Wednesday, October 31, 2007

David Dannenbaum

My Stroll with Jacques Barzun, by David Dannenbaum, is a tribute to the author of A Stroll with William James. The change from A to My shows Mr. Dannenbaum’s sensitivity to words, each adjective being appropriate to its occasion.

I did not take a class from Jacques Barzun, nor did I ever meet him. However, I have studied his works and the works that he wrote about, and both have affected my work as a teacher and occasional essayist. . . .

See also Dannenbaum on Barzun on Religion.

Edward T Oakes, S.J.

Jacques Barzun: In Appreciation

To give sufficient praise to Jacques Barzun would require a trip through Roget’s Thesaurus, so let me set off my views from Roget’s by praising him for a lack: . . .

See also Edward T. Oakes, Icons and Kitsch.

For Halloween

The idea of a ghost and the sense of the ghastly (two words from the same root) arise from a single source: the mystery and horror of death. Among all peoples and tribes, as far back as legends and other evidences go, the strange phenomenon of a lifeless body, the sight of a being recently full of motion and will and now present and absent at the same time, has inspired the notion that what has departed is the active principle — spirit — and that it may still have business to transact on Earth. The question then is, under what conditions can it do so and with what intentions, friendly or hostile? If it is to reappear, like and unlike itself, it must be heeded and if possible placated.
— Jacques Barzun, The Art and Appeal of the Ghostly and Ghastly, Introduction to Jack Sullivan, ed., The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, 1986.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The public intellectual we need today

Article by Gary Panetta in the PJ [Peoria Journal] Star, October 18, 2007.

Donald R. Vroon

Voi che sapete

What can I say? . . .


Carl E. Schorske

In the Beginning . . .

Just short of seventy-five years ago, young Jacques Barzun gave his course in intellectual history for the first time. . . .

See also Carl E. Schorske.

Recently in The Iconoclast

New English Review:

Gush. Sinister Gush.

The Question of Natural Selection

The Iconoclast has a useful search engine on the right hand side of the page.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Peter Bloom

The Three B’s

The music of Berlioz — which inspired me some forty years ago to approach a distinguished professor at Columbia University — is marked by what Jacques has called a “conspicuous uniqueness.” . . .


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Richard Stone

My “Just Jacques” Moment

In his excellent profile in The New Yorker (October 22, 2007), Arthur Krystal revealed that “sooner or later, all of Barzun’s acquaintances experience their own ‘just Jacques’ moment.”. . .


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Immanuel Velikovsky

Jacques Barzun wrote me on April 28, upon reading Peoples of the Sea. He is the new President of the New York Academy of Science and Art. He wrote on the stationery of Scribner’s, where he serves as literary advisor. He mentioned in his letter that he is also a devout reader of detective stories. I mailed him my Oedipus and Akhnaton and challenged him to name a detective story that surpasses it.
Immanuel Velikovsky to Lynn E. Rose, May 22, 1977, from The Immanuel Velikovsky Archive.

See also Immanuel Velikovsky Papers.

Mark Halpern

A Friendship in Letters

As I write this, my friend Jacques approaches the legendary age of 100. . . .

Also in this blog: Mark Halpern.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Anything good happen lately?

Anne: I’ll find an agent eventually, I just have to keep putting out feelers. I’m friends with Jacques and Marguerite Barzun (who moved from NYC to San Antonio, Marguerite’s home town, when he retired — he’s 97), so I’m asking there as well. Jacques Barzun’s machine (body) is giving out, but his mind and spirit are intact. Whitley and he like to talk about ancient Greece and Rome, as well as a bit about the Nazis (Whitley also being an expert in all 3 subjects). I once sighed to Marguerite, I can’t stand it — according to Whitley, NOTHING good happened after the 1960s. She said, Try being married to my husband. According to Jacques, nothing good happened after France in the 18th century!

— Anne Strieber, in Anne’s diary, Wednesday September 28th, 2005

Collateral reading: Marguerite Barzun, Lizzie Borden and the American Realists.

Jacques Barzun, in The House of Intellect [1959], has some shrewd things to say about the unjustified pride of the decade’s array of aspiring writers.
— Russell Kirk, The Moral Imagination


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Historian Signs Bat for the Hall of Fame

Blog entry, Friday, October 19, 2007, by David King of Lexington, Kentucky, in his blog Now or Neverland. Professor Henry F. Graff, for whom Barzun had signed the bat that he had purchased or was given at the Baseball Hall of Fame and that is now back at the Hall as a gift from Professor Graff, mentioned the bat at the Columbia Great Teacher Award dinner in honor of Professor Barzun on Thursday, October 18. How did David King hear of it? Oh, now I see, from the Columbia Spectator article on the Great Teacher Dinner.

See also Jacques Barzun at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Teaching at Columbia

Since Harvard has so much influence on other institutions of higher learning, I’m heartened by the campaign to restore teaching to a place of importance among the Harvard faculty. For years, research and publication have been the dominant paths to eminence for Harvard professors. Students could go through four years of a Harvard education and graduate without knowing a professor well enough to get a letter of recommendation. Large lecture courses led by senior faculty whose actual teaching skills were beneath modest, assisted by bored graduate students, were the rule. Now, according to Sarah Rimer of the New York Times, a group headed by the distinguished social scientist Theda Skocpol is proposing that teaching rank “equally with contributions to research in annual salary adjustments.” She has a tough challenge before her. Previous attempts to recognize teaching, such as the Levenson Teaching Prize, have not been notably successful. One Levenson winner told Skocpol, “I earn high praise (and more money) for every paper or academic achievement, while every teaching achievement earns a warning of how I should not wander off research.”

Every time this subject comes up, I urge people to read Teacher in America, by Jacques Barzun. And I commend it now to Skocpol. It tells how highly teaching was valued at Columbia’s undergraduate college in the 1930s and ’40s, and shows that a faculty culture can, instead of disdaining teaching, disdain not teaching.

— Charles Peters, Washington Monthly, Jul/Aug2007


Fritz Stern Wins the 2006 Barzun Prize

The American Philosophical Society has awarded the 2006 Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History to Fritz Stern for his book Five Germanys I Have Known, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mark LaFlaur

Continuing the Conversation

We met at Mortimer Adler’s birthday party. . . .


Columbia Spectator Piece on Last Night’s Dinner

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Arthur Krystal

In The New Yorker, October 22, 2007. Abstract.

November 12, 2007: Now available entire.

Minta Marie Morze

Thank You, Jacques Barzun

All over the world, people are celebrating the Centennial of Jacques Barzun. I want to be part of that celebration. . . .


Monday, October 15, 2007

Professionalism and the Military

. . . . by the 20th century a profession’s status depended more on the work done then on social standing of the worker. To ensure that the quality of a professional work remained high, people in certain relatively high status occupations organized into associations that trained and tested their members. They also, through mechanisms that varied in time and place, protected their right to practice in a certain domain by excluding outsiders who they considered unqualified. Intrinsic to this concept was the idea of service, in other words professionals were doing important work in society and put the needs of their clients above their own needs. By the mid-20th century many scholars accepted the idea that professions enjoyed high status because they met important social needs and had risen above the self-serving motives of those, like merchants and businessmen, in non-professional occupations.

This ideal was captured in texts widely used in courses on military ethics and professionalism at Canadian military colleges and American military academies. In one representative essay [Jacques Barzun, “The Professions Under Siege,” in Malham M. Wakin, ed., War, Morality, and the Military Profession (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986), 124-5, 128, 130, 132. ], Barzun sketches an outline of history of professions as groups with a monopoly on certain skills for a “distinct practical purpose.” He reminds us that because of this focus on practical outcomes, professions are vulnerable institutions, because, while the role of professions in society may be eternal, a particular profession may disappear or change radically over time, for example the priest-physician and barber-surgeon. Barzun observes that the “tendency of an egalitarian age to turn every occupation into a profession” has complicated the subject of professional ethics. He uses the example of the “profession” of journalism to illustrate this point: there is no body of peers to tell if practitioners are competent, the “professional” has a distant relationship with his/her clients, and there are no specific professional credentials required to become a journalist.

This trend is parallelled by the gradual demoting of professions to the level of ordinary trades and businesses. His message for professions is that their one hope for survival is the recovery of their mental and moral force. It is not enough to have codes of conduct that are policed by professional oversight bodies; professions must also exercise “moral and intellectual leadership” that communicates the message that ethical behaviour is “desirable, widely practiced, approved and admired.” Or as [Max] Lerner puts it [in “The Shame of the Professions”]: all professions need to “recapture the sense of vocation or calling.” Barzun’s essay was written in 1978 and Lerner’s in 1975, but the points they made then are still highly relevant today.

— Allan English, Professionalism and the Military — Past, Present, and Future: A Canadian Perspective, a paper prepared for the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, May 2002.

See also: Regain Trust, by Don Kirk and Dr. Ira Williams, A Tribute to Jacques Barzun

In Blogs

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Eugene Taylor

Possibly More James Than James

There is a pantheon of deities in the life of every intellectual. . . .


A Great Teacher

Letter by the late Ralph de Toledano on Barzun’s greatness as a teacher.

William Safire on Jacques Barzun at 100

On Language, New York Times Magazine, October 14, 2007:

Jacques Barzun, the immigrant from France who became the wisest and most inspiring of Columbia University professors, has long been a mentor of mine in the language dodge. . . . Instructors are helpful and educators are important, but a great teacher is a national treasure. He was born Nov. 30, 1907; his world of students has already begun celebrating his 100th birthday. Happy centenary, Jacques. (Or should it be centennial?)

See also in this blog: William Safire.

Friday, October 12, 2007

HNN — History News Network

Sen. John Cornyn

For some reason, a letter to Professor Barzun arrived in my mail today c/o me. It does not seem too personal to transcribe here:

John Cornyn
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

October 3, 2007

Dr. Jacques Barzun
Celebration of 100th Birthday

Dear Dr. Barzun:

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the occasion of your one-hundredth birthday.

I know this is a joyous event for you and your loved ones. I am sure you have many wonderful memories to share with one another, and I wish you many more years of good health and happiness.


[mechanically signed]

United States Senator


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hugh Van Dusen

“Hmmph. Wagner. No Melodies.”

I served as Jacques’s editor at Harper & Row (and HarperCollins) from 1983 through our publication of From Dawn to Decadence. . . .


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

James Sloan Allen

Jacques Barzun a Question of Friendship

Every reasonably educated person knows of Jacques Barzun from at least some of his celebrated writings on more subjects than most people can even talk about. Many of these writings, crowned by the monumental From Dawn to Decadence, published in 2000, will endure as long as people read. . . .


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Christopher Faille

Jacques Barzun: Words and Acts

I first wrote to Jacques Barzun, through his publisher, soon after the appearance of his book A Stroll With William James. . . .


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Here’s to You, Jacques Barzun

Article by Chris Kulawik, Columbia Spectator, October 2, 2007.