Polemics & Exchanges

Under the Glass

Catharine Savage Brosman’s critique of The New Yorker (“The New Yorker Under the Glass,” Vital Signs, March) is a welcome respite from the nasty, nonsensical scribbling of today’s cultural critics.  I’m sure Dr. Brosman is aware that infantilism and mediocrity prevail not only among popular literary editors and “American consumers of print, electronic media, and entertainment,” but among literature professors, who, of all people, should know better.

I recently completed graduate studies in literature and in law.  In which department did I read Sophocles, Shakespeare, Melville, Tolstoy, Kafka, Yeats, and Dostoyevsky?  If you guessed literature, you were wrong.  American law schools have become an unlikely site for a return to major Western writers and traditions.

On the other hand, I learned from my English professors that literature courses are for “scholars,” not enthusiasts (as if a person couldn’t be both).  Students shouldn’t love the Great Books, mere marketing devices with an oppressive, ideological logic.  I learned that aesthetic taste is a product of social engineering and that books, like grammar, are markers of class and therefore dispensable.  (Perhaps this explains the “degraded grammar” that has become “house...

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