Thursday, December 22, 2016

Checking in--a status report and posting promise

I've received hundreds upon hundreds of notes similar to the following one since I resumed blog postings a few weeks back. If you are one of the others who wrote me, please don't write and ask me why I replied to this note and am posting it and not any of the others. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said in (I think it was but I have no time to check) his "Self-Reliance" essay, "‘I would write on the lintels of the door-post, 'Whim.' I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but I cannot spend the day in explanation." -- R.C.

Subject: Blog - Keep Up the Great Work!

Hi Ray,

I’m excited to see you posting on your blog as of late. It’s discouraging to read about your struggles at Boston University, though. Keep up the good fight. Also, best of luck with your Bresson books. After having successfully programmed an Ozu retrospective at the University of Chicago’s Doc Films, I tried for two straight terms to get them to have a Bresson retrospective (they haven’t had one since 1988!). My attempts were dismissed in favor of series focused on themes like “time travel” and “body horror", among others.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see some of your banned syllabi and assignments. As an autodidact, I have always consulted your syllabi and recommendations for my own learning.

Thank you for your continued truth telling in these troubling times.



Brian VandenBos, Filmmaker

* * *
Prof. Carney replied:

Thanx, Brian, for the stirring words of support! Something between five and ten thousand people have visited the blog since I began the new series of postings a few weeks back (no time to check the stats) and I've actually heard from more than a thousand of them wishing me well. I intend to post some of my "banned" syllabi as well as information about a whole series of dirty tricks and unethical behaviors Boston University administrators have indulged in, in the next week or two. (There's a lot of that in my department and also in the university more generally.) I've just been too busy finishing up the term and scribbling, scribbling, scribbling away on my massive more-than-anyone-wants-to-know-about-Bresson book (but not more than EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW about his work!!) to throw some postings up. But I shall, I shall, in the near future. In the meantime, maybe I'll post your note and this response to put others in the picture. OK?

My fight, if it matters, is not for myself but on behalf of the students, undergrads and grad students both. I have nothing to gain and (needless to say) everything -- financially, bureaucratically, and personally -- to lose from the battle. But I just can't let the things I have witnessed going on behind-the-scenes continue to happen to them. They are being cheated of the educations they are being so exorbitantly over-charged for. The Film Studies Director and the CIMS (Cinema and Media Studies) film major program are defrauding them, but they are too young, too idealistic, and too trusting to realize what is being done to them -- how they are being prevented from hearing different points of view and different approaches to film by a political and intellectual agenda that is the antithesis of free expression and free inquiry. It's really a crying shame. They (or their parents) are being cheated out of their tuition dollars by the worst forms of "pedagogical correctness" that ban the presentation of different views and the use of different methods of teaching film. Anyone who studies in this program pays the price, and the worst of it is that most of them aren't in a postion to realize it. They get a stunted, false impression of what the study of film is and have no idea how they are being misled and defrauded of a real education. I'm only amazed at how long it has gone on, and how students keep applying to the program not realizing what they are in for, with many of them continuing not to realize it even after they are here. They are just too innocent and trusting for their own good. And of course they have no experience with what other schools do so they have no standard of comparison. What a scam. What a disgrace. What a tragedy. What an intellectual embarrassment if what I am in a postion to know and have seen going on first-hand were more widely known.

By the way: I hear what you are saying about the programming of Bresson's work (and that of a dozen other similarly "difficult" artists). It's an American sickness. This desire for "easy" art, "fun" experiences, and "entertaining" movies. Those programmers might as well work for a big city metroplex. What's the point of a film archive or academic setting, if it's not going to take chances, be brave and daring, and challenge its viewers? That's the whole reason it exists. The programmers  have bought into the central fallacy of American democracy and consumer society. The measurement of things in terms of popularity. It's a real American sickness that results in people preferring the "fun, easy, entertaining" attitudes and solutions of someone like Trump. (Six months ago I would have added: If there is anyone like Trump -- until the election revealed that there are millions and millions of little wannabe Trumps, half the population of America in fact.)

In the meantime, stay tuned. I promise a few new postings in the next couple weeks! And wait till you see the Bresson book. All three volumes. They will be mind-blowers. Honest 'injun. You have my word on it.



Prof. Ray Carney
Boston University

"Inside Boston University—A Faculty Member's Efforts to Defend Academic
Freedom of Expression" --

Ray Carney's observations about academic freedom of expression, constraints on course offerings, the censorship of faculty publications, and bureaucratic retaliation against independent-minded faculty members at Boston University. Prof. Carney reflects on the deleterious effect of corporate values in the promotion, pay, and support system, on market pressures on the life of the mind and, above all, on impositions of "pedagogical correctness" in course offerings and student evaluation methods.

Ray Carney is the author or editor of: Henry Adams, Mount Saint Michel and Chartres (VikingPenguin), Henry James, What Maisie Knew and The Spoils of Poynton (New American Library/Signet), Rudyard Kipling, Kim (New American Library); The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism and the Movies (Cambridge University Press); The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World (Cambridge University Press); Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer (Cambridge University Press); American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra (Cambridge University Press); American Dreaming (University of California Press at Berkeley); Shadows (British Film Institute/Macmillan); Cassavetes on Cassavetes (Faber and Faber/Farrar, Straus); Autoportraits (Cahiers du cinema), The Adventure of Insecurity; Necessary Experiences; Why Art Matters; and numerous other books, essays, and editions, published in more than ten languages. Professor Carney is currently working on a three-volume treatment of the early, mid-career, and final films of Robert Bresson intended to transform the understanding of his work.