the american college observed

“But the norm in these matters is rather the campus at the edge of the woods, in conformity with the agrarian mythology of nineteenth-century America, according to which a bucolic setting far from the vices of the city will serve to guarantee probity, force of character, and academic excellence. Many of these campuses have a more or less newly built science building of ‘science center’ and a Gothic-style dormitory, a little valley bright with autumn leaves, and seasonal rites that are off limits to strangers. Student societies – fraternities for boys and sororities for girls – proudly display the Greek letters than name their houses (Kappa Alpha, Sigma Phi) and follow strict internal regulations inherited from the first campus literary salons of the 1820s. In the spring, graduation ceremonies proceed according to unchanging codes, caps and gowns imprinted with the emblem of the campus and the discreet color schemes of the disciplines (navy blue for philosophy, sky blue for education, etc.) The almost systematic internment of the students – this too as a result of English influence – in dormitories that were once under close surveillance is supposed to ensure academic camaraderie and ethical community among the students. But this is a form of commingling to which the campuses also owe the tradition of students’ demands for better living conditions, on the model of the ‘Bad Butter Rebellion’ that shook Harvard in 1766.”

(François Cusset, French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States, trans. Jeff Fort, pp. 34–35.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.