Monday, May 30, 2011

The "soullessness" of Richard H. Brodhead

Comment quoted by “Quasimodo” in LieStoppers on 30 May 2011:

These people are soulless. . . .

What Quasimodo added about the declaration on 5 April 2007 that the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape were innocent:

Brodhead sure had a lot to say on April 5th. . . . Apparently he was so overcome with joy that his students (as well as Duke) were found innocent of rape that he was rendered speechless. . .

What Quasimodo later added:

Recall that Brodhead (and Nifong) both refused to look at exculpatory evidence. WHY? Was the reason that they KNEW the accused were innocent, but were using a Gell defense ("we never saw the evidence")? If so, then from the moment they refused to look at such evidence (or accept lie detector tests, or see photographs, or even meet with the parents--who might have presented such evidence) we have very strong indications that they knew the accused were innocent (and had to avoid seeing that in order to maintain their "we know nothing" and "the facts kept changing" mantras.

What I added when I got up this Memorial Day morning:

My 2 cents worth again on Brodhead's soullessness.

Brodhead was the quintessential product of the New Criticism which had governed Yale since 1953 (need to check that--1954?) when Charles Feidelson took over the teaching of American Literature from Stanley T. Williams, who had directed scholarly studies of Melville in the late 30s and through the 40s and into the 50s. After Feidelson took over students were forbidden to look at biographical evidence. Biographical evidence was ALWAYS irrelevant, downright tacky and intellectually contemptible. When you have been taught this way all through your schooling and when you spend a lot of years at Yale under the thumb of Charles Feidelson (notice how hard it is to find Brodhead saying the name Fiedelson, who must have been part of the reason he was not promoted in those dark 1970s) you learn to dismiss all sorts of evidence as irrelevant and not understand how to think about such evidence. You can ignore the suffering of a great writer like Melville as long as what he was going through resulted in more pages in a book that you can toy with in your conventional criticism, as Brodhead did in what he said on Melville’s PIERRE--what so sickened me that I put a long footnote into FLAWED TEXTS AND VERBAL ICONS (1984) pointing out that Brodhead was blind to human agony. (Flash forward to Joan Foster and TL and LieStoppers over and over again.) Brodhead as Dean of Yale College got the job of reviewing the second volume of my biography where right on the pages is the evidence of Melville's having completed a volume in 1860 he wanted to call POEMS. What did Brodhead do? He said I made the volume up, that no one else had ever heard of the volume, when everyone had known about it since 1922. By ignoring and denying evidence right there before him on the book the was paid to review he savaged my reputation for accurate scholarship. Who could doubt a Dean of Yale College? And others echoed him.

Now, what Brodhead did at Duke was the same heartless thing, ignoring and outright denying evidence--this time because he was belatedly abasing himself before the forces of Political Correctness represented by the Gang of 88. He HAD no soul at Yale and no soul at Duke, but he did have fear of the righteous PC forces. That fear started in 1985 or early 1986, after he had finished THE SCHOOL OF HAWTHORNE but before it was printed, and that fear was acute in 2006. Here he was at Duke and facing real live PC professors who would tear him apart if he stood up against them. So what did he do? Eckstrand talks about Brodhead's "moral meltdown" but there was not a lot of morality to start with.

Morning rant ended. Lesson: Brodhead is what I always knew he was, starting in the early 80s when I read his conventional, soulless book on Hawthorne and Melville. He did not change when he got tenure at Yale, finally, and he did not change when he became President of Duke. He will always be blind to human agony unless it touches him personally, as when Yale held him long in “troth” without offering him its hand in tenured marriage. This is what Steel brought to Duke.

“Signature” comments that go with every LieStopper post I make:

In 2004 Duke needed someone who had a lifelong history of dealing deftly with tough, gnarled issues whether aesthetic, intellectual, social, or political. Duke needed someone capable of rising up in extraordinary circumstances and by God doing the right thing, right then, out of experience, powerful instinct, or innate majesty of soul. Instead, Duke got Richard H. Brodhead.

"I am an honorable and truthful person." Brodhead to Naomi Wolf, NEW YORK MAGAZINE 1 March 2004.

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