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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  October 23, 2007
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Richard Brodhead: Duke's Prize "Pig in a Poke"

Until Proven Innocent: "Confronted with a crisis of epic proportions, with Duke's hard-won reputation at risk, he [Brodhead] faced his ultimate test of courage. And in an extraordinary moral meltdown, he threw in his lot with the mob"--that is, Mr. Brodhead allied himself with the rogue prosecutor and the rogue Gang of 88 who embodied Political Correctness at Duke. It is highly significant that Professor Parker can attribute to only one cause Mr. Brodhead's weird bobbing about in self-justification in The School of Hawthorne: that he feared being denounced as politically incorrect (for writing about only famous white men). Two decades later that same terror towered up and surged over Mr. Brodhead in the scene Stuart Taylor, Jr., and KC Johnson describe (p. 137). The result: huge costs to Duke in prestige as well as an avoidable expenditure of plenty of money.

Good news from John F. Burness, Duke University’s senior vice president for public affairs and government relations since 1991 and, in the words of his retirement annoucement at the Duke website, "the guiding force behind the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership that helped strengthen Duke’s ties with the local community: "I'm coming up on my 63rd birthday, and after...the saga of the past year-and-a-half-it's surely time for me to slow down and get a new life."

Take Duke's president, Richard H. Brodhead, with you. Mr. Burness.

Last June, Duke's trustees quietly approved a confidential settlement with the Duke Three (David Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty). With those trustees considering, for Duke's current president, a contract extension, doesn't the AMOUNT that Duke's political correctness extremism and THAT MAN's lack of leadership cost to settle, confidentially, with the Three deserve a public mention? Stuart Taylor, Jr.'s $10,000,000 estimate appears to be $8,000,000 LOW! Does Duke DENY that is so? How can those trustees seriously consider rewarding THAT MAN with a contract extension? He is to blame. Have they no shame? Won't they acknowledge a huge mistake? For that, what more will it take?

What Mr. Brodhead (Duke Chairman Robert Steel's prize "pig in a poke") did, in turn, to then Yale lecturer James Van de Velde (terminating his employment, despite his stellar qualifications, when he was being investigated for a murder for which there was not even evidence for a Durham indictment), premier Melville Scholar Professor Emeritus Hershel Parker (defaming him in a New York Times book review of the second volume of his masterpiece) and members of the 2005-2006 Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team (defaming them, suspending their lacrosse season and even suspending three team members) was no joke.

Professor Parker recently answered the question I posed after I read a Duke lacrosse parent's statement that he was not in a position to question Mr. Brodhead's credentials as a scholar in readily understandable terms: what kind of scholar is he?

Professor Parker: "As a descendant of many 18th century and even a few 17th century North Carolina Scots (some of whom spent time in the Durham area), I know what 'a pig in a poke' means. You are a lucky buyer if you find a sleek piglet in the poke when you neglect to open it before paying over your coins. If you didn't open the poke, you might, at least in earlier times, have gotten home with cats, rats, or hedgehogs in your sack. When Chairman Steel persuaded Duke that Richard Brodhead was 'a first-rate scholar' (12 December 2003) he was selling 'a pig in a poke' and when the poke was opened to its widest in 2006 it became clear that what they hired at Duke was not a sleek porcine prize. Brodhead is a graceful enough critic, but he is not a scholar, not at all. A scholar would have worked his way through dozens of nineteenth-century American novels lying neglected in Sterling Memorial Library before he thought of writing a book called The School of Hawthorne, and then he would not have needed to excuse himself repeatedly for not opening the canon. He could have been a hero of Political Correctness! What a wasted opportunity! Steel sold Duke 'a pig in a poke,' not the prize pig Duke had bargained for. Nor did Duke did hire a genuinely first-rate human being, as Stuart Taylor, Jr., and KC Johnson demonstrate in Until Proven Innocent. Who can read without dismay and disgust their depiction of Brodhead's 'moral meltdown' (p. 137)? What would you say now, Chairman Steel, about just what you had in that poke of yours? Would Yale want it back?"

Professor Parker refers to this passage in Until Proven Innocent: "Confronted with a crisis of epic proportions, with Duke's hard-won reputation at risk, he [Brodhead] faced his ultimate test of courage. And in an extraordinary moral meltdown, he threw in his lot with the mob"--that is, Mr. Brodhead allied himself with the rogue prosecutor and the rogue Gang of 88 who embodied Political Correctness at Duke. It is highly significant that Professor Parker can attribute to only one cause Mr. Brodhead's weird bobbing about in self-justification in The School of Hawthorne: that he feared being denounced as politically incorrect (for writing about only famous white men). Two decades later that same terror towered up and surged over Mr. Brodhead in the scene Stuart Taylor, Jr., and KC Johnson describe (p. 137). The result: huge costs to Duke in prestige as well as an avoidable expenditure of plenty of money.

In his review for The New York Times of the second volume of Professor Parker's monumental Melville biography, Mr. Brodhead had insinuated that Professor Parker (at best) had imagined that Melville had written an unpublished work titled "The Isle of the Cross" (1853) and "surmised" the existence of Melville's "Poems" (1860). (Professor Parker refuted the charges in an article in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 62 (June 2007).)

Few readers will fully appreciate the significance or effect of Mr. Brodhead's charges against Professor Parker (who became a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his first volume on Melville and who devoted decades to his study of Melville).

Suffice it to say here that the termination and book review foreshadowed (to use a literary term that should make the carefully politically correct Mr. Brodhead and his apologists squirm) what Mr. Brodhead did and did not do when an ex-convict stripper with a history of mental problems accused members of the 2005-2006 Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team: rush to wrong judgment without undertaking necessary research, follow the dictates of political correctness extremism regardless of the facts and even reject the obvious implications of both the DNA results and an offer by an indicted player's father to review the prosecution's document production.

The erudite Professor Parker distinguishes "scholarship, which adds grains to the heap of knowledge, and criticism, which toys with information" and thus classifies the politically savy Mr. Brodhead as a critic, not a scholar.

Professor Parker explained that "[i]n the late 1940s a revolutionary new approach to literature, the New Criticism, invaded English departments all over the country and by the early to mid 1950s had triumphed." The result: "the New Critics decreed that biographical evidence was irrelevant to interpretation" and "[t]eachers were to teach 'the text itself'...."

Ironically, Professor Parker, Mr. Brodhead's book review victim, depicted Mr. Brodhead as a victim of this revolution: "The repudiation of biographical information by the New Critics in the 1940s and 1950s and their successors through the New Historicists in the 1980s and 1990s, after half a century and more (when a New Critic teacher at Yale, say, might teach his own successor at Yale), led to a professoriate which far too often not only did not know how to conduct archival research responsibly but was skeptical that any new information could ever be gained from archival research. In the 1950's, critics considered biographical evidence irrelevant to interpretation; by the 1990s their heirs--direct heirs, their students or the students of their students--behaved as if no new discoveries could come from biographical research. Because of Yale's incestuous policy of hiring its own, students at Yale like Brodhead in ensuing decades were further and further isolated from scholarship, until in 2002 Brodhead, in saying that only I surmised the existence of Melville's volume of poems in 1860, made it clear that he did not believe anything could be learned from archival research in the distant past (almost all the now known documents about the 1860 POEMS were printed in 1922) and certainly did not believe I could have learned anything new for the biography by transcribing old letters."

The "fruit" of the revolution: "Assistant, associate, and full professors wasted their time, and some even wasted brilliant minds, over decades, while defending airy but airless theoretical constructs."


"...students, I assume among them Richard Brodhead, never learned the basic aims and methods of scholarship, as opposed to criticism. Brodhead did not learn those aims and methods from his teacher R. W. B. Lewis, who (defying the dominant literary approach) wrote a biography of Edith Wharton."

Lest a reader wrongly assume that Professor Parker was speculating without basis, Professor Parker related how he became familiar with the situation at Yale:

"In the late 1930s the Yale Professor Stanley T. Williams, unhappy with the state of Melville scholarship, started putting his best students, including Harrison Hayford, to work on Melville. I took a course from Hayford at Northwestern University in 1961 and in 1962 decided to do a dissertation on the politics of Melville and his family. As it turned out, my archival work on Melville and politics and my archival work on Melville in later decades made me a belated member of the whole Yale group scholars who in the 1940s had set out to discover what could be known factually about Herman Melville (made me academic nephew to Williams's Yale students, but also a younger colleague of Wilson Heflin, a Vanderbilt PhD, and ultimately the literary heir of the film scholar and Melville researcher Jay Leyda. I was uniquely positioned to understand how Yale (and by extension the Ivy League and all the imitative schools) changed from the 1940s beginning in the early 1950s up to the present.

"When I went to the archives, starting in 1962, I found, repeatedly, that no one had asked to see certain documents since the 1940s...."

Professor Parker, now in his eighth decade, has witnessed the degradation of literary research and is disgusted.

Professor Parker on literary research: "[W]hat has been passed off as 'research' since the early 1950s is not genuine research. most of the time, not research that builds wisely upon the best work of previous scholars. Research should be a grand cooperative in which you triumph by augmenting the work of others rather than superseding their work."

That calls to mind judicial activists blithely imposing their personal views instead of being faithful to the Constitution.

Professor Parker on Mr. Brodhead's rush to judgment as scholar: "Brodhead wrote The School of Hawthorne without doing the basic research--without reading widely in American fiction of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. This is not a case where you need to start with working through boxes of holograph letters in archives: first you just need to read a lot of novels by a lot of people, not just writers designated now as the greatest."

The School of Hawthorne is what supposedly exemplifies Mr. Brodhead's scholarship and Professor Parker refuted the assertion that Mr. Brodhead is a top scholar by explaining in detail how flawed the book is:

"I found that Brodhead had written the book without having any idea how pervasive Hawthorne's influence had been.

"Brodhead began The School of Hawthorne bobbing and weaving over the obvious political incorrectness of his book, for he limited the principal students to famous male writers (one of whom, Melville, scarcely belongs in the book). This is Brodhead:

'The particular tradition I have chosen to study is, I know, a highly canonical one. Not only does it include the authors ranked greatest in modern estimates of American fiction: the relation of such writers to Hawthorne has itself become a virtually canonical topic, a constant subject of official study. In view of the weight that has been attached to it I hasten to add that my intention in returning to this group is not to try to reinstate the Hawthorne-Melville-James-Faulkner line as the Great Tradition in an exclusionary way. I do not believe that the American novel has (in Richard Chase's words) "its tradition." It has a wealth of competing and interpenetrating traditions; no one of these is more American than the others; and no author draws strength from one American vein alone.'

"In the next paragraph, beginning with a wordy, weaving construction ('if I return to . . . it is out of') Brodhead tries hard to show that he is open to enlargements of the canon, even though he is excluding anyone but his great male writers. What he is doing is trying to keep from being accused of not being politically correct:

'Nevertheless, if I return to the high canonical American novelists it is out of the conviction that they exhibit forms of literary engagement whose possibilities we would not know of from the work of other writers, so that we can only forget them (as we once forgot their fellows) at the cost of loss of knowledge. If I return to them, it is also in the belief that we are now in a position to see these familiar authors under new lights. Renewed interest in writers formerly marked fit for forgetting has helped remind us that canons are selective and changing cultural constructions, not neutral registers of literary worth. This insight should lead us to extend the range of our literary attentions out beyond canonical boundaries. But it can also enable us to put a new question to canonical literature itself: to ask how its cultural status has been created and maintained, and with what consequences (canonicity as a historical fact inevitably has consequences) it has enjoyed the status it has. Similarly, non-canonical writing has brought back with it a new knowledge of the social history of American authorship, an enriched sense of the social conditions that have both enabled and contained writers' assertions of themselves as writers.'

"There many problems with this tergiversative twisting and turning. First is Brodhead's obvious intention to disarm critics who object to his focusing on 'well-known authors' who happen to be (he does not dare say) all male. Second is his evading the basic question he ought to have been asking: 'Who attended the School of Hawthorne?' If he had answered the second question by doing simple research, he could have discovered not just more male but also some female members who were in the School of Hawthorne. He could have been a hero of political correctness instead of having to duck and bob as he took his evasive action in anticipation of being damned as politically incorrect.

"Brodhead wrote the book without asking that basic question, and the consequence is that his book is rather less than a halfway decent job, adequate, as far as his critical essays on major male writers go, useless as far as new research goes, but a book that nevertheless will prevent anyone else's doing the job better. 'Sorry,' any press will say, 'there's a book by Richard H. Brodhead on that very subject and it is published by Oxford University Press. The job has been done!'

"The job has not been done. Whenever others had published articles on novelists influenced by Hawthorne, Brodhead paid some attention, but otherwise he was bumfuzzled, wanting to acknowledge highly admirable forces arguing for opening the canon but unable to see beyond the major figures who had been taught in his classes at Andover and Yale. Brodhead was unable to detach himself from the male elite even while trying to appease the lesser hoards by overlapping equivocation, and finally he rushed to judgment on the basis of a limited knowledge of American literature.

"A relevant excursus: In 1961, after I had decided to work on Melville with Harrison Hayford at Northwestern, I arranged to take my only graduate independent reading course. I went through all the literary histories of American literature making lists of nineteenth-century American novels pointed out by one critic or another as interesting although neglected. I read as many on the list as I could find. I missed some, notably Rebecca Harding's story 'Life in the Iron-Mills,' which, as I saw later, I could have read in the Atlantic. But I read or skimmed thoughtfully 200 or so other books and made little two or three page reports on them. Among the best surprises for me were Caroline Kirkland's Michigan books and Harriet Beecher Stowe's New England novels. Nobody did New England theology of the Young Republic more authoritatively than Stowe. I never got to teach the powerful Oldtown Folks, but as paperbacks became available I did get to teach a couple of her other extraordinary New England books. What I learned served me extremely well in classes later on, and came into play as I finally looked at The School of Hawthorne.

"After seeing that The School of Hawthorne focused on 'major authors,' I looked for mention of Harold Frederic, an obvious student of Hawthorne's, whose debt several critics had pointed out, and was pleased to see that Brodhead mentioned The Damnation of Theron Ware. But when I began looking for other novelists who followed Hawthorne but who had not been discussed by critics, I did not find them. The index cited a mention of Thomas Bailey Aldrich on p. 8. There I found this remarkably invidious comment: 'Thomas Bailey Aldrich, a once-admired poet more forgotten now than even the word "limbo" can suggest, found his poetical vocation while reading Longfellow.' As someone who knows first hand just how much pain Brodhead's snide innuendo can inflict, I wince at the contempt in this sentence as I type it. Here elitist contempt (of Longfellow as well as Aldrich) seems all the uglier because of Brodhead's own ignorance: Brodhead is writing for his own kind, the many he thanked for their help.

"Brodhead should not have consigned Aldrich to some region far beyond 'Limbo.' Instead, he should have harrowed Hell itself, or at least strolled down the stacks of the Sterling Memorial Library, in reading through novels of the 19th century and early 20th century looking for followers of Hawthorne. How, I ask on the basis of my 1961 sweep of neglected novels, how, spreading my arms, can you write a book about The School of Hawthorne and mention Thomas Bailey Aldrich with such disdain and not discuss, not mention at all, his The Stillwater Tragedy, which opens with a passage written in loving homage to Hawthorne's set piece in The House of the Seven Gables on the passage of the night and the morning while a corpse awaits discovery? How, I ask, backing away to an earlier decade, can Brodhead have mentioned Harriet Beecher Stowe several times without knowing that Hawthorne's influence can be traced in her New England novels, very obviously, the title should tell you, in The Pearl of Orr's Island?"

That's what happens when people undertake tasks for which they are inadequate and the painstaking research approach is rejected in favor of much easier criticism.

My favorite college professor, the late Broadus Mitchell, a Socialist and the author of the definitive biography of Alexander Hamilton during his time, also wrote a short book titled Great Economists in Their Times."

Dr. Mitchell's foreword stated clearly, concisely and authoritatively: "The aim of this book is to present significant economic thinkers, each in the context of his environment, on which he gave a report. Ideas are inseparable from lives; principles and policies belong, after all, to persons. It is hoped that the doctrines reviewed will be readily understandable when we see how they sprang from prevailing circumstances. This slant allows us to appreciate progress. We are less apt to condemn shortcomings, when we keep in mind the stage of economic development, which provoked what then seemed to be appropriate beliefs. 'Other men, other minds' is an accepted saying, but changed notions were linked to the passing scene."

The same concepts strikes me as applicable to literary writers too. Ignoring context is ludicrous and lazy. Research first, then criticize without telling lies.

Michael J. Gaynor

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Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to,,, and and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is

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