less U of C—“joy” or “unconfirmed”?
quote Percy Bysshe Shelley, If winter comes, can spring be
far behind? The line is from Ode to the West Wind,
as many of you know off the top of your head. And, as two readers
called and wrote to point out, neither Shelley nor his fellow Romantic
poet Lord Byron penned these not-so-immortal lines: On with
the dance! Let joy be unconfirmed
. What Byron actually
wrote, in Childe Harolds Pilgrimage, was: On with the
dance! Let joy be unconfined
. Byrons words are
much more in keeping with the mood of the Chicago Swing Dance
Society. Though the poets phrase is inarguably more felicitousnot
an inconsiderable consideration when one is writing about joyIve
developed a fondness for the accidental quotation. After alland
this may have something to do with the first sightings of robins
and crocusesunconfirmed joy seems almost as all-embracing
as joy of the unconfined variety. Both offer the hope of spring.
Confirming Beliefs: If Freud is right and there are no slips of
the tongue, should I blame incipient spring for the Byronic mistake?
Or was unconfirmed on my mind for other reasons?
Unconfirmed is definitely a word heard at the University
of Chicago. Its a dagger thrust to the heart of an intellectual
opponents arguments, a hurdle that brings the hell-for-leather
rider up short. Vat is the evidence? biology professor
Anton J. Carlson used to badger his students and his colleagues
alike. Where, in other words, is the confirmation? What are the
In this respect, unconfirmed is a much more unUniversity
of Chicago word than joya noun thats a friend
of a friend of what some locals refer to as the F-word: fun.
Calling for the facts, like consulting the primary sources, doesnt
necessarily mean unanimity of opinion or interpretation. It would
be nice if it did. And easier, too.
If you have been following media and alumni reactions to the news
(or, rather, to the re-release of the news) about the Universitys
plans to expand undergraduate enrollment and the College facultys
revision of the undergraduate curriculum, you know that both (all?)
sides have strong and compelling arguments (a sampling of those
arguments is given on pages 1419).
While frank and open discussion has always been a hallmark of the
Universitys academic life, it is sometimes accompanied by
a reluctance to carry those arguments outside. In a way, it reminds
me of my mothers admonitionsnot against family arguments
(with five children, the woman, born a pacifist, had long since
become a realist)but rather against conducting family arguments
in public. The idea seems to be that outsiders wont
understand just how loyal to the institution the loyal opposition
The issues facing the University arent easy ones. Again, it
would be nice if they were. But not very University of Chicago.
Are some alumni more equal than others? Thats the question
raised by Marianne Bell, AB70, of DeForest, Wisconsin. Bell
wrote to express her dismay with a feature introduced last spring
in the Magazines Class News section: Class
High Notes, a selection of excerpts from the issues
alumni news reports.
Previously, Bell noted, an announcement of something
expected and ordinary, like a retirement, ranked right along with
a Nobel Prize. Here equality is sacrificed for a value judgment
of what you have decided is highly important.
Perhaps its time we renamed the feature, because we began
the excerpts for precisely the opposite reasonas a way of
enticing readers to read beyond the class notes for their own particular
years at Chicago and to see the range of interesting alumni from
every era. All class notes are equal.
Credit where credit is due: In All the Worlds a School
(February/99 College Report), we neglected to note that Miao Wang,
99, took the photograph of the protest in Barcelona. Also
in the College Report, we should have reported that Mira Lutgendorf,
99, one of this years Rhodes scholars, is a general
studies in the humanities concentrator and an aspiring, but not
yet published, novelist.M.R.Y.