In the current issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine, I review a book called Intellectual Trajectories, a collection of autobiographical talks by retired Yale professors. I know it is a form of magical thinking (in Tim Burke’s phrase) to think that era when you experienced something was the golden age of that thing, but come on: these folks were pretty special.
Among my profs back in the ’70s were Harold Bloom, David Milch (my freshman adviser, who told me in no uncertain terms to sign up for an English 25 section with) Richard Sewell, Marjorie Garber, Thomas Weiskel, Theodore Solotaroff, Richard Brodhead, Stanley Elkin, R.W.B. Lewis, William Ferris, Alvin Kernan, Thomas Bergin, and David Brion Davis (represented in Intellectual Trajectories with a typically thoughtful and toothsome essay). If some of those names do not ring a bell, use your internet machine to check them out. You will be impressed. I am especially pleased that Maria is currently taking a seminar, “The Art of Reading a Poem,” with Harold Bloom, who is as ageless, singular and brilliant as his beloved Yankees’ Mariano Rivera.
As I say in the review, one of the two most striking things in the book is the range of experience and interest of this generation of professors–most of them born between the late teens and the thirties. Fully three quarters of the men served in the armed forces, most of them in World War II, which put them cheek by jowl with fellow citizens from all walks of life. The second most striking thing is that all the professors save one (Marie Boroff) are men. Even in the golden age, not everything was golden.