In 1978, Vivian Gornick wrote an article in The Nation, “A Woman Among the Ivy Fellows,” on her semester-long experience as visiting professor at Yale. It’s a forgotten little classic of campus manners and mores, which is sadly inaccessible on the internet (though you can dig it out of the Nation digital archive if you’re a subscriber).
After detailing a litany of sexist and boorish behavior from the male faculty (including one appalling incident of physical and verbal harassment)—and a general atmosphere of anti-intellectualism and antediluvian anxiety—Gornick concludes with a wonderful vignette about a conversation with a non-tenured historian whose husband is a tenured professor in sociology.
Ruth Richards drove me to the station. As we sat in her car waiting for my train to come in she leaned back in her seat, lit a cigarette, then turned to me and said: “You know what keeps this whole thing going? What allows them to take themselves so seriously, and still go on behaving like this? It’s guys like my husband. My husband is a good man, a kind and gentle man, comes from a poor home, fought his way to the top. And he’s smart. Very, very smart. But you know? In spite of all that, and in spite of everything he knows, every morning of his life he wakes up, goes to the bathroom, starts to shave, and as he’s looking at himself in the mirror, somewhere inside of him a voice is saying: ‘Jesus Christ. I’m at Yale.’”
Update (8/24, 9 am)
Karl Steel managed to find a copy of the Gornick piece and put it in Dropbox. You can read it here.