Monday, March 14, 2011

Prevent the budget slashers from harming Public Radio

We are looking forward to the arrival in our mailbox of the book which is so well-reviewed (see below) in The Washington Post by Roger Rosenblatt. We heard a program on Wisconsin Public Radio last week, an interview with the esteemed author and educator, Arnold Weinstein of Brown University, probably known to some raccoondite readers.

The hook for us at the beginning of the broadcast was a discussion of the riddle of The Sphinx. [We served in the US Army from 1958 to 1962 with still good friend, Special Agent Bob Heeschen, now a railroad museum docent, St Paul MN. We were in a branch known as the USA Counter-Intelligence Corps, the 113th, in Chicago. The emblem of the CIC was a sphinx. To some, it was a mysterious plain-clothes way to fulfill one's obligation to the country.]

Here, we have been interested in things Sphinxian. But beyond that, this book sounds right for us on our trajectory in its theme of life's stages as augmented by literature.
Following the Wash. Post review, find info on Arnold Weinstein.



Arnold Weinstein's "Morning, Noon, and Night," on literature's lifelong effects

Sunday, February 13, 2011

If there is a riddle attached to the riddle of the Sphinx, it is why no one but Oedipus was smart enough to solve it. Luckily for readers, Arnold Weinstein has made more of the riddle than I have with "Morning, Noon, and Night," his study of literature as it illuminates the three stages of being human. The substance of this book is an ecstatic celebration of the gifts that great books bring to our lives. The shadow of the book is Weinstein's own life, which, either because of his inborn diffidence or too much hard labor in a classroom, hides within the text like a Shakespearean character behind an arras. When, from time to time, this character peeks out, we want more of him, and we are reminded of something that unwittingly undercuts Weinstein's thesis - that literature, for all its value to life, is not life.

But first to the thesis, the idea that great works are indispensable to living young, old and in between. The idea is not new, nor is it meant to be, though the tripartite structure suggested by the lady-lion riddler offers Weinstein an orderly way to deal with it. Neither the thesis nor the writers invoked to support it could have a more thoughtful or careful proponent. He brings more than a first-rate mind to the likes of Balzac, Dickens, Faulkner, Hemingway, the Bronte sisters, Dostoevsky, Strindberg, Alice Walker, Jean Rhys and other major and minor leaguers. He brings them a loving heart. Thus he sees more than most critics have seen in Dickens's Pip, for example. Rather than reading "Great Expectations" merely as a primer on moral maturity, he unearths Pip's deep sorrow and examines the boy's many lifelong wounds. At the outset of the novel, Pip is in a cemetery, staring at the gravestones of his mother and father. Weinstein peers into his soul: "Getting clear of the dead may not be easy."

Looking at the end of life, he presents a brilliantly sympathetic understanding of Hemingway's maritime old man, seeing Santiago not as an abstraction of courage, but rather as a living, feeling being whose body is corrupted with age. Santiago must make use of his hard-earned knowledge of fishing - lines, winds, currents - to battle the marlin in "The Old Man and the Sea." He must use bone and muscle. Any old man who once was an athlete knows the value of moving slowly. Weinstein's Santiago shows us every practiced gesture employed in staying nobly alive.

Which brings me to Weinstein's own practiced gestures and their effect on his book. The best teachers we have are those who worry about the material in public, as we students listen. Weinstein is a wonderful worrier, and his book shows it. Yet there is another book within this one, whose author says some remarkably telling things when you least expect them. Such as: "You never quite forget the beauty you long ago had, a beauty whose every feature you remember with bitterness." Such as: "Enduring love is the daily effort to convert insentience into sentience, silence into language, indifference into interest, lumps of flesh into people sharing food, wine, and conversation around a table." Such as: "I look back at my own education, and want to weep."

This last confession makes us want to weep for Weinstein's hidden book in "Morning, Noon, and Night," for it hints of his own imaginative life, born of reading. He calls the present work "the most personal" he has written. Yet there is evidence of a far more personal and moving book pacing around offstage - one that does not defer to the great texts, but rather tells of a life they inspired, perhaps failed. A professor's memoir minus the professorial caution or modesty or whatever - the story of the fellow who believes that enduring loves can turn insentience into sentience.

Weinstein has a bad habit of diluting assertions with the word "arguably," the professor's arras. The book I wish for him, and for his readers, has no "arguably" in it. Arguably, he has written the best book ever on the practical and spiritual uses of literature. When he reads that sentence, I hope he shudders.

Roger Rosenblatt's most recent book is "Unless It Moves the Human Heart."


Finding the Meaning of Life's Stages Through Books

By Arnold Weinstein


On Arnold L. Weinstein, no doubt known to many raccoon readers:

Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor:
Comparative Literature

Arnold Weinstein researches European and American narrative, Scandinavian literature, American fiction, literature and medicine, and the city theme in literature. His publications include Vision and Response in Modern Fiction (Cornell University Press, 1974), Fictions of the Self: 1550-1800 (Princeton University Press, 1981), The Fiction of Relationship (Princeton, 1988), Nobody's Home: Speech, Self and Place in American Fiction from Hawthorne to DeLillo (Oxford University Press, 2003), A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life (Random House, 2003), Recovering Your Story: Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, Morrison (Random House, 2006).


Arnold Weinstein received his B.A. in Romance Languages from Princeton University (1962), and both his M.A. (1964) and Ph.D. (1968) in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. He studied at the Université de Paris (1960-61), the Freie Universität Berlin (1962-63) and the Université de Lyon (1966-67). His doctoral thesis dealt with the impact of William Faulkner's novels on the French nouveau roman. Professor Weinstein came to Brown University in 1968: his initial appointment was in the French Department, but soon his full-time appointment was in the Department of Comparative Literature. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1973, to Full Professor in 1978, He was named to the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in 1990, and he became the Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature in 1995.

Professor Weinstein's books include Vision and Response in Modern Fiction (Cornell UP, 1974), Fictions of the Self: 1550-1800(Princeton UP, 1981), The Fiction of Relationship (Princeton UP, 1988), Nobody's Home: Speech, Self and Place in American Fiction from Hawthorne to DeLillo (Oxford UP, 1993), A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life(Random House, 2003), and Recovering Your Story: Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, Morrison (Random House, 2006). He has published articles on American, French, German and Scandinavian literature. He was Associate Editor of the journal,Literature and Medicine, from 1998 to 2003, and he edited a Special Volume of Literature and Medicine: Infection and Contagion in 2003.

Professor Weinstein's honors include a Special Fellowship to the Freie Universität Berlin (1962-63), a Woodrow Wilson National Teaching Fellowship (1963-64), a Fulbright Grant (1966-67), a research Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1971-72, a Fulbright Professorship in Stockholm, Sweden in 1982-83, a stint as Professeur Invité in American Literature at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1996, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship in 1997-98. He received the John Rowe Workman Award for Best Teacher in the Humanities in 1995. In 2005 Oprah Winfrey asked him to give four lectures on William Faulkner, to be produced online in her Summer Book Club.

Professor Weinstein has given six courses for The Teaching Company: 'The Soul and the City: Art, Literature and Urban Life' (8 lectures, 1991), a segment of 'Great Authors of Western Literature' (21 lectures, 1993), 'Drama, Poetry and Narrative: Understanding Literature and Life' (64 lectures, 1995), 'Death and Disease: Using Literature to Understand the Human Side of Medicine' (10 lectures, 1995), '20th Century American Fiction' (32 lectures, 1997), and 'American Literary Classics' (84 lectures, 1997). These lectures have been produced in audio, video and DVD format.

Professor Weinstein has been Director of 'Texts & Teachers' from its inception in 1998 to 2006. 'Texts & Teachers' is an NEH-funded and Brown University-funded collaborative program in educational reform (nationally and regionally), designed to create a partnership between the university professoriate, high school English teachers, and their respective students.


Arnold Weinstein has been director of Texts & Teachers from its inception in 1998 to 2006. Texts & Teachers is a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded and Brown University-funded collaborative program in educational reform (nationally and regionally), designed to create a partnership between the university professoriate, high school English teachers, and their respective students.

He is currently completing a book-length study, Breaking Through: Power and Expression in Scandinavian Art and Literature, under contract with Princeton University Press. He is also beginning work on Literature and the Phases of Life: Growing Up and Growing Old, under contract with Random House. Further projects include a volume on the character of urban life as reflected in literature and art.


Special Fellowship, Freie Universität Berlin, 1962-63

Woodrow Wilson National Teaching Fellowship, 1963-64

Fulbright Scholar, Université de Lyon, 1966-67

Younger Humanist Award, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), 1971-72

Salomon Incentive Grant, summer 1977 and summer 1980

Fulbright Senior Lecturer Award, Stockholm, Sweden, 1983

Visiting professor of American Literature at Stockholm University, 1983

Brown University Incentive Grant (Scandinavian literature), summer 1983

Member of the Academy of Literary Studies, 1984-present

Director, NEH-funded Program in Great Books, 1988-present

Invited to give paper at British Comparative Literature Triennial Congress, July 1989

American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Travel Grant to deliver a paper at the British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA) in Leicester, England, summer 1989

Named the Henry Merritt Wriston Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature, Brown University, spring 1990

Named the Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature, Brown University, spring 1995

Received the John Rowe Workman Faculty Award for Best Humanities Teacher of the Year, Brown University, spring 1995

Guest professor of American literature, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, spring 1996

NEH Fellowship for University Teachers to pursue research on literature and medicine project,A Scream Goes Through the House: Art and Illness, December 1997


Academy of Literary Studies

Modern Language Association

American Comparative Literature Association





Download Arnold L. Weinstein's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format