When Philip Roth Taught at CUNY

I was just reminded by Kathy Geier on FB and Twitter that when she was a student at Hunter College in the early 1990s, she took a comparative literature course with Philip Roth. According to Kathy, Roth had no TAs, designed the course himself, graded all the papers (and there was a lot of writing), and was paid reasonably. The last point was confirmed by Ken Sherrill, whose memory of Lillian Hellmann teaching at CUNY I spoke about here.

About all of which Scott Lemieux said:

What I find really strange about this is that he [Roth] apparently put together a syllabus for a course without at least 3 grad students to help him; almost as if he was an expert in the field he was hired to teach about or something. That seems like a deeply odd way for higher education to proceed.


  1. Paul Rosenberg (@PaulHRosenberg) July 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm | #

    Heck, if General Patreaus had to actually KNOW something, how far do you think he’d have gotten in the post-Cold War military, anyway? Isn’t “The more you do, the less you know” the Pentagon’s de facto motto? The more one forgets, the higher one rises. Those who don’t forget, don’t rise. Just ask General Shinseki. As Wikipedia notes:

    As Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required for postwar Iraq. This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation.[11] From then on, Shinseki’s influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly waned.

    Who did Shinseki think he was? Philip Roth?

  2. Chris Harlos July 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm | #

    Roth was a fine writer, and perhaps a great artist. As such, while he may have exercised some influence over his readership, he never wielded power, secular power of the sort Patreus did. Many or perhaps most CUNY students will find him compelling, as they yearn if not lust for comparable position and status. So the point is our intellectual institutions are corrupt, not that Patreus is some sort of fraud or functional idiot (which I presume him to be, ho hum). How the hell are you going to fix our universities, Professor?

  3. Corey Robin July 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm | #

    NYC Councilman Brad Lander has organized a petition drive to get CUNY to rescind its $150,000 boondoggle offer to Petraeus. Please sign the petition and share it widely. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/cuny-petraeus.fb28?source=s.icn.fb&r_by=8138536

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