The Quotable Morse Peckham
On Literature, Life, and Beyond

Topic

"To teach art in the name of order is to use art for the purpose of interactional policing and for the strengthening of self-policing."
["Arts for the Cultivation of Radical Sensitivity" (1971), in Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), 303.]

"The teacher of art ... must abandon the aesthetics of order and give directions in such a way that the richness of the possibilities for perceptual discontinuity in the particular work are fully extracted. ... In this way, the teaching of art can become an admirable training in the toleration of tension and disorientation."
["Arts for the Cultivation of Radical Sensitivity" (1971), in Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), 310.]

"The teacher of art should emphasize in his semantic analysis the incoherence of the work as a set of directions, thus showing why the historical conditions in which the work was produced have been transcended and abandoned. The theory behind this is that the dynamics of cultural history are to be found in the fact that changing circumstances of a society reveal incoherences in its culture which were once felt as coherences. ... The presentation of such incoherence is one of the best ways of training the individual to tolerate tension and even to seek it out, the aim being to direct his awareness toward the irresolvable tension between policing and correction."
["Arts for the Cultivation of Radical Sensitivity" (1971), in Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), 311.]

"You give a course, or a program, because you have, you think, sound theoretical reasons for giving it, but there is no way of so studying the subsequent life-history of each of the students that it can be determined whether or not the course or program was worth giving. Even the students cannot tell you. Humanistic education is a shot in the dark, a hope for the best."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 32]

"An undergraduate education, even the best, can only teach you how to get an education if you want it, but that if you do, it will take the rest of your life to get it. A graduate education, even the best, can only teach you how to get an education in a particular discipline, if you want it, but that if you do, it will take the rest of your life to get it. A teacher is one whose primary job is spending the rest of his life educating himself, for teaching can only be a by-product of the individual's self-education. The teacher's primary job is to maintain his intellectual vitality."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 33]

"A Ph.D. in the humanities will, if at all adequately done, teach you how to become a richly cultivated individual able to operate intelligently and with understanding in a wide variety of interlocking disciplines, and the interlocking process itself will never become fixed and static but will constantly be changing its structure and interrelations. But a Ph.D. in the humanities will not make you into that, any more than a Ph.D. in a discipline will make you into a scholar or a critic. It will only show you that it will be possible to spend your life becoming such an individual, without ever being able to say that you are such an individual, just as a disciplinary scholar can never honestly say that he is what such a scholar ought to be, but only that he is working towards it, knowing that he never can and never will arrive."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 33–34]

"The teacher is above all a process, of which any student encounters but one segment. The classroom, it must never be forgotten, is a theater, and what is being dramatized, if it is properly used, is how a man of learning and intelligence discovers a problem and struggles with it publicly. The drama of a teacher's life is the drama of intellectual process, and the classroom is where a bit of that drama is publicly acted out."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 34–35]

"The principal thing anybody learns in school, from kindergarten to graduate school, is to sit still and do what you are told to do. From the governmental point of view the prime purpose of all the educational establishment is to make people amenable to social management."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 38]

"The job of higher education is to provide replacement and growth parts for the bureaucracies of business and government."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 38]

"To me the inexhaustible charm of teaching is that a roomful of people have to keep quiet while I talk."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 44]

"The only way, after all, to know what a really first-rate mind is like is to study one intensively for some years."
["A Doctor of Philosophy in the Humanities?" South Atlantic Bulletin 40/1 (1975): 46–47]