“Financial, economic, military and political” inertia, fracking, National Socialism, Henry James, the Battle in Seattle


Get the Lead Out

Sebastopol, Calif.

In their “It’s the New Economy, Stupid”  [Dec. 17], John Cavanagh and Robin Broad make excellent points about the grand possibilities that await the actions of intelligent and informed citizens and caring governments. I agree with all of it. But not enough is said regarding the massive inertia—financial, economic, military and political—that can, with the swipe of a casual paw, clear out all that is in the path of its continuance. Until our endangered planet becomes a significant concern, that inertia will continue, if not increase. To wit, fracking, mentioned in the same issue: one would think that such obviously careless and destructive technology would not even be considered in today’s “green awareness” era. 


Want Mayo on Those Dollars?

Cornville, Az.

On my wall hangs a poster with a Cree prophecy: “Only after the last tree has been cut down/ Only after the last river has been poisoned/ Only after the last fish has been caught/ Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” How long will it take us to realize that life is like a spider web—all interconnected? Destroy enough filaments and the web of life collapses. Yet we keep fracking away [Elizabeth Royte, “Fracking Our Food Supply,” Dec. 17]. Our greed will override all the warnings, until there is nothing left on earth to eat but those worthless dollars. 


Sag Harbor, N.Y.

Republicans tell us they don’t want to leave debt to their children and grandchildren; but what if there is no clean water for their descendants to drink or clean air to breathe? What if fracking makes their food supply too dangerous to eat? 


National Socialism: The Nation Knew


Thank you for Tara Zahra’s  “A Brutal Peace” [Dec. 17], on the expulsion of ethnic Germans after World War II. A very useful map showing the location of ethnic Germans in and outside the Reich was published in your pages on January 2, 1937. Henry C. Wolfe, in “Fascism Charts Its Course,” wrote, “There are German groups scattered over Europe from Metz to the Volga, from the Gulf of Finland to Serbia. National Socialism spares no effort to inspire in these Teutonic minorities a spirit of rebellion against their respective governments.” Well before the Anschluss of Austria, Nazi Germany’s territorial ambitions seemed clear to some prescient people.


Henry James in Oxford

St. Anne’s College, Oxford, England

It struck me while reading Leo Robson’s review “The Master’s Servants,” on Henry James [Nov. 12], that one reason James didn’t like the academy was its masculinist air. Robson’s mini-sociology of James studies today makes it seem continuous with the male-dominated habitat of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Thankfully, it is not.

As the co-organizer of “A Stray Savage in Oxford,” I can attest that we wanted to commemorate not simply James’s connection with the university and its alumni but his personal relations with Oxford the city. In September 1894, James lived in the Beaumont Street lodgings of American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson after her suicide, where he conceived “The Altar of the Dead.” Our other keynote speaker—the one Robson forgot to mention—was James’s biographer Lyndall Gordon, who spoke about the intricate “acts of divination” between James’s male and female characters, and between the two writers.

Robson complains about the pernicious ideologies that contribute to “eclipses” in the history of James studies but is apparently unaware that his article underwrites the occupational sexism that still haunts academia. Two-thirds of the participants at our event were women, as were half the speakers. Why were two leading James scholars, Merle Williams and Julie Rivkin, only indirectly invoked through their (neutered) book titles? And why are only the male editors of the Cambridge Edition profiled and quoted at length, to the exclusion of the one female editor, Tamara Follini? The Henry James Review editor, Susan Griffin, is the lone female voice, and it is disheartening to see Robson’s chauvinist sidelining of this fiercely intelligent “revisionist” figure. Robson presents a James universe, Anglo-American and dominated by men, that I simply don’t recognize. And I’m not just a day-tripper: I live here.


Robson Replies


Rebekah Scott underestimates the role played by circumstance and coincidence in the writing of my article. Just as there was no intention of a slight on her part when, during our hourlong exchange, she discussed mostly men—Adrian Poole, William Empson, Christopher Ricks—so there was no calculation or, to my conscious mind, any unconscious misogyny in my emphasis on male Jamesians. The panel sessions at the conference were gender-balanced—two men and two women, three men and three women. I confess it never occurred to me to design my article along similar lines.

Scott points to four female academics I either failed to mention or mistreated. When deciding on interview subjects, it mattered more to me that Tamara Follini hasn’t published a book on James and isn’t well known outside Cambridge—where Scott studied—than that she is a woman. I see that I might have invoked Merle Williams and Julie Rivkin, but not why I ought to have done. (Paul Armstrong, Gert Buelens and Ross Posnock weren’t mentioned either.) As for Griffin, I confess that she received unfairly short shrift, in view of her significance as a Jamesian and the interest of what she told me. But her “sidelining” was structural, not chauvinistic. (Jonathan Freedman receives even less generous treatment, including the indignity of having his name misspelled.)

I wasn’t offering a complete demographic survey of the James industry; I admitted as much by giving so much prominence to Ricks, whose contribution has been next to nonexistent. But since Scott accuses me of presenting James studies as an exclusively Anglo-American world dominated by men, I should say that I stand by my implicit portrayal of James studies as a mostly Anglo-American world in which men continue to occupy the majority of dominant positions.



The Battle in Seattle

New York City

Your fact-checkers are the best in the journalistic world, but they missed this one: the WTO demonstration in Seattle happened in 1999, not in 2000 [Catherine Tumber, “Econ-Geo,” Dec. 17]. I am certain of the date because my then-83-year-old mother (now 96!) was pepper-sprayed, then arrested at this world-changing event. 


We have pepper-sprayed the fact-checker.—Ed.

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