Sunday, November 1, 2009

* Alma Mater Yale---- Nurturing Motherhood: Blue Milk from the Male Bosom

How preposterous! A critic says my blog picks on Yale.

The Proverb cited in the masthead clears me of that accusation. But why exactly do I focus on Yale? After all I have three other almae matres. It could be The Anti-Middlebury, or The Anti-Kent State or the Anti-Ithaca. Why The Anti-Yale?

Yale is not only my nourishing mother but my nourishing metaphor--and if you read my letter to Middlebury* you will know I believe metaphors are necessary for human survival itself.

Yale is the best and the worst in our world. It creates a safe harbor for the pursuit of truth and and fortifies that harbor by feeding off a Stock Market which has dashed the hopes of millions of the gullible, including Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel.

For most of the 19th and 20th century it was elitist, sexist and anti-semitic not only in its admissions policies, but in its visual presentation to the world: ensconsing itself in medieval fortresses which faced inward, away from the uncultured masses.

Local folklore has it that Yale even imported an entire town of stone-cutters from Italy ("Esposito" a prolific name in New Haven, literally means "from the outside") to build those student and academic palaces.

To its credit Yale graduated an African American Ph.D. only nine years after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln.

Edward A. Bouchet, a New Haven native and graduate of the Yale College Class of 1874 ,is the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in America. His degree was the sixth doctorate in physics ever awarded in that field.(from Yale website)

To its discredit, it observed quotas for the maximum number of Jews who could be admitted to its alabaster halls, through the 1950's, if not longer.

Would you call this semi-anti-semitism? It has a nice Yale academic ring to it, doesn't it?

Yale has recently abandoned a centuries-old tradition of worshipping a Christian God at its public services, in favor of a multi-cultural chaplaincy; and, one wonders therefore to which God the Yale motto now refers: For God, Country and Yale---Allah, Yahweh, Christ?

And women. Let's not forget about women. Until the 1970's Yale was an all male bastion (with an occasional exception in art or medicine, maybe divinity). Women were transported en masse from the sisters colleges of New England to adorn the weekend social lives of Yale men. Women were background music or potted plants to accentuate the male foreground. (Ever wonder why men "lead" in ballroom dancing, the dancing of pre-liberation America? There is absolutely no logical reason why women should not"lead", except to reinforce cultural obeisance to male hegemony.)


And sexual identity? Well---we won't go there. All statistics on this are dubious for obvious age-old reasons of bigotry and harrassment and personal privacy choices, if privacy is even extant in today's facebooked, tweetered, sextmessaged generation.

Yale is my metaphor: My metaphor for crumbling cultures and self-remodelling rubble.

May my metaphorical mother continue to try to be nurturing to those many foundlings she has newly pressed to her heretofore male, blue, christian bosom.


Letter to the Editor
Middlebury Magazine

Dear Editor:
Gary Johnson's question at the end of "When Worlds Collide" (Spring 2009 issue) raises another question: Does cerebration itself separate us from our ideation? In other words--Do we use the metaphorical complexity of the liberal arts to obfuscate rather than confront our own primitive murderous instincts? And do we need to engage in such obfuscation in order not to commit suicide? One famous psychiatrist began all his initial encounters with patients by asking this question: "Why don't you kill yourself?" The liberal arts offers a Jack Benny kind of answer: "I'm busy thinking."
Hemingway said his "typewriter" was his "psychiatrist". His prose purges every act of cerebration in favor of ideation---look at the description of what is in front of Nick Adams's eyeballs not behind them for example. But then we all know what happened to Hemingway when he stopped writing.
We may need metaphors (and the liberal arts is loaded with them) simply to survive. And what is the most persistent and omnipresent metaphor the human species creates : religion.
Paul D. Keane, M.A. English '97

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