Suzanne Fields

It's official; it's spring, when an anxious young man's fancy (and a young woman's, too) seriously turns to thoughts of college. High school seniors are checking their emails or looking for the envelope that's a little fatter than a single-page rejection letter. An acceptance letter is happy news for the young people, but it's terrifying news for the family pocketbook.

The class of 2018 has its dreams -- and not all of them are happy dreams.

Cost estimates for elite universities run to $70,000 a year. It's not clear what that buys. The fortunate seniors are tweeting celebration messages to their friends, and their parents are trying to figure out how to pay for that good fortune.

Administrators at Duke University, one of the top 10 schools in the authoritative U.S. News and World Report rankings of colleges and universities, are humiliated by the news that one of their students became a porn star to pay her tuition bills. After she was "outed" by a male student, she wrote, "I wear my scarlet letter with pride." Well, at least she's read one "great book."

Yale is nervous about a new biography of Paul de Man, a star of the professoriate of the 1970s and '80s, who influenced a generation of critics who "deconstructed" literature. The man who is identified with the "Yale school of criticism," as it turns out, was a Nazi collaborator in Belgium during World War II, and wrote essays for Nazi newspapers and magazines that championed Hitler's view of "degenerate art" and its accompanying anti-Semitism. He wrote that Jews "have always remained in the second rank," and liked the idea of deporting them to a colony isolated from Europe, which would not have "regrettable consequences." Certainly not for him.

While much of this was uncovered four years after de Man died in 1983, he was widely eulogized in academia, and the new biography, "The Double Life of Paul de Man," by Evelyn Barish, is embarrassing to the scholars, so called, who spread his theories. His apologists must now defend against accusations of bigamy, forgery, embezzling and lies that were hidden in his past. But how did such a man land a place in such elite university positions and in respectable publications in America?

"I think one must also recognize that he espoused some of the anti-Semitism endemic to the European bourgeoisie," writes Peter Brooks in The New York Review of Books, observing that he had close friendships with Jews. Some were his best friends, no doubt. While initially shocked by the revelations, one of de Man's colleagues in the New Republic wrote that his articles weren't so bad, not as other "vulgar anti-Semitic writing" of its day. That says something, I guess.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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