The MailRoom

By The Editors / January / February 1999
November 19th, 2007


I wonder if readers of Professor Robert Scholes's article know how revolutionary his thesis is ("Does English Matter?" September/October). Traditionally college literature departments taught a canon of great books to prepare students to join just such a department. Yet the wider value of literature is to help people learn who they are and how to express themselves. In other words, you can't just teach students the literary allusions of Paradise Lost.

Furthermore, anyone who can communicate through the current genres will also do well in the entertainment industry, publishing, marketing, media creation, and the Web. Unfortunately, when you look at the papers given at a Modern Language Association convention, you realize how balkanized our literature departments have become. Gay studies, multiculturalism, semiotics, feminism, poststructuralism - all are subjects of value. Yet shouldn't a lit department be more than a battleground of political and cultural values?

I wonder if America's literature departments are ready to heed Professor Scholes's message.
Thomas Truby '73
Los Angeles

"Does English Matter?" by Robert Scholes was an absolutely delightful read, informative and wonderfully written. Not only was the message on the mark, but Scholes's mastery of his craft was evident in each sentence. Keep it up.
Richard Latham '71 A.M.
Beijing, China

Professor Scholes's article provides lessons for all who teach. Perhaps he seeks to muscularize English in response to shifting values and societal trends - on and off the street. Methods I used at Moses Brown School could be applied at an East Harlem high school. In all cases, a good instructor translates materials to sustain, yet provoke, each student, trying, like a jazz musician, to ignite appetites and encourage a class to interpret and improvise. Teaching is rarely preaching.

Mixed with the daily agenda in classes across the nation, other themes are companions to the curriculum - be it English, social studies, or sciences. I refer to core values, responsibilities, trust, fairness, and character. In most of our lives, one teacher was a strong stimulant. I recall my history teacher, whose stirring comments on the American constitutional convention made it seem as if the Founding Fathers themselves were guest speakers, eager to answer our questions.

If all else fails, at least I hope the class is left with a sturdy lifeboat and oars to row with!
R. Joseph Novogrod '38, '60 M.A.T.

Twenty years ago, I chose semiotics over English as my concentration because I was looking for a more rigorous, theoretical course of study. Years later, I learned that, unlike friends whose colleges only offered "traditional" English classes, I was lucky to have had that opportunity.

Professor Scholes's concerns about English studies were evident in his teaching when I was at Brown. I remember how a poetry seminar he taught helped me develop my own critical thinking skills. It was wonderful to be updated on his scholarship.
Margaret Murray '80
San Francisco

I would like to thank BAM writer Chad Galts and photographer Maggie Steber for giving readers a look at the important work of the Haitian Project, led by Patrick Moynihan '87, and the impact it is having on the lives of the 125 students attending Louverture Cleary this fall ("The Missionary," September/October).

As a volunteer teacher with the project, I am fortunate to live and work with these incredible and inspirational children. I find it difficult to communicate through letters and e-mail the positive environment that the Haitian Project has been able to create amid the chaos and frustration of daily life in Haiti. I appreciate the article's witness to the hard work that Moynihan and all those involved in the project have dedicated to making Louverture Cleary a model educational and community institution.

The accomplishments and the dreams of the Haitian Project are best expressed by the words of a song my second-year students recently wrote: "We are the light for our country; with our hands together, we can rebuild Haiti."
Moira Feeney '98
Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti

Patrick Moynihan is an inspiration and a model to follow. Thanks for publishing that article. I am sure it will get a lot of people thinking; it sure did me.

Keep up the good work.
Audrey S. O'Neill
Guaynabo, P.R.

The photograph of Patrick Moynihan virtually jumped off the cover of the September/October BAM. That's how much he reminded me of my son, George Siberry '88.

After graduating from Brown and deferring his medical-school acceptance at Johns Hopkins for one year, George traveled to Haiti under the auspices of the Catholic Church. He went to teach, but soon after arriving he found himself in charge of a school and orphanage whose director had fled under questionable circumstances. Against much adversity, George set up the school's curriculum and grading system. He even beseeched us to adopt one of the orphans.
Patricia K. Siberry
San Antonio, Tex.

President Gee has done a number of marvelous things since arriving at Brown, not the least of which was graduating my son this past May.

However, his determination to re-solve the ludicrous and unnecessary sex-discrimination suit brought against Brown, which never should have been a defendant in the first place, deserves high praise ("A Sporting Chance," Elms, September/ October). Just think how much money the University would have saved had the administration and its learned counsel been practical and forthright in 1992.

As a practicing attorney for more than thirty years, I resent cases like Cohen v. Brown for the time, money, and effort they consume for very little apparent reason. Only the attorneys prevailed, as is very often the case.

Well done, President Gee!
H. William Hodges III '59
Baldwin, N.Y.

I was pleased to read that Brown has finally settled the Title IX lawsuit. I considered briefly what the $2 million in legal fees would have meant to the sports programs at Brown. I was then struck with a certain sense of irony at the sports reporting on pages 18 and 19 of the September/October BAM. More than five columns were devoted to the "Pigskin Prospect," Sean Morey '99, and the football team. That article included a one-third-page picture of Mr. Morey. Then, in less than half a column, I read the news of the women's crew boat that prevailed in international competition by winning the prestigious Henley Regatta. That article was accompanied by a photo showing only five of the nine women in the winning boat.

I think someone missed the point of the Title IX suit.
Michael Serotta '68
Bedford, Mass.


I greatly enjoyed Justin Pritchard's article on Tommy Corcoran '22 ("The Power Broker," September/October).

One error appeared, I think: Mr. Corcoran's memoirs may well be titled Rendezvous with Democracy, but Franklin D. Roosevelt's phrase was "rendezvous with destiny."

Thanks for a superb issue.
Richard Funk '70

With no disrespect toward my former trombone-section colleague, I would like to correct the letter from Chris Maden '94 ("Gender-Free Greek," Mail, September/October).

St. Anthony Hall is not the only fraternity at Brown with a national structure that recognizes its sisters as full and equal members. Several coed chapters of the Alpha Delta Phi Society, including Brown's, separated from their international fraternity organization in 1992 to form a new national organization for the purpose of admitting women to full membership, while still keeping the Alpha Delta Phi name and history. My sisters and brothers worked diligently for many years to produce a legal agreement that would not force us to choose between our roots and our rights. Zete was not so fortunate with its national organization, but it has flourished as a local fraternity for the past twelve years, and its members' determination to rebuild from scratch has been outstanding.

Brown can be proud to offer its students a choice of three fraternities that admit women and men as equals. Each house is unique, but they share at least one common element: members who say "I never thought I'd join a fraternity."
Jennifer Reid '91
Pawtucket, R.I.

Two comments


Gender-Free Geek: The Greek Council at Brown defines a fraternity as an organization with Greek letters in its name ("Gender-Free Greek," Mail, September/October). Balderdash! A fraternity is defined as a student men's organization. Revisionists have no place in higher learning. They have no place except to suit the needs of the emotionally and intellectually needy.

Diplomatic Farce: Our learned classmate Richard Holbrooke '62 takes credit for ending a genocide that continues ("Diplomatic Force," Books, September/ October). It is intriguing that in our twenty-fifth-reunion yearbook, Mr. Holbrooke claimed his greatest accomplishment was defeating University Hall. Obviously, like most starry-eyed almost-radicals, he has become the establishment. He writes history with a pencil so that it may be revised as it suits him at a later date.

Yes, I read the BAM with great interest each and every month.
John E. Andes '62
Tampa, Fla.

Suha Selâmoglue '64 Ph.D. writes to the BAM from Ankara, Turkey, that he is "ready to admit Peter Balakian's genocide accusation" for the 1915 killing of Armenian people by the Turkish government ("Death to Fanaticism," Mail, September/ October). He adds, "It's time for a fanaticide."

Mr. Selâmoglue has made a very good start. This crime has long been an internationally recognized fact of history. All he has to do now is convince his own Turkish government to admit to the genocide, to "murder fanaticism of all sorts."

I, too, am ready to accept the Turkish admission in memory of my brother and all my other murdered relatives.
Peter Aproian '51

Responding to Peggy Ku '97 ("Identity Politics," Mail, September/October), and her note about my letter ("Brown Has Gone Too Far," Mail, July/August), let me suggest that Miss Ku seek the opinion of her own parents. Are they willing to fund from hard-earned tuition dollars so-called gay-and-lesbian-issues course offerings? Just what are gay and lesbian issues, anyway?

CBS's 60 Minutes clearly indicated that such courses often constitute little more than explicit and titillating how-to manuals. While I am sympathetic to those with deviant psychological problems, I am simply unwilling to pay for their coming-out parties. As far as "liberalism" is concerned, a Webster's definition may suffice: "excessively free or indecorous behavior." Gay and lesbian studies would appear to conform to that definition.

The foregoing notwithstanding, this old "homophobe" respects Miss Ku's opinions while disagreeing with her conclusions. Oh, to be young and idealistic again!
Alfred I. Miranda '46
West Palm Beach, Fla.

Why is it that one cannot question gay and lesbian issues without being accused of homophobia? In a liberal context like academia, any questions should be permissible. In fact, the opposite happens. We become so liberal that we become narrow-minded.
Leo Setian '55
Siloam Springs, Ark.

Is there any music in Brown's soul? Every issue of the BAM brings pleasure, but racking what is left of my memory, I cannot remember any editorial or advertising copy regarding a Brown chorus, glee club, orchestra, or band. Whatever organizations do exist, do they give performances away from Providence? Are there any tapes/CDs available?
Donald M. Marshall '45
Bracebridge, Ont.

BAM coverage of Brown music and music alumni has been extensive. It most recently includes a long feature about the orchestra ("Watch the Baton!" March 1997) and profiles of singer Lisa Loeb '90 ("Up from the Underground," November 1996) and Rockapella band members Sean Altman '83 and Elliott Kerman '81 ("Do It, Rockapella!" May 1996). The magazine is also preparing a feature on the fiftieth anniversary of the Jabberwocks. - Editor

As a supporter of the Brown Sports Foundation, and as a perennial Boston Red Sox fan who has seen endless Septembers marked by disappointment and frustration, I propose an analogy between the sad Red Sox annual sagas and Brown's recent September football seasons.

In September, Red Sox fortunes rise and inevitably fall. In September, year after year, Brown's football fortunes rise (on paper), only to be dashed after game number one, usually against Yale. Is there some kind of nefarious conspiracy between the Yankees of New York and the Bulldogs of New Haven?

Alas, to love both the Red Sox and Brown football produces a New England drama rivaling any of Shakespeare's most powerful Old England tragedies.
Sheldon P. Siegel '56
Allentown, Pa.

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Related Issue
January / February 1999