Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Danger! Beware of Falling Names

Eric Alterman shows new levels of humility:

I took a seminar at Yale in 1985 when I was getting my master's with Edward Said on the role of the intellectual. Everyone in the class wore black and quoted Derrida (with whom I also took a seminar, in French, of which I understood very little). Anyway, there was a rather imposing African-American fellow at the seminar table on the first day with a vest and tie, etc., and a big afro. He said nothing for the two-hour class and then at the end, was called and ripped into Said with every three-dollar word I had ever heard and many more I had not. It was like a fantasy come true--going back to school to show off how smart you were now; perhaps the coolest moment I've ever seen in a classroom. Then Said said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr. Cornel West," who apparently was an assistant professor in the Divinity School, letting the rest of us in on the joke. The amazingest thing about Cornel is what an original he is; there's never been anything like him: "Gramsci and Sly Stone both understood..."

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