“I had a ringside seat watching a new breed of Jacobins seize control of a university English department, then extend their reach throughout the humanities.”
Nan Miller reminds us that this did not happen overnight. The left began its march through the humanities decades ago.
She writes at the James G. Martin Center:
Diary of a Mad Emerita
During the years I taught college English, I had a ringside seat watching a new breed of Jacobins seize control of a university English department, then extend their reach throughout the humanities. Posing as the champions of “social justice,” they have built an empire cultivating “victims”—and silencing colleagues who oppose the new mission of the radical left. For four decades they have ruled universities nationwide, but my focus here is upon the hoodoo they have inflicted upon North Carolina’s Big Four universities.
My first exposure to the type came in August, 1984, when new department head John Bassett announced plans to take N.C. State’s English department in a “radically new direction” that would reinvent English studies as a “social science” and showcase faculty who impose “gender-deconstructionist,” “Marxo-constructivist,” or “post-structuralist” interpretations on classical literature. Dr. Bassett was simply following the nationwide trend that recast English professors as liberators of the oppressed and recast great writers as the enemies of women, people of color, and the underclass.
By 1988, Bassett’s acolytes were in charge—but only after a battle so fierce one reporter likened it to “an academic Beirut.” Their formula for success, hatched in the 70s, introduced here in the 80s, alive and well in 2022, goes something like this: take a crop of Ph.Ds who land jobs in Research I institutions and who know they must publish something original, something “cutting edge,” or perish. Now imagine a crop of upstarts competing to invent a new angle on Hamlet or Huck—then spotting the opening. If, prior to 1980, scholars had called classical literature the hallmark of our Western heritage, the neophytes would invert that premise and call great works the scourge of Western civilization—as the last refuge of racism, sexism, and all the other isms perpetrated by dead white males.
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