New issue of Chronicle of UC focuses on peripatetic scholars
| 03 May 2006
After spending a year at Berkeley as a visiting professor in 1969, the English writer David Lodge included a thinly disguised portrait of the place in his humorous novel Trading Places. The State University of Euphoria, wrote Lodge, "had, by a ruthless exploitation of its wealth, built itself up into one of America's major universities, buying the most distinguished scholars it could find and retaining their loyalty by the lavish provision of laboratories, libraries, research grants, and handsome, long-legged secretaries..[S]uch was the quality of the university's senior staff, and the magnitude of its accumulated resources, that it would be many years before its standing was seriously undermined."
Hence, the "Impressions of a Visiting Professor" (published in California Alumni Fortnightly in 1918), which brightly informed the reader that at Berkeley "there are not many faculty-meetings of the kind which accomplishes little more than to waste time in the discussion of insignificant questions," are followed by "A 1921 Letter to California From Oxford," in which the correspondent, the Rhodes Scholar William Dennes (a future philosophy chair here, as well as dean of the Graduate School), praised the quality of rhetoric employed by his new classmates at Oxford: "[T]he na´ve and lyric enthusiasm with which I used to hear 'young radicals' discuss political and social arrangements in America," he sniffed, "has been steadied among young Englishmen and made more effective by better acquaintance with history and philosophy."
By no means do all the selections in this issue directly compare Berkeley with someplace else; many simply convey aspects of the writer's experience here or elsewhere. Some of them, from a century or more ago, seem inescapably quaint; others, such as those excerpted from recent student postings on the Berkeley NewsCenter from sites as remote and challenging as Rwanda and Angola, have the freshness of today's news.
This issue of the Chronicle may be purchased for $20 (plus tax) at the Cal Student Store, other local bookstores, or directly from the campus Center for Studies in Higher Education. For information, visit cshe.berkeley.edu/publications.