Friday, May 8, 2020

Out of the mouths of babes....

 A senior Boston University administrator demanded that I remove or otherwise "redact" or "edit" more than half of the following posting, in fact the most important parts, those with the most intellectual content and value, leaving almost none of the intellectual content of the original posting remaining. I plan to explain the events surrounding this act of suppression on subsequent blog pages when I have a chance to make future postings. As other pages on this blog (including the page that precedes this one) have described, this is neither the first nor only time a Boston University administrator has intervened to control and censor what I publish (or say in interviews). Given the extraordinary importance of the free and open exchange of ideas that a university is supposedly devoted to fostering, it is not a record for a university to be proud of. -- Ray Carney

The posting on the previous page ("Ray Carney's Commencement Address") elicited a truly overwhelming (and wonderfully supportive and sympathetic) response, particularly from administrators at other universities, who comprise a large proportion of the readership of this blog.

 A lengthy section was removed at this point.

 I will limit myself to posting my response to a note I received this morning from one of my most brilliant former Ph.D. students who responded to my posting in a completely different way from anyone else. He and his wife are now engaged in raising a family and he wrote me about what the experience of spending so much time with a young child has taught him, and how it relates to my posting. A very lightly edited version of my somewhat hastily emailed reply to him, which quotes part of his email to me, follows.

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Thanks for the kind and thoughtful reply. Since I still haven't yet turned my grades in, and am still going crazy with my three massive Bresson volumes, this shall be (mercifully?) brief. Only to note that your--

.... in my current state, I relate everything to [parenthood] but I could not help but think about the ways in which [my child] and I are helping to cultivate each other's inner worlds. I try so hard every day to create a space for him to learn what it is to be himself, and in so doing I run up against so many assumptions, cliches, inherited ideas that I didn't even know I still had. Seeing things through his eyes, I see so much that my "adult" brain has been trained to ignore, or categorize, explain, contain. All of this is to say that I am of course still building and revising and training my own eyes and ears and heart and soul, and god willing I'll never stop! ....

--is the shortest, most condensed statement of what is wrong with contemporary criticism and how to fix it that could possibly be articulated.... Original response is what a work (a genuine work) of art is, and what a critic must find a way of responding to... and what the race, class, gender, ideology, cultural studies critics fall flat on their behinds for NOT doing. Work for truth. In art and in commentary on it. We live in a world of lies, as much in criticism as in politics, both liberal and conservative.

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I was told to remove (or, again in the euphemistic circumlocution, "redact" or"edit") the entire conclusion of the posting, from this point to the end, a discussion of a very important issue that applies to many students and teachers at many universities. It ended with the words "The loss is incalculable," which might equally apply to the policies of a university that monitors and controls faculty expression in the ways the Boston University of President Robert Brown does, and has done for many years.