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Think again


In your Feb. 17 issue, you reprinted an article on the Duke English department from Lingua Franca, complete with photo captions of your own devising. I hope that you will have the courtesy to acknowledge that almost everything you have concocted in your comment about me is erroneous. Far from being one of my friend Stanley Fish's "first big hires," the two of us arrived at Duke at the same time. Far from my presence in the classroom being "an all-too-rare sight," I have taught regularly every semester since January 1986 without taking a sabbatical leave, and have, in addition, taught summer school a number of times. In the process I have directed more than 20 Ph.D. dissertations.

You attribute the above slanderous characterization to "the department's external reviewers," by which I assume you mean the external reviewers of the English department. I am not sure what your motives are in attempting to discredit me in this way, beyond a hostility to Duke in particular and intellectuals in general. Nor am I interested in imagining who your informants are, but the external review report in the English department cannot be your reference for an excellent reason: namely, that I am not mentioned in their report. In fact, I have nothing to do with the English department, being a professor of French and the chair of a completely unrelated department, the Literature Program, about which its own external reviewers have affirmed that it is "arguably the most distinguished program of its sort in the country." Perhaps I should also add, given your garbling of the facts, that far from appointing me to his department, Stanley Fish in fact served under me in mine.

Finally, let me take this occasion to assure your readers that, whatever the English department's difficulties are at the moment, both the Literature Program and the Romance Studies department--more likely sources of Duke's national and international reputation than English--are in excellent shape. Lingua Franca's picture of Duke would have been a good deal less apocalyptic had it taken the trouble to examine the state of the humanities beyond English.

Editor's Note: The caption we ran under our photo of Jameson reads in full: "One of Fish's first big hires, Marxist literary critic Fredric Jameson, holds forth in the classroom--an all-too-rare sight, according to the department's external reviewers."

We appreciate Jameson's correcting us on two points of fact: The caption does mistakenly imply that he is a member of the English department faculty, and it erroneously identifies him as "[o]ne of Fish's first big hires." However, the caption was not intended to discredit Jameson by implying that his personal presence in the classroom is unusual--only that the English department's external reviewers had found classroom teaching to be a low priority for that department's faculty as a whole. We apologize to Jameson and our readers, both for the errors and for the ambiguity.

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