On the timidity of professors

“But he was at once stigmatized ‘a doctrinaire’–the most damaging of insults–and several Frenchmen implied that as he was both a professor and a German he was hardly fitted to form an opinion on a matter connected with the limpid and elegant genius of southern France.”

This goes on in so many FL departments still. If you are not an X, you cannot possibly understand X. If you are an X, you are naturally an expert in X. Incidentally, this means that X cannot be a scholarly field.

“[T]hereupon the professor declares that as ‘a scrupulous historian’ he takes care not to commit himself. That amounts to saying that the lyric poetry of courtly love, with which he is concerned, remains for him, till he learns to the contrary, ‘a bundle of set phrases devoid of meaning’. Excellent ‘material’, it is true, for a self-respecting philologist who does not intend to force a text, even by means of the least attempt to understand it.”

I remember this. As though these were evidence people voiced projections and prejudices, and then used the word “perhaps.” The same word was suggested to accompany actual data. Thus did these philologists remain in their rooms, smoke their pipes, and call it scholarship.

–Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World, 1956-57 edition revised and augmented, p. 70.

Is he not amusing? I am relieved somehow to realize he had to put up with these things, and delighted that he made these biting comments.


7 thoughts on “On the timidity of professors

  1. Well, only some do. And I do sometimes, too, when I am OD’d on a certain type of student and the parents and pastors who stand in their background.

    1. That’s right. Some Professors are total double assholes because they are Professors as well as members of the general public.

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