Protecting the wisdom of the West (Classical Liberalism & Jewish Tradition),_Lord_Tennyson

Bud: “Very many of the big names in American Literature have been Jewish for a generation now. Charles Feidelson, Leslie Feidler, Nina Baym, Sacvan Bercovitch, etc. Also during this generation (between 1960-2000), the study of literature took on a layer of “distance” from the primary text — it became “talmudic,” where students were expected to spend as much or more time reading criticism about the primary text as they were reading the primary text itself. And these scholars are cited as intellectual celebrities.”

Edward Alexander writes in chapter 11: “Ludwig Lewisohn, a Berlin-born Jew who made himself into a Southern Christian gentleman in Charleston, had to leave Columbia University in 1903 without his doctorate because he was, in the eyes of Columbia’s English faculty, irredeemably Jewish. Like many a Jewish student of English after him (the names of Irvin Ehrenpreis and Arnold Stein spring readily to mind), Lewisohn was told that he should not (or could not) proceed in his studies because the prejudice against hiring Jews in English departments was insuperable. Two decades later, reflecting on the appointment of a number of Jewish scholars in American colleges and universities, he noted that in one discipline alone the old resistance remained firm: “There are a number of Jewish scholars in American colleges and universities. . . . The older men got in because nativistic anti-Semitism was not nearly as strong twenty-five years ago as it is to-day. . . . In regard to the younger men . . . they were appointed through personal friendship, family or financial prestige or some other abnormal relenting of the iron prejudice which is the rule. But that prejudice has not . . . relented in a single instance in regard to the teaching of English.”1 Perhaps this was because the study of English, unlike that of science or even philosophy, was intimately bound up with the particularities of culture, for it was precisely the study of the mind of Western Christianity. What Bernard Berenson called the “Angry Saxons”2 who ran the English departments were mindful of what Tennyson had written in “The Hesperides”:“the treasure /of the wisdom of the West” needed to be guarded well and warily “Lest one from the East come and take it away.” In the twentieth century, the would-be invaders of the sacred preserve were barbarous Eastern European Jews.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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