.
"My ancestors were Puritans from England. They arrived here in 1648 in the hope of finding greater restrictions than were permissible under English law at that time."
--Garrison Keillor, Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society, ed. Peter McWilliams, p. 157.
"Art advances between two chasms, which are frivolity and propaganda."
-Albert Camus, "Create Dangerously," Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, trans. Justin O'Brien, Knopf, 1972, p. 268.
"You don't have to deserve your mother's love. You have to deserve your father's. He's more particular. One's a Republican, one's a Democrat. The father is always a Republican toward his son, and his mother's always a Democrat."
--Robert Frost, quoted in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, 2nd series, ed. George Plimpton, p. 25.
"A very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one's convictions!"
--Friedrich Nietzsche. These words of Nietzsche's are used as an epigraph by Walter Kaufmann for his book Critique of Religion and Philosophy, Harper, 1972.
"With all that can be said, justly, against journalists, there is one kind of journalist to whom civilization owes a very great debt, namely, the brave and honest reporter who unearths and makes public unpleasant facts, cases of injustice, cruelty, corruption, which the authorities would like to keep hidden, and which even the average reader would prefer not to be compelled to think about."
--W. H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (New York: Viking P, 1970), p. 207.
"Poetry is not magic. In so far as poetry, or any other of the arts, can be said to have an ulterior purpose, it is, by telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate."
--W. H. Auden, "Writing," The Dyer's Hand (New York: Random House, 1962), p. 27.
"Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he can't do everything."
"There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living."
-Henry David Thoreau
"The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills."
--Thomas Jefferson, to John Adams, Jan. 24, 1814, quoted in The Gospel According to Jesus: A New Translation and Guide to His Essential Teachings for Believers and Unbelievers, Stephen Mitchell, p. 4.
"Art is I; science is we."
--Claude Bernard, Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, 1865.
"Conventional people are roused to fury by departures from convention, largely because they regard such departures as a criticism of themselves."
--Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), British philosopher, mathematician. The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 9 (1930).
"If throughout your life you abstain from murder, theft, fornication, perjury, blasphemy, and disrespect towards your parents, your Church, and your king, you are conventionally held to deserve moral admiration even if you have never done a single kind or generous or useful action. This very inadequate notion of virtue is an outcome of tabu morality, and has done untold harm."
-Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics, p. 40.
The writer's first job is not to have opinions but to tell the truth . . .[sic] and refuse to be an accomplice of lies or misinformation. Literature is the expression of nuance and contrariness against the voices of simplification.
Serious writers, creators of literature, shouldn't just express themselves differently from the way the mass media does. They should be in opposition to the communal drone of the newscast and the talk show.
The wisdom of literature is quite antithetical to having opinions. "Nothing is my last word about anything," said Henry James. Furnishing opinions, even correct opinions--whenever asked--cheapens what novelists and poets do best which is to sponsor reflectiveness, to perceive complexity.
What writers do should free us up, shake us up. Open avenues of compassion and new interests. Remind us that we might, just might, aspire to become different, and better, than we are. Remind us that we can change.
-Susan Sontag, “In Jerusalem,” The New York Review of Books, vol. 48, issue 10, 21 June 2001, p. 22.
"Let us not underestimate the privileges of the mediocre. Life becomes harder and harder as it approaches the heights--the coldness increases, the responsibility increases."
-Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ
"The world is a republic of mediocrities, and always was."
--Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. Letter, 13 May 1853, to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."
--H. G. Wells
"Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all."
--Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (1973).
"There is no shortage of wonderful writers. What we lack is a dependable mass of readers. . . I propose that every person out of work be required to submit a book report before he or she gets his or her welfare check."
--Kurt Vonnegut, in interview with Writers at Work (6th series, 1984).
"Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it. A merely well-informed man is the most useless bore on God's earth."
-Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education, i (1929).
"Great writers are the saints for the godless."
-Anita Brookner (b. 1938), British novelist, art historian. Novelists in Interview (ed. by John Haffenden, 1985).
"Christian endeavor is notoriously hard on female pulchritude."
--H. L. Mencken, The Aesthetic Recoil. (I took it from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 14th edition, p. 961).
"The majority of men are subjective toward themselves and objective toward all others, terribly objective sometimes--but the real task is to be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others."
--Søren Kierkegaard, A Kierkegaard Anthology, edited by Robert Bretall, p. 323..
"Christians who believe, Muslims who submit, Jews who trust--all in or to God's will--have their own criteria for wisdom, yet each needs to realize those norms individually if the words of God are to enlighten or comfort. Secularists take on a different kind of responsibility, and their turn to wisdom literature sometimes is considerably more wistful or anguished, depending on temperament. Whether pious or not, we all of us learn to crave wisdom, wherever it can be found."
--Harold Bloom, Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?, pp. 1-2 (2004).
“I have previously told the story of a respected elder statesman of the Zoology Department at Oxford when I was an undergraduate. For years he had passionately believed, and taught, that the Golgi Apparatus (a microscopic feature of the interior of cells) was not real: an artefact, an illusion. Every Monday afternoon it was the custom for the whole department to listen to a research talk by a visiting lecturer. One Monday, the visitor was an American cell biologist who presented completely convincing evidence that the Golgi Apparatus was real. At the end of the lecture, the old man strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand and said--with passion--‘My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.’ We clapped our hands red. No fundamentalist would ever say that. In practice, not all scientists would. But all scientists pay lip service to it as an ideal--unlike, say, politicians who would probably condemn it as flip-flopping. The memory of the incident I have described still brings a lump to my throat.
“As a scientist, I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. It teaches us not to change our minds, and not to want to know exciting things that are available to be known. It subverts science and saps the intellect.”
--Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, pp. 283-284.
“Voltaire got it right long ago: ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.’”
--Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 306.
“A No uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a Yes merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.”
the epigraph to Molly Peacock’s book Paradise, Piece by Piece (1998).
Inscribed along the top of the façade of the Boston Public Library: "THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY."
Inscribed on the wall inside The Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.: “ESTABLISH THE LAW FOR EDUCATING THE COMMON PEOPLE. THIS IT IS THE BUSINESS OF THE STATE TO EFFECT AND ON A GENERAL PLAN.”
“Censorship is to art what lynching is to justice.”
--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Research in African Literatures, vol. 21, no. 1, spring 1990.