Special of the week; Issue 40-69
And we are the national educational radio network presents special of the week. From Yale University from its series called Yale reports. Now 60 years old Stephen Spender has lived through two world wars and numerous lesser If no less horrible conflicts. Although he is best known as a poet spender has also written criticism drama and fiction for a short time in the 30s he was a member of the Communist Party. Later he chronicled the tragedy of Nazi ism in a trial of a judge and critically appraised a creative and corrupt society in the destructive element at a time when many of the parents of today's college students were babies themselves. Spender left University College at Oxford because it was alien to his temperament. Before today's college students had learned to speak and the word hippie was unknown to the language. Spender wondered how it was that works. Money interest
building could ever hide the palpable and obvious love of man. We're going to talk he gave before an audience at Yale's Jonathan Edwards College. Stephen Spender views the student revolutionary of today. Mr. Spender. There are two firms of protest. Both of which told us their name and ideal of revolution. That's to say the complete disruption of the contemporary society. Whose values are objectives and the robber doubtful substitution for it of some other form of society. I quote one revolution the termites revolution the other revolution the political revolution. The termite revolution is based on the idea that all the architects and the early operators and the urban knowledge even
the libraries for example of a society can collapse if they're borrowed through by termites. For. A civilization to maintain itself. It depends to some extent on there being a class of people who maintain an ideology which is not really just that of politics it's not so much politics as of the discipline required in order to keep the administrative machinery running and for this reason newfangled perhaps sometimes long after politically a society seems dead like the Austrian Empire. All of France which has been dead for hundreds of years. The administration goes on running it. It has to have a kind of machinery which breeds faceless administrator. But if I were a minister or administrators because it is the machinery would no longer function. One doesn't have to believe that all the
administrators will become hippies. And that's to say termites according to my analogy the idea. Of a revolution of human termites start to sort seem absurd. So Daniel Bell represents brashness. He had to go Strauss and the other planners of a super efficient. And of course it's not to be taken seriously in this sense if at all. The rule of life could become like the performance of the living here. Which I attended the other day. This is rather a performance of a set of ideas but it was taken over by the representatives of the living who turned it into nothing but how and execrations. One isn't to imagine that the whole of our society will suddenly become the living but
it is I think all the same just thinkable in ah but. Supposing say that all the centers of the cities became slums. Supposing the drugs became much more widespread. It's about supposing that every town lost its identity every population lost its identity because its so became so infused with alien elements. Its not impossible that our civilization in capitalist as well as common the societies might lose faith itself. As Rome did. What is happening in the theatre is I'll try to show is very much paralleled with what is happening in the university the university being after all a kind of theater. We even talk about operating this way. A great many people for you are public and the important the official life the life
of power are not there in this country and Russia say lispro needs has become a kind of fiction invented by projected by past interests and by power itself which has become as autonomous and they feel deeply personal private reductive minimal life has become the real life. Now the theatre is concerned with acting out themes and preoccupations of real life in terms of fiction and in the past it was natural for playwrights to go to the life of power. The King. Let's say the Lords the courts of course this was felt to be the most intensely lived life in the society and to recreate this in terms of fiction even absent in this is absent was most scrupulously
tried to discuss or try to discover what fix figures in the brochure our society representatives passed in the same calm and the concentration of life and emotion and experience. In the same sense as kings did in an heiress to Cretic society and of course it was the master builder or the businessman or even the person who was responsible for the sewage arrangements in the. Brochure. But. It's the nature of the fiction that they're loose behind the repertoire of the drama are felt themselves to be fictitious. Then they are false. So the actors are then reduced to trying to act out life. Which they don't find in the high places of the world where they'd do find it.
And been exaggerating extending it. And what is very striking today is that the actors quite often seem only to find life in themselves themselves being representative human individuals and so therefore we walked on signs on the stage that the actors are just acting being what they are in real life but intensifying and exaggerating it. Although they act the Origin's because they feel that the people who come and see their firm and says are real well they can be made to be real. And at this point if an actor is simply acting being a person and the audience or circumstances of persons and the actor goes on from acting the person he is to acting a person in the audience and you may be sitting next to someone in the theater who suddenly turns out to be one of the actors to your discomfiture. Then the difference between the
audience and the actors tends to soar. Here there's a consequence of this which even God produces find it hard to accept. This is that if the actors are acting the organs. Then the act then the audience can also act the act. They can take over the set as these French students took over the theater at the day or during the month of May last year and did a kind of nonstop marathon discussion group type of performance extremely theatrical almost without stop for a month. It was probably the longest performance of ever taking place at the fair and the funny thing was naturally enough it extremely annoyed. And. On the very marrow and people without seeing that it was a marvelous vindication of the pro se.
Without his read seeing that after all he'd been producing these kind of plays and which the audience is supposed to be a part of the action. So they were doing so simply following his concept of the theater to its logical conclusion. But unfortunately it. It involved turning the key on. The other kind of revolution which is more serious only had taken more seriously is of course the political revolution. The difference between termite revolution risen political revolutionaries is the termite revolution which revolutionaries are concerned with being something they're concerned if you like with being decadent and therefore making the whole society decay that might even become a conscious a political revolutionary is concerned with doing something he is really concerned with setting up against an existing system a current system
extremely disciplined and active which will overthrow the existing system. There is of course a peculiarity about political revolution rist today and that is that although they believe in the methods of revolution but they don't really see very clearly how they could make a revolution because it's very difficult to think how anyone could rebel how they could be a successful revolution against it. Because there isn't a revolutionary situation and because societies have never been more capable of defending themselves. Against all comers than they are today because never has espionage been more skillful Nevers propaganda or been more skillful. Never have the police been more efficient. So that in a way the political revolutionary today is a person who believes in a revolutionary methods robber
than in an actual revolution. Which brings him rather closer to the termites revolutionary than one would expect of a course of termite revolutionary. Is a person who believes that he makes a revolution which is consists of growing his beer or whatever it is and he's saying it in himself through his in of their lives he's already achieved this Susi. And the political revolutionaries because they don't see how they can read and make a revolution are forced into very much the same situation as the termites of having to wait really for the collapse of a society. Through some external force. Such as a war which is not themselves the political revolutionary see. Most of the activity that goes on in a society. Furthermore the revolution helping the revolution or opposing it. In other words you see it in it in logical terms. And brass.
If you regard the universe as a reflection of the idiot ology of the society this is in itself an extremely ideological way of thinking about things. And it's their way of thinking of political revolutions. Revolution or is this an important distinction to be made here. I think between thinking that there is present in the university on the campus. An excess of the representation of the interests and of the designs. Of the society which is regarded as objectionable. And thinking that everything Turks in the university reflects the interests of the society I think it's rather important to make this distinction you might think. But there's far too much representation. Of ROTC. Big business. Whatever it is on the university the mis health
say or the new you will accept but this is not the same thing as thinking that when youre taught Latin you already being taught Latin in order that your thoughts may be taken away from the revolution and so therefore your Latin teacher confesses store is trying to undermine your revolutionary art. As I heard STF speak say that anyone teaching 18th century literature in a German university is helping the Americans in Viet Nam. That's a complicated it illogical thought of a different kind. Of objecting let's say to the presence of the American occupying power. In Berlin which as far as I know the SJS don't particularly ject So it may be sensible to think that there are too many outside interests. But it's illogical to think that the sensibility and the purpose of the university necessarily reflect the interests of the
society. It is also something rather strangely new about thinking in this way. It seems to me a rather odd. And strange that the universities haven't been attacked for this before. Princeton's as a person in the 1930s. I remember of course that we we would bury it illogical enough thinking we imagine that if you painted the still life or an abstract painting instead of a kind of freedom fighter. It is because you suspected you would directing your attention away from the class struggle to something more agreeable. And in doing this you were helping the other side to see we tended to think in that way. But it never occurred to us that the universities to which we were in its kind of ideologically reaction Rael we knew of course for instance that Oxford University has large investments in slum
property. For all we knew the advisors of the New College which was very good its investments invested have been heavily in armaments in the street I think they almost certainly did. But it is strange to this never struck us as relevant. It seems to me that rep one wants to ask. About the university. It is not but it be a revolutionary organization. But firstly whether the student who attends it can learn things. Which enable him to decide freely. On his attitude to the society in which he lives. And secondly. One may ask I think. Legitimately. Whether the university represents values which are critical of the society. Even though they are followed to is on the campus might be regarded as being conservative and reactionary. My reason for saying this is because I think the whole tradition of
intellectual life. For at least 200 years has been to be highly critical of the society in which we live. To such an extent that I think one really ought to take it for granted that in its teaching the universe is. Critical to modernise the industrial society. The question then really is whether places like universities and libraries are not the source of ideas on which we are dependent. If we do want to make a better society and whether this isn't the really important thing about them and the other factors even if they are things we ought to object to and protest about and that rarely in the last analysis ROP are irrelevant. I personally I hated being at the University and a friend of mine. That was all and I use it a lot and how much I hated university and all of them would say well it's just a hotel. It's not a particularly good cell
but it's a hotel where one stays for three years and where one can read what one wants to reads and do more or less what one wants to do. He didn't seem to worry about whether he was able to do it. Of course Christ Church had invested money in armaments. And I think that if we had thought about it we probably would have objectives. But it's one thing to object and the other thing to make the connection a connection and say that the course the college has investments in something which I object so therefore my thoughts are full of bullets and evil. Destructive armaments. As I said there was a fear today a tendency for the organs the students. To demand of the act. Best to say that the faculty in their classes that they simply act out the lives and concerns of the
students. There's also a tendency for the ordinance to stem the thefts and abolish the stage or to turn the stage into an orbit toward the auditorium into the stage. The extreme example of this is what's called the Critical University. Run assumption behind or service. Is if one thinks in this way one is ready assuming that where say imprisoned in our contemporary situation. That there's nothing outside our contemporary situation from which we have to learn best to say that we can learn nothing about the past. A person who knows more about the past than we do which can help us to live in the present. And I think that everyone who teaches. It. Would probably feel be a reproach that we don't perhaps teach in a lively enough way that we aren't able enough to communicate. This feeling that what we really are trying to give people through the experience of
literature knowledge is is life from another point of view. I'm rather suspicious of relevance. Because what adoption means is we're trying down the past which should be and according to my view an extension of the present. Simply trying to make it fit into the present. And I mean the really there's a dialectic between these two things between trying to observe the past as the past which if we are imaginative enough can become an extension of the present and simply serving up the past like sort of potted meat as a kind of consumable commodity by the contemporary audience which is really doing nothing except sort of giving giving him a little hunk of the presents pretending to be of the past were you Sumit if there was anything to be able to learn. But it's only useful if it can be interpreted by those who are so completely dominated in their thinking
by the contemporary that that past is becomes an illustration for problems of the contemporary situation. If this really were so it would be extremely depressing. It is just possible that it might. This would be extremely depressing protrude mean that in order to deal with the present in which we are completely imprisoned we have resourced to nothing but contemporary solutions and since subjection to the present is that we dislike the presence. It's very depressing if there is no past two or three can have resource. But the lesson of the contemporary world seems rarely to be that it offers a splendid little which doesn't come from the past which doesn't consist of naked power or utter confusion. As a matter of fact if one thinks into the about. The intellectual history of revolutions that have taken place in the present century what one
sees all the time is that the real prison. Simply of people who think entirely in terms of a need just say. Exit in say the contemporary problem the immediate problem within the contemporary situation and what they are asking of the intellectuals is that the intellectuals should think in the same way and that everyone should be imprisoned within the contemporary situation. And this rarely means a complete spiritual imprisonment essentially no one is allowed to have. A foot which is not a contemporary thoughts dictated to them by contemporary needs. And I think we were to try to avoid this. The only thing I know a little about its credibility is literature. So perhaps I may pose the question whether it's true that literature. Accepts the contemporary world. Of power
domination industry and so on. According to its very loose. And the answer to this question is of course an unequivocal no. It would be difficult to see how anyone could teach modern literature. And I mean the literature of the past 200 years let's say with the poetry of. Confirming with Bush what conventions and material the standards. In fact the most radical criticism of the world which Blake Coulter that some of the dark satanic mills began with Blake and with the romantics. Even through the complacent big tour in the era Dickens Ruskin Carlyle method are fundamentally critical in their work of the values of the society in which they live and that critical essentially for the same reasons as perhaps some people in this room are. But what may be said of course is
that although they were critical they didn't preach revolution. Inspects it may be said that some of them were reactionaries who think of them in political terms. But the important thing about them and the important thing about modern writers like Lawrence C-8 some LB's. Who also are open to criticism politically for being reactionaries. Is that they were concerned with living their loose abets to say those things which are revolutionary life for any good society which one likes to think of of. Which what we would like to make is about. The marijuana examines the politics of rights. The main one discovers I think the writer's political views even when they're expressed in their works. Second rate too and perhaps even irrelevant to the writer's intuitions about life. The politics of Henry James Gates Lawrence Ruskin and
Carlyle tennis. Are conclusions which each particular writer has drawn with his consciousness from his expressed and realized I'm conscious experience of life and I think this is demonstrated by the fact that. Quite often readers grow quite different. Second great conclusions for most of which the writer drew from their experiencing the writer's immediate vision when they read his poem or his prose work. If we say that the. Heart of Darkness provides one of the greatest insights into into imperialism colonisation and the contexts of European civilization. With Africa. We we're talking the truth we don't worry about Conrad's politics. If we heard that Conrad was an
ardent supporter of King Lear Poe who is whose officers it was to send out. Troops in order to come back. With baskets laden with the genitals of the natives whom they had. If one had had her the comrades supported King Leopold and he did that he was quite a reaction rate in his political views. This would make absolute no difference to it. And the conclusion that we draw from an imaginative understanding of the Heart of Darkness would be totally damning to colonialism. And best members of my own generation who sympathized with communism during the 1930s concluded from reading the waste lambs that Eliot's provided a powerful imagine Stix experience of the breakdown of the capitalist system. I think it's Montel alone who says that a writer cultivates his own ability to say and
I'm putting which is a rather rhetorical way of saying that a right. Cultivates. His own road to the world which he can which he can deal with which is out of which he can create. I think that what one should really divide right when one considers the politics of Rights are the social attitudes of writers. One should consider the primary sources of their magination and their experience and so on and secondary things which is their feeling perhaps out of a social conscience or some kind of yes out of some out of necessity of relating themselves to society. They're feeling that but they have to kind of express this in some attitude toward society. And so you would therefore find the BS added to this may be very contradictory. A writer becomes. A traditionalist conservative reaction right out of the same imagination
- Special of the week
- Issue 40-69
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 69-SPWK-442 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- Chicago: “Special of the week; Issue 40-69,” 1969-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 6, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-1r6n3s19.
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- APA: Special of the week; Issue 40-69. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-1r6n3s19