[KB] Regarding John McKenzie's question about resistance to Burke

Miriam Clark clarkmm at auburn.edu
Thu Dec 6 13:21:00 EST 2007

Here's an excerpt from a letter Randall Jarrell wrote to his fiancee
Mary von Schrader in 1952 when he was on the faculty of the School of
Letters in Bloomington.  It was a hot summer and Jarrell complained
about having to put on a suit and sit on stage during Burke's public
lecture.  But it was the talk itself that most irritated him.  Here's
what he wrote:

"Burke's speech was just like a parody of everything in "Age of
Criticism" [Jarrell's essay attacking obscurity in mid-century
criticism]; Robert [Fitzgerald] and I looked at each other in mute awe. 
The audience shifted and yawned and half of them, even, saw how bad it
was.  It was so bad it was almost feeble-minded; so extravagantly
mechanical and verbose and senseless and full of absolutely irrelevant
free association that you felt a band of robbers had made up the speech
and were making him deliver it, to his own disgrace, with a machine-gun
trained on him."

A few days later, after taking part in an M.A. exam with him, Jarrell
wrote:  "Burke was as bad as ever and all of it was sort of interesting
in a gruesome way."

Now that's resistance.  

For my part, I'd argue that serious critical engagement is the near
opposite of resistance.  

Miriam Marty Clark
Associate Professor
Auburn University 

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