[KB] Garber on Love of Burke

dbeard@d.umn.edu dbeard at d.umn.edu
Fri May 2 08:56:39 EDT 2008

I should provide full context, before picking up Stacey's good thoughts:

 From Garber's ACADEMIC INSTINCTS 21-22

Hence the present-day nostalgia for Edmund Wilson and
Kenneth Burke. Burke never completed college or took a
degree. He was the music critic of the Dial and the Nation
before turning to the field of literary criticism. He lectured
at the University of Chicago for a couple of years, taught at
Bennington, and held visiting professorships and lecture-
ships in the United States and Europe, but he wasn?t a ?col-
lege professor? in the ordinary sense of the term. Likewise,
critics and editors like Mumford, Macdonald, and Wilson
wrote essays, book reviews, journal articles, opinion, and po-
lemic. They didn?t have university positions. They seem to
have been free-standing, not tied to an institution, although
the periodicals they edited were supported and sustained
by institutions just as empowering as any professor?s bully-
The nostalgia for these ?last? or ?lost? intellectuals is, like
all nostalgias, produced retrospectively and structured like a
fantasy. Its genius is that it brings together the mystique of
amateurism with the grittiness of the self-made man, thus
magically banishing any taint of (a) hereditary privilege and
(b) femaleness or femininity. Thus, this nostalgia solves an
image problem: how to conceive of a literary intellectual, a
?man of letters,? as a man.

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