“PC” and Privatization

This short text was my contribution to a one-day symposium, Finding Our Way: A Public Forum on Universities, Corporate Influence, and the Future of Post-Secondary Education, that was held at the University of Guelph on 22 October 1993. It has not previously been published.

I had the bad luck to be elected to the national executive of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers in the spring of 1991, at just the moment when the “Political Correctness” furore—which had been building up in the United States ever since the collapse of the Soviet empire deprived American conservatives of their favourite demonized Other—burst upon the Canadian scene. As Cathy Davidson observed at the time, academics in the humanities, whom only a few years ago it had been fashionable to dismiss “as silly and irrelevant,” were suddenly being denounced as though, “like Godzilla rising from the muck,” they “threaten[ed] the very existence of Western civilization.”

Does anyone remember the Maclean's issue of May 1991 which informed us that “A New Wave of Repression is Sweeping Through the Universities”? This was not a response to the murder of fourteen young women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal just over a year previously, or to the death threats made that same spring to the editors of feminist journals associated with Queen's University and Dalhousie: from the perspective of Maclean's magazine, those events were invisible.

The “wave of repression” consisted rather of a number of scare-mongering quotations from academic neoconservatives, and of four actual cases. One of these was the genuinely disturbing harassment of Jeanne Cannizzo, an anthropologist who curated what became a controversial Royal Ontario Museum exhibition, by anti-racist activists. Another, the case of University of Western Ontario psychologist Philippe Rushton, was scandalous in a quite different sense: the racialist pseudo-science of Rushton's publications raised the very serious question of how it was possible for a major Canadian university to provide institutional support for work of this kind. The remaining cases were incidents in which it was suggested that unnamed feminists had been rude to two great artists—to William Shakespeare, who gave no sign of having resented his treatment, and to Alex Colville, who as Chancellor of the university at which an objection was raised to the reproduction of one of his paintings on the cover of the university's Calendar can hardly be said to have been “repressed” by whatever was said.

Such a wave, as I wrote at the time, would scarcely fill a teacup. But Maclean's was not interested in reporting on any actual events within our universities. The object, rather, was to pass on to Canadians an alarming sense of the dangers posed by the politically correct “storm-troopers,” “moral vigilantes,” and “new McCarthyists” whom the American press was already vigorously denouncing.

Let's consider for a moment the last of these terms: “new McCarthyism.” This is a brilliant rhetorical inversion. As a matter of readily ascertainable fact, the people who have been most active in claiming that North American universities have been “taken over” by humourless and authoritarian women, minority groups, and radicals themselves form part of a very interesting alliance of government agencies, corporate foundations, and the corporate news media—an alliance that bears an uncanny resemblance to the constellation of forces responsible for the original McCarthyist Red Scare of the late 1940s and early '50s. Appropriating the one term—neo-McCarthyism—which best describes their own agenda, and applying it to the objects of their attack, was a stroke of genius on the part of the Reagan-Bush cultural revolutionaries. Their story was out and accepted long before anyone could object that no U.S. Senator had stood up before the television cameras waving a list of supposed racists and sexists in the universities.

I'd like to make a couple of suggestions—one outlining a possible research agenda, and the other proposing a principle of caution.

Here's the research agenda—for anyone who remembers how hundreds of billions of dollars were looted from the U.S. treasury by American elites during the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s (which was directly enabled by the deregulation policies of the Reagan-Bush administration). The PC scare has a clear structural articulation, in terms of the recently burgeoning networks of right-wing think-tanks and foundations that fund political correctness polemicists and their publications. It might be interesting to see whether Savings-and-Loan loot is being recycled into ideological structures whose principal function is to close down any space from which a critique of the Reagan-Bush era might be launched. You know the proverb: “Follow the money!”

And here's the principle of caution. I tell my students to be sceptical of everything they read and hear—especially when it comes from someone who has an axe to grind (present company not excluded). One way of exercising caution is to check out whether writers say the same kind of thing when they're trying to persuade you and when they're letting their hair down among like-minded people. Here's an instructive example, from Dinesh D'Souza, author of the polemical book Illiberal Education (1991), and a young man whose whole adult life has been funded by the right-wing foundation gravy train. Writing in The Atlantic Monthly for a liberal audience, D'Souza represents himself as a troubled and scrupulous occupier of the “middle ground” who finds that “It is not always possible in such disputes for a reasonable person, in good conscience, to take any side....” Sounds decent, doesn't it? But writing at the same time and on the same subject for a corporate readership in Forbes magazine, he bares his teeth. Claiming that “the propaganda of the new barbarians” threatens “to do us in,” D'Souza urges a defunding of the universities. “Resistance on campus to the academic revolution is outgunned,” he adds, “and sorely needs outside reinforcements.” How genuine do you think his concern for academic scruples—and academic freedom—might be?

I'll conclude with some thoughts on privatization. A recent article in Taipan blamed the inadequacies of American secondary and university education upon a “rewriting of history by 'politically correct' academics” which “threatens to have a negative effect” on the “progress-oriented work ethic” of the U.S., and could even “result in the redistribution of property rather than the creation of new wealth.” The solution proposed is a continued privatizing of the educational system: “If just 15% of the government's education budget ends up in private hands by the year 2010, it will mean billions of profits for the savvy entrepreneurs who act now.”

So what's it really all about: some notion of improving 'quality,' or a simple looting by “savvy entrepreneurs” of institutions paid for by public money?

Don't make the mistake of thinking that the “PC” furore is mainly just a problem of noise from south of the border, or that “privatization” is a matter of speculative corporate buccaneers casting greedy eyes on a public system they see, from the outside, as offering possibilities for large private profits.

They're inside already, as well as outside; and the process of privatization is well underway. One of the theorists of this process, John Pannabaker, is a past CEO of the Mutual Life Assurance Company of Canada and former Chancellor of McMaster University. In a 1992 address to the Canadian Corporate-Higher Education Forum, he claimed that the government bureaucracies, the “hierarchical corporations,” and the “educational, health and social service systems” which absorbed most of the graduates of Canadian universities during what he called the “golden age” of “mass tertiary education” between the mid-1950s and mid-1970s are now visibly contracting, and argued that Canadian universities must accept the challenge of developing a “new paradigm” which will respond to current needs.

The shape of this paradigm is hinted at by his advocacy of “alternative privately-financed and customer-driven institutions,” and his scouting of “possibilities, perhaps at the moment unthinkable, but ultimately the likely way out,” which “probably involve decentralization and 'spin-offs'—even privatization of individual programmes and functions.” It would not, he thinks, be “possible to 'privatize' a major Canadian university”—but the next best thing, it seems, would be to dismember the universities as a group, putting into corporate hands those functions which are most attractive to corporate interests.

What's missing here?

Any notion of a common good, any notion that higher education might have a critical as well as instrumental function, and any recognition that the critical intellectual work carried on within institutions of higher education makes an essential contribution to the self-understanding and capacity for creative and just self-transformation of a democratic society.

Merger Law Unnecessary

First published in the University of Guelph's weekly newspaper, At Guelph (3 February 1993): 2. This letter formed one small part of a widespread campaign against the Mulroney government's proposal to merge the Canada Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the international academic and cultural programs of the Department of External Affairs. Against all odds, the campaign succeeded: the government's legislation passed in the House of Commons, but was rejected in the Senate by a single vote.


The press release that formed the basis for At Guelph's January 13 account of the proposed merger of the Canada Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the international academic and cultural programs of the Department of External Affairs is in at least two respects grossly misleading.

Far from strengthening the traditional arm's-length relationship between government and cultural or research agencies, the merger legislation (Part 3 of Bill C-93) actively subverts it by requiring the new council to “take into consideration the foreign policy of the government of Canada.”

Equally dubious is the claim that the new council's governing council can be trusted to protect the interests of the arts and research communities. Bill C-93 says council members should be “broadly representative” of the new Canada Council's goals. But there is no requirement that they have any special expertise or reputation in the humanities, social sciences, or arts.

Against SSHRC's advice, the legislation says council members will be paid for the meetings they attend, which raises the interesting possibility that our present government regards this council as an instrument of political patronage. The likelihood that, before the next election, this council will become a dumping ground for superannuated party bagmen and belly scratchers is increased by the fact that Bill C-93 makes no provision for parliamentary oversight or approval of council appointments.

There is nothing, then, to prevent the government from stacking the council (as the Reagan and Bush administrations did in a quite scandalous manner with the advisory council of the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities) with people whose opinions—or rather prejudices—on cultural matters happen to coincide with its own.

In addition, according to senior Ottawa sources, the social sciences and the humanities will be represented by only six members of the 21-member council. (Six other members will represent the arts, three or four more will represent the domain of international relations—a constituency consisting, one presumes, of scholars and artists who particularly enjoy foreign travel—and the remaining five or six members will represent “the public.”)

The prospect of a council where only 12 of 21 members are to be representatives—and not necessarily distinguished ones—of the productive areas the council serves in the arts, humanities and social sciences is not encouraging.

One last point. Bill C-93 says the new council is to “foster, promote, sponsor and assist the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts” and “to promote, sponsor and assist research and scholarship in the social sciences and humanities.” Omission of the word “foster” in that second clause is presumably one sign (there have been others) that the federal government intends to withdraw support from doctoral fellowship programs.

The government is pushing its merger legislation through in the face of vehement opposition from the Social Sciences Federation of Canada, the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and many scholarly associations that are members of these umbrella groups. This legislation is both ill-conceived and unnecessary. The government's determination to pass it in the current session of Parliament is one more expression of its contempt for the research functions of our university system.


Prof. Michael Keefer, English
President, Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English

“Political Correctness”: An Annotated List of Readings

[First published in a special issue on “Political Correctness,” edited by Phyllis Artiss, of Philosophy and Social Action 19.1-2 (January-June 1993): 85-109. An earlier version of this annotated bibliography appeared in the Supplement on the “Political Correctness” Controversy, ACCUTE Newsletter (March 1992): 2-13, where it followed my essay “'Outside Agitators,' Inside Activists.”]

A previous version of this list appeared in March 1992 as a Supplement to the Newsletter of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English. Like that version, the present list contains books as well as newspaper and journal articles; annotations have for the most part been confined to texts of the latter category. A number of items relating to Paul de Man's wartime writings have been included, in the grounds that the de Man scandal appears to have suggested to neoconservative polemicists the possibility of demonizing a wide variety of new developments in the humanities by associating them with anti-democratic and authoritarian ideologies.

Abella, Rosalie. “Equality and human rights in Canada: Coping with the new Isms.” University Affairs/Affaires universitaires (June-July 1991): 21-22. Distinguishing between civil liberties and human rights, Abella argues that “There is absolutely nothing to apologize for in giving the arbitrarily disadvantaged a prior claim in remedial responses.

----. “The new Isms and universities.” University Affairs/Affaires universitaires (Aug.-Sept. 1991): 17. In this sequel, Abella defends strategies of employment equity, remarking that it is insulting “to suggest to women and minorities that their increased participation is an invitation to violate the merit principle, rather than an attempt to acknowledge it.”

Abramowitz, Lenny. “Why it isn't wrong to be correct.” The Globe and Mail (30 Dec. 1991). An analysis of the “political correctness” debate in terms of Isaiah Berlin's distinction between negative and positive liberty. This application of Berlin is contested in a letter by Josef Skvorecky, “Deadly Correctness (9 Jan. 1992): A14.

Adler, Jerry, et al. “Taking Offence: Is This the New Enlightenment on Campus or the New McCarthyism?” Newsweek (24 Dec. 1990): 48-54. This anecdotal survey of speech codes and of curriculum developments in the humanities includes interviews with Stanley Fish at Duke University and with a National Association of Scholars organizer at the University of Wisconsin. According to this article, “PC is, strictly speaking, a totalitarian philosophy.”

Allemang, John. “The Rise of the New Puritanism.” The Globe and Mail (national edn., 2 Feb. 1991): D1, D4.

Amiel, Barbara. “A challenge to the new chancellors.” Maclean's (24 June 1991): 11. After suggesting that Oscar Peterson and Rose Wolfe owe their appointments as chancellors of York University and the University of Toronto to the fact that one is black and the other a Jewish woman, Amiel invites them to take a public stand against “political correctness.”

Aronowitz, Stanley, and Henry A. Giroux. Postmodern Education: Politics, Culture, and Social Criticism. Minneapolis and Oxford: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

Artiss, Phyliss. “The real threat to academic freedom is those who feel threatened by change.” St John's Evening Telegraph (29 June 1991): 5. A response to Peter Boswell's column of 15 June 1991.

Asante, Molefi Kete. “Multiculturalism: An Exchange.” The American Scholar (Spring 1991); rpt. In Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 299-311. A defense of multiculturalist education and Afrocentrist scholarship in response to Diane Ravitch's “Multiculturalism: E Pluribus Plures,” which appeared in The American Scholar (Summer 1990) and is rpt. in Berman, pp. 271-98.

Atlas, James. “On Campus: The Battle of the Books.” The New York Times Magazine (5 June 1988): 24-27, 72-74, 95, 94. A survey of debates over the literary canon, based largely on interviews with members of Duke University's English department.

Bate, Walter Jackson. “The Crisis in English Studies.” First published in Harvard Magazine (Sept.-Oct. 1982). Rpt. in Scholarly Publishing 14 (1983): 195-212.

Beers, David. “PC? B.S. Behind the hysteria: how the Right invented victims of PC police.” Mother Jones (Sept.-Oct. 1991): 34-35, 64-65. This essay contains a detailed account of the manner in which a single student's interruption of a lecture for some four minutes at SUNY-Binghamton in March 1991 became, in the hands of National Association of Scholars publicists and unscrupulous journalists, something comparable to “the Nazis' heyday,” “Stalin's reign of terror,” and Mao's cultural revolution.”

Bennett, William J. To Reclaim a Legacy: A Report on the Humanities in Higher Education. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Humanities, 1984.

Berger, Joseph. “Conservative Scholars Attack 'Radicalization' of Universities.” The New York Times (15 Nov. 1988). This article describes a conference attended by some 300 conservative academics concerned to 'reclaim' the universities from leftist scholars described by one of them as “the barbarians in our midst.”

Berman, Paul, ed. Debating PC: The Controversy Over Political Correctness on College Campuses. New York: Dell, 1992. The contents of this book (many of the essays are reprinted from other sources) are separately itemized in this list.

Bernal, Martin, and Michael E. Dyson. “On Black Athena: An Interview with Martin Bernal.” Z Magazine (Jan. 1992): 56-60. Bernal argues that his book “undermines the crusade against political correctness” by documenting the influence of racism and anti-Semitism on modern interpretations of ancient history, and thereby exposing as false the claim that Afrocentrists and others are politicizing a previously “objective” domain.

Bernstein, Richard. “The Rising Hegemony of the Politically Correct.” The New York Times (28 Oct. 1990): section 4: 1, 4. The author is alarmed by statements made at a meeting of the Western Humanities Conference at Berkeley on “'Political Correctness' and Cultural Studies.”

Bérubé, Michael. “Public Image Limited: Political Correctness and the Media's Big Lie.” The Village Voice (18 June 1991): 31-37. Rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 124-49. A lively analysis of Allan Bloom's “unfathomable lapses,” Roger Kimball's “vast array of dismissive Edwardian interjections,” John Taylor's “innuendo and confusion,” and Dinesh D'Souza's “inanities.”

Blattberg, Charles, et al. “The constructive challenge of feminism.” University of Toronto Bulletin (20 Jan. 1990): 16. In the wake of the murder of 14 women as “feminists” at the École Polytechnique de Montréal on December 6, 1989, a group of men at the University of Toronto produced this meditation on the need for men in the universities to support a feminist agenda and “to come to terms with the extent to which they contribute to a climate in which being a woman is uncomfortable or unsafe.”

Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.

----. Giants and Dwarfs: Essays 1960-1990. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.

Boswell, Peter. “Political correctness: the bane of academic freedom.” St John's Evening Telegraph (15 June 1991): 5. In an article largely derived from the 27 May 1991 issue of Maclean's (see Fennell), Boswell cites the Cannizzo and Rushton cases as evidence of “a potential threat to free speech and independent thought,” and worries about hiring quotas and curriculum changes. Response by Artiss.

Brantlinger, Patrick. Crusoe's Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America. New York and London: Routledge, 1990. An introduction to a scholarly project that has been demonized by polemicists like Roger Kimball.

Brodkey, Linda, and Sheila Fowler. “Political Suspects.” The Village Voice (23 Apr. 1991). This account of the controversy over English 306, a proposed writing course at the University of Texas at Austin which was withdrawn after widely publicized accusations by members of the National Association of Scholars and others that it amounted to “indoctrination,” was written by two members of the committee which created the new syllabus.

Brooks, Peter. “Western Civ at Bay.” Review of Allan Bloom, Giants and Dwarfs, and Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals. Times Literary Supplement (25 Jan. 1991): 5-6.

Bruning, Fred. “Playing politics with political correctness.” Maclean's (10 June 1991): 11. Bruning suggests that the Bush Republicans intended to make “political correctness” the Willie Horton issue of the 1992 presidential campaign.

Burd, Stephen. “Chairman of Humanities Fund Has Politicized Grants Process, Critics Charge.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (22 Apr. 1992): A1, A32-33. This article documents claims that under its present chair, Lynne V. Cheney, the National Endowment for the Humanities in the U.S. has routinely rejected grant applications which are judged excellent by peer reviewers but which do not conform to Cheney's political and methodological conservatism.

Bygrave, Mike. “Mind Your Language.” Weekend Guardian (11-12 May 1991): 14-15. Rpt. in Guardian Weekly (26 May 1991): 22. Initially patronizing ('PC' is identified with “the loony left”—“only, being Americans, they're twice as loony”), this article also outlines the context (of privatization, systemic racism, and the “secession” of the wealthy) within which American universities have been trying “to meet minority demands that the rest of society now routinely rejects.”

Cheney, Lynne V. Humanities in America: A Report to the President, the Congress, and the American People. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Humanities, 1988.

Christensen, Jerome. “From Rhetoric to Corporate Populism: A Romantic Critique of the Academy in an Age of High Gossip.” Critical Inquiry 16 (1990): 438-65.

Clark, George. “Upholders of 'political rightness' are the ones stifling debate.” The Globe and Mail (10 July 1991). Clark argues that “The much repeated dogma that 'political correctness' threatens intellectual freedom is a bogus claim to justify suppression of dissent, another version of McCarthyism.”

“Concern for Arts, Research Funding Follows Rust.” Academe: Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors (Sept.-Oct. 1991): 5-6. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision that the government can withhold funding from family clinics that provide information in any instance about abortion has direct implications for U.S. government funding of university research.

Conlogue, Ray. “How long might it take to repair the damage wrought by the PC movement?” The Globe and Mail (11 June 1991): C1. Conlogue suggests a comparison between “the PC movement” and the Red Guards of Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Cordes, Helen. “Oh No! I'm PC! But can we still be friends anyway?” Utne Reader (July-Aug. 1991): 50-56. A lighthearted survey of journalistic writings on both sides of the issue.

Corn, David. “Beltway Bandits.” The Nation (13 May 1991): 6-20. Corn remembers Dinesh D'Souza boasting at a conference for conservative students in 1982 that the Dartmouth Review had printed material stolen from Dartmouth's Gay Student Alliance. D'Souza's denials of the charge are shown by further investigation to be untrue (see “Letters,” 24 June and 8 July 1991).

Culler, Jonathan. “The Humanities Tomorrow.” Framing the Sign: Criticism and Its Institutions. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988. 41-56.

Davidson, Cathy N. “'PH' Stands for Political Hypocrisy.” Academe: Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors (Sept.-Oct. 1991): 8-14. Rpt. in CAUT/ACPU Bulletin 39.4 (Apr. 1992): 18-19. In the course of a wide-ranging analysis of the “PC” debate, Davidson remarks that the media have “done little to examine connections between seemingly moderate aspects of the PC controversy (such as the demand that courses in Western civilization be restored to the general curriculum) and the ultra-right hate rags springing up on campuses all across the nation. This is hardly surprising considering the interconnections between the hate rags, mega-corporations, the government, conservative policy institutions, and the national media.”

Davis, Lennard J., and M. Bella Mirabella, eds. Left Politics and the Literary Profession. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

“Decline and fall of the North American educational system.” Taipan (Mar. 1992): 6-7. This article blames the inadequacies of American secondary and university education upon a “rewriting of history by 'politically correct' academics” which “threatens to have a negative effect” on the “progress-oriented work ethic” of the U.S., and could “result in the redistribution of property rather than the creation of new wealth.” The solution proposed is a continued privatizing of the educational system: “If just 15% of the government's education budget ends up in private hands by the year 2010, it will mean billions of profits for the savvy entrepreneurs who act now.”

DePalma, Anthony. “In Battle on Political Correctness, Scholars Begin a Counteroffensive.” The New York Times (25 Sept. 1991): A1, B8. This article reports the founding of Teachers for a Democratic Culture by “30 notable scholars,” among them Stanley Fish, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Gerald Graff, who “condemn the storm over political correctness ... as an attempt to derail affirmative action and legitimate attempts to revise curriculum.”

“The Derisory Tower.” The New Republic (18 Feb. 1991): 5-6. According to this editorial, “multiculturalists” in American universities are attempting to replace pluralist thought with “one of the most destructive and demeaning orthodoxies of our time,” according to which “race is the determinant of a human being's mind,” which is therefore unable “to wrest itself from its biological or sociological origins.”

Diamond, Sara. “Readin', Writin', and Repressin'.” Z Magazine (Feb. 1991): 45-48. This essay contains information about the network of American corporate foundations (among them Coors, Mobil, Smith-Richardson, Earhart, Scaife, and Olin) which provide generous funding to the National Association of Scholars and the affiliated Madison Center for Educational Affairs (which in turn funds some 60 right-wing campus newspapers, among them the notorious Dartmouth Review).

Doyle, John. “A new dogmatism is taking hold in Canadian universities.” The Globe and Mail (29 Apr. 1991). Alluding to controversies at several Canadian universities over material published in student newspapers, Doyle argues that “What is happening is a cultural revolution that has chilling echoes of the fanaticism that decimated intellectual life in China two decades ago.”

Drainie, Bronwyn. “Food for thought or anorexia of the mind?” The Globe and Mail (29 Dec. 1990): C1. Anxious reflections on literacy, multiculturalism, and “traditional Western thought.”

D'Souza, Dinesh. Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. New York: Free Press, 1991.

----. “Illiberal Education.” The Atlantic Monthly (Mar. 1991): 51-79. Writing here for a liberal audience, D'Souza represents himself as a would-be occupant of the “middle ground” who finds that “It is not always possible in such disputes for a reasonable person, in good conscience, to take any side....”

----. “The New Segregation on Campus.” The American Scholar (Winter 1991): 17-30. D'Souza argues that affirmative action admission policies and the encouragement of minority separatism by university administrations are to blame for racist backlashes on American campuses.

----. “The Visigoths in Tweed.” Forbes (1 Apr. 1991): 81-84. Claiming that “the propaganda of the new barbarians” threatens “to do us in,” D'Souza urges his corporate readers to de-fund the humanities. “Resistance on campus to the academic revolution is outgunned,” he adds, “and sorely needs outside reinforcements.”

----, and Robert MacNeil. “The Big Chill? Interview with Dinesh D'Souza.” In Paul Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 29-39. A transcript of D'Souza's interview on The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour (18 June 1991).

Duster, Troy. “They're Taking Over! and other myths about race on campus.” Mother Jones (Sept.-Oct. 1991): 30-33, 63-64. Challenging claims that “multiculturalism” and affirmative action programs are responsible for campus conflict and a lowering of standards, Duster also quotes the findings of a poll of 35,478 professors at 392 institutions, according to which 4.9% described themselves as “far left,” 36.8% as “liberal,” 40.2% as “moderate,” and 17.8% as “conservative.”

Ehrenreich, Barbara. “The Challenge for the Left.” Democratic Left (July-Aug. 1991); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 333-38. Remarking that “The American new right is becoming more and more like the new right in Europe—which has always focused on nativist and racist issues,” Ehrenreich proposes that a leftist defense of multiculturalism must also address its tendencies towards relativism and identity politics: “There can't be a left if there's no basis for moral judgment, including judgments that will cut across group or gender or ethnic lines.”

Ehrenreich, Rosa. “What Campus Radicals? The PC undergrad is a useful specter.” Harper's (Dec. 1991): 57-61. According to Ehrenreich's experience as a student at Harvard, American campuses “are no more under siege by radicals than is the society at large. It has been clever of the Kimballs and D'Souzas to write as if it were so. It is always clever of those in ascendance to masquerade as victims.”

Ellis, John. “Radical Literary Theory.” Review of Peter Washington, Fraud: Literary Theory and the End of English. London Review of Books (8 Feb. 1990): 7-8. While criticizing his “slash-and-burn mode of argument,” Ellis shares Washington's hostility to the politics of “Radical Literary Theory.”

Elson, John. “Academics in Opposition.” Time (1 Apr. 1991): 64. A sympathetic account of the National Association of Scholars as “the cutting edge” of opposition to multiculturalist, feminist, and minority curricula. “The N.A.S. Is funded in part by four conservative foundations, but [N.A.S. President Stephen] Balch insists, 'We follow our own lights.'”

Epstein, Joseph. “The Academic Zoo: Theory—in Practice.” The Hudson Review 44.1 (Spring 1991): 9-30. An attack on recent developments in English studies. Response in Hudson Review 44.3.

Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Crown, 1991.

Farrell, Lennox. “Power and 'political correctness'.” The Toronto Star (6 June 1991): A25. Farrell turns the tables on “anti-PC” polemicists by inviting his readers to imagine how they would respond to a world governed by a repressive “Afro-centric matriarchy.”

Fennell, Tom. “The Silencers: A New Wave of Repression is Sweeping Through the Universities.” Maclean's (27 May 1991): 40-43. The evidence of “repression” adduced in this article is slender in the extreme. (No mention is made of the murder of fourteen women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989.)

Fernéndez, Enrique. “P.C. Rider.” The Village Voice (18 June 1991); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 322-25. Reminding us that “Whatever 'Western' means, one thing should be obvious: Latin-American and Anglo-American letters are either in it or out of it together,” Fernéndez advocates an “integrationist” multiculturalism: “If it's human, it's yours. Take it. Share it. Mix it. Rock it.”

Fish, Stanley. “The Common Touch, or, One Size Fits All.” In Gless and Smith, eds., The Politics of Liberal Education, pp. 241-66. A strenuous and witty analysis of the “ethicist” assumptions and the “classically fissured” paranoia of conservative interventions in debates over literary canons and academic politics.

----. “There's No Such Thing as Free Speech and It's a Good Thing, Too.” in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 231-45. Arguing against First Amendment objections to academic speech codes, Fish maintains that “there is no class of utterances separable from the world of conduct,” and that the category “free expression” is therefore an empty one; it follows that “because everything we say impinges on the world in ways indistinguishable from the effects of physical action, we must take responsibility for our verbal performances....” Citing the Keegstra case, Fish contrasts the sensible “contextualism” of the Canadian Criminal Code and Charter of Rights with “the categorical absolutism of American First Amendment law.”

Fraser, Laura. “The right's new boogeyman.” New York Daily News (1 Sept. 1991): 3. Reflections on a survey of college administrators which suggests that “the idea that the Politically Correct are taking over universities and the world is, well, incorrect.”

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. “The Master's Pieces: On Canon Formation and the African-American Tradition.” In Gless and Smith, eds., The Politics of Liberal Education, pp. 95-117. Refusing to assign “a celebrated face to the forces of reaction” and thereby give “too much credit to a few men who are really symptomatic of a larger political current,” Gates outlines an answer to the question of how “the debate over canon formation affect[s] the development of African-American literature as a subject of instruction in the American academy.”

----. “Whose Canon Is It, Anyway?” The New York Times Book Review (26 Feb. 1989); rpt. In Berman, ed. Debating PC, pp. 190-200. A shorter version of “The Master's Pieces.”

----. “It's Not Just Anglo-Saxon.” The New York Times (4 May 1991): Op-ed section, 15. One of two articles (the other by Donald Kagan) published under the heading “Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?” Gates argues that “it's only when we're free to explore the complexities of our hyphenated culture that we can discover what a genuinely common American culture might actually look like.”

----. Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Genovese, Eugene D. “Heresy, Yes—Sensitivity, No: An argument for counter-terrorism in the academy.” Review of Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education. The New Republic (15 Apr. 1991): 30-35. While critical both of D'Souza's condemnation of black studies and women's studies programs and of his attack on black separatism, Genovese accepts his case studies at face value, and calls in violent language for “a coalition that cuts across all the lines of politics, race, and gender” to “close ranks” in defense of academic freedom against “atrocities” like those documented by D'Souza.

Gibbs, Nancy. “The War Against Feminism.” Time (9 Mar. 1992): 38-43. An extended discussion of Susan Faludi's Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. “Masterpiece Theater: An Academic Melodrama.” Critical Inquiry 17 (1991): 693-717. When an undescribed text is found chained to the railroad tracks in Boondocks, Indiana, a large cast of critics and cultural theorists—from Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese to William J. Bennett—assembles at the scene of the crime.

Gitlin, Todd. “Incorrect Call.” The Village Voice (23 Apr. 1991). While critical both of the “illiberalism” of academic leftists and of the right's “panicky” reaction, Gitlin argues that “Authentic liberals have good reason to worry that the elevation of 'difference' to a first principle is undermining everyone's capacity to see, or change, the world as a whole.”

Glazer, Nathan. “Point.” One of two reviews (under the heading of “That D'Souza Book: Two Views”) of Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education. Change (Sept.-Oct. 1991): 56-58. Glazer praises the book as “a balanced, well-researched meticulously documented account of disputes around race in a number of major American universities....”

Gless, Darry L., and Barbara Herrnstein Smith, eds. The Politics of Liberal Education. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1992. These essays (except for the contributions of Stanley Fish and Francis Oakley and the introduction by Barbara Herrnstein Smith) are reprinted from a special issue of The South Atlantic Quarterly 89.1 (Winer 1990). A number of the essays are listed separately here.

Gordon, Ted, and Wahneema Lubiano. “The Statement of the Black Faculty Caucus.” In Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 249-57. (A version of this text appeared in the Daily Texan [3 May 1990].) Gordon and Lubiano offer an agenda for “transforming the University into a center of multicultural learning: anything less constitutes a system of education that ultimately reproduces racism and racists.”

Gray, Mary W., et al. “Statement on the 'Political Correctness' Controversy.” Academe: Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors (Sept.-Oct. 1991): 48. This statement was issued in July 1991 by a special committee appointed by the president of the AAUP.

Greenblatt, Stephen. “The Best Way to Kill Our Literary Inheritance Is to Turn It Into a Decorous Celebration of the New World Order.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (12 June 1991): B1, B3. Rpt. in The Council Chronicle: The National Council of Teachers of English (Nov. 1991): 16. A response to George F. Will's Newsweek column of 22 Apr. 1991.

Hairston, Maxine C. “Required Writing Courses Should Not Focus on Politically Charged Social Issues.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (23 Jan, 1991): B1, B3. A writing specialist and professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin outlines her objections, both pedagogical and ethical, to the controversial English 306 writing course.

Hamacher, Werner, Neil Hertz, and Thomas Kennan, eds. Responses: On Paul de Man's Wartime Journalism. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.

Heller, Scott. “Scholars Form Group to Combat 'Malicious Distortions' by Conservatives.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (18 Sept. 1991): A19, A21. Gerald Graff, Houston Baker, Jr., Jane Gallop, Wayne Booth, Henry Louis Gates, and Stanley Fish are named as founding members of the Teachers for a Democratic Culture, an organization which wants “to set the record straight about such incendiary issues as 'political correctness' and free speech on campus,” and which criticizes “what it calls the 'blatant hypocrisy' of 'right-wing ideologues' such as [Dinesh] D'Souza and Lynne V. Cheney, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

Henry, William A, III. “Upside Down in the Groves of Academe.” Time (1 Apr. 1991): 62-64. Henry claims that in the “upside-down world” of many U.S. campuses, “Obfuscatory course titles and eccentric reading lists are frequently wedded to a combative political agenda or outlandish views of U.S. culture.” He criticizes new “Afrocentric” curriculums and developments in feminist and gay studies.

Hentoff, Nat. “'Speech Codes' on the Campus and Problems of Free Speech.” Dissent (Fall 1991); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 215-24. Hentoff sides with Yale President Benno Schmidt, according to whom the idea that “values of civility and community” should be allowed to supersede freedom of expression is “wrong in principle, and, if extended, is disastrous to freedom of thought....”

Hill, Patrick J. “Multiculturalism: The Crucial Philosophical and Organizational Issues.” Change (July-Aug. 1991): 38-47. A discussion of four frameworks for explaining diversity—relativism, universalism, hierarchism, and democratic pluralism—leads into an argument for a new curriculum that would incorporate “the currently marginalized.”

Hirsch, E.D. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Need to Know. Boston: Houghton, 1987.

Hirschman, Albert O. The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991. Of direct relevance to the 'PC' debate.

Hollander, John. “Reading as Was Never Read.” ADE Bulletin 98 (Spring 1991): 7-13.

Howe, Irving. “The Value of the Canon.” The New Republic (18 Feb. 1991): 40-47. Rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 153-71. In reasserting the value of a traditional literary canon, Howe deploys Lukács, Trotsky, and Gramsci against the contemporary “cultural left.”

Hughes, Robert. “The Fraying of America.” Time (3 Feb. 1992): 44-49. Defining America as “a construction of mind, not of race or inherited class or ancestral territory,” this article blames the “fraying” of a “sense of collectivity and mutual respect” upon right-wing “demagogues” as well as upon “pushers of political correctness who would like to see grievance elevated into automatic sanctity.” While criticizing “cultural separatism” and Afrocentrism, Hughes also denounces “the ongoing frenzy about political correctness, whose object is to create the belief, or illusion, that a new and sinister McCarthyism, this time of the left, has taken over American universities and is bringing free thought to a stop. This is flatly absurd.”

Hurst, Lynda. “'Politically correct'? Think before you speak: New watchwords 'politically correct' cause controversy.” The Toronto Star (2 June 1991): A1, A12. A balanced discussion, focussed principally on the University of Toronto, of debates and disputes over issues of gender and of race (“the Cannizzo incident”).

Jayne, E. “Academic jeremiad: The neoconservative view of American higher education.” Change (May-June 1991): 30-41.

Jenish, D'Arcy. “A War of Words: Academics Clash Over 'Correctness'.” Maclean's (27 May 1991): 44-45. Recycling anecdotes from Taylor and D'Souza, this article also quotes opinions of people on both sides of the curriculum debate in the U.S. (apportioning space to opponents and supporters of new developments in a ratio of about 8 to 1).

Jonas, George. Politically Incorrect. Toronto: Lester Publishing, 1991. A collection of journalistic essays by a writer who, as David Olive rather cruelly suggests, is unlikely ever “to rise above the status of tabloid philosopher” (Olive, “Rants unworthy of raves,” The Globe and Mail [21 Dec. 1991]).

Jouzaitis, Carol. “Scholars stand up for colleges: Political-correctness charges a bum rap, they say.” Chicago Tribune (2 Oct. 1991): 1, 10. This article reports the founding of Teachers for a Democratic Culture by Gerald Graff and others. “Rather than choking debate, as their critics claim they have, members of the new organization say they are trying to open the discussion on campuses and educate the public about new literary theories and teaching approaches.”

Kagan, Donald. “Western Values Are Central.” The New York Times (4 May 1991): Op-ed section, 15. One of two articles (the other by Henry Louis Gates) published under the heading “Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?” Kagan writes that “Western culture and institutions are the most powerful paradigm in the world. As they increasingly become the objects of emulation by peoples elsewhere, their study becomes essential for those of all nations who wish to understand their nature and origins.”

Keefer, Michael. “Political Correctness.” Canadian Federation for the Humanities Bulletin 14.2 (Summer 1991): 7-8. This article attacks the “frothy denunciations of 'political correctness'” by such writers as Dinesh D'Souza, Tom Fennell, Claude Rawson, and George F. Will.

----. “Ellis on Deconstruction: A Second Opinion.” English Studies in Canada 18.1 (Mar. 1992): 83-103. An analysis of the 'PC' furore forms part of a critique of the scholarship and politics of an opponent of deconstruction.

Kimball, Roger. Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

----. “The Periphery v. The Center: The MLA in Chicago.” In Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 61-84. (A version of this essay appeared in The New Criterion [Feb. 1991].) Finding much to displease him in the papers presented at the MLA conference, Kimball argues that “the substitution of certain political causes for disinterested appreciation may be said to have become the raison d'être of the Modern Language Association.”

King, Nina. “Classroom Notes: A Controversial English Department Deserves High Marks for Teaching.” The Washington Post (7 Apr. 1991): Educational review section 12-13. An account of Duke University's English program by one of the few journalists who has made any attempt to witness what supposedly “PC” academics do in the classroom.

Kingwell, Mark. “Enter the campus thought police.” The Globe and Mail (15 Apr. 1991). Repeating (though with ironic overtones) claims that “north America's colleges” are ruled by “the PC police,” Kingwell contrasts the radical insights of Marxist critique to the “superficial” relativism of “PC thinking.” Response by Ripstein.

Kinsley, Michael. “Hysteria Over 'Political Correctness': Where's this left-wing reign of terror on campus?” The Washington Post (3 May 1991): A25. A comparison of attacks on the “leftism” of the academy in 1951 and 1991. Kinsley remarks that the academic speech codes now excoriated as “politically correct” were in many cases instituted in the early 1970s by academic conservatives in response to left-wing student activism.

Kosofsky Sedgwick, Eve. “Pedagogy in the Context of an Antihomophobic Project.” In Gless and Smith, eds., The Politics of Liberal Education, pp. 145-62. This essay offers an analysis (by a former student) of Allan Bloom's protectiveness of “the canonical culture of the closet,” and at the same time of “the homophobia uniformly enjoined on teachers throughout the primary and secondary levels of public school”; it argues that “The invaluable forms of critique and dismantlement within the official tradition, the naming as what it is of a hegemonic, homoerotic/homophobic male canon of cultural mastery and coercive erotic double binding, can only be part of the strategy of an antihomophobic project.”

Kramer, Hilton. “The Prospect Before Us.” The New Criterion (Sept. 1990); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 315-21. Kramer complains of the imposition of “politics—above all, the politics of race, gender, and multiculturalism—as the only acceptable criterion of value in every realm of culture and life”; this “liberal McCarthyism” is the work of what he calls the “barbarian element.”

Krauthammer, Charles. “Hail Columbus, Dead White Male.” Time (27 May 1991): 61. For Krauthammer, the destruction of Inca civilization is outweighed by the consideration that its destroyers represented “a culture of liberty that endowed the individual human being with dignity and sovereignty.”

----. “Clarence Thomas and Liberal Orthodoxy.” The Washington Post (12 July 1991). Making it appear that effective power is in the hands of “the liberal establishment” and “the civil rights establishment,” Krauthammer insinuates that for the Senate to make an issue of the qualifications of opinions of presidential appointees like Carol Iannone and Clarence Thomas is improper.

Lazere, Donald. “Conservative Critics Have a Distorted View of What Constitutes Ideological Bias in Academe.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (9 Nov. 1988): A52.

Leahy, David. “Au diable l'hétérogène: les attaques contre le 'correction politique'.” Spirale [Montréal] (Feb. 1992): 13. Dans cette introduction “aux mythes hystériques anti-'PC',” et aux débats qui entourent la question “PC,” Leahy suggère que le “Nouvel Ordre mondial” est incapable de tolérer, “même au nom de la différence symbolique,” “des universitaires qui aimeraient voir leurs institutions contribuer au renouvellement et à la transformation sociale.”

Lehman, David. “Deconstructing de Man's Life: An Academic Idol Falls into Disgrace.” Newsweek (15 Feb. 1988): 63.

----. Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man. New York: Poseidon Press, 1991. Reviewed by John Sturrock, “Alarms off-campus,” Times Literary Supplement (25 Oct. 1991): 22.

Levine, Gerge, et al. Speaking for the Humanities. American Council of Learned Societies Occasional Paper No. 7, 1989. A rejoinder to William Bennett's To Reclaim a Legacy.

Lindenberger, Herbert. “The Western Culture debate at Stanford University.” Comparative Criticism 11 (1989): 225-34. A brief account of Stanford's “Western Civilization” (1935-c.1968), “Western Culture” (1980-88), and “Cultures, Ideas, Values” courses.

Mangan, Katherine S. “Entire Writing-Course Panel Quits at U. Of Texas.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (13 Feb. 1991): A16. An account of the controversy over English 306 at the University of Texas at Austin.

McCormack, Thelma. “The counterattack against feminism: How Maclean's helped promote a media backlash.” Canadian Forum (Sept. 1991): 8-10. Rpt. as “Politically Correct” in CAUT/ACPU Bulletin (Apr. 1992): 17-18. A critique of D'Souza and other polemicists, and a defence of curriculum reform and of Women's Studies programs.

McIntyre, Sheila. “The Campaign Against Political Correctness.” Symposium: A Student Arts Magazine [University of Western Ontario] (Dec. 1991): 6-7, 20. This abridged transcription of a lecture delivered at UWO offers an analysis of the philosophical differences underlying debates over “PC” and “merit,” and points to inconsistencies and hypocrisy in the position of 'anti-PC' polemicists (who, McIntyre argues, “have never operated according to their own first principle” of formal equality).

Menand, Louis. “Illiberalisms.” Review of Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education. The New Yorker (20 May 1991): 101-07. An analysis of inconsistencies and errors in D'Souza's book (among them a wildly incompetent potted history of literary criticism), supplemented by a brief account of his previous career as an opponent of minority rights. While agreeing with some of D'Souza's arguments, Menand remarks that “It is not pleasant to see a man who did so much to poison the wells turning up dressed as the water commissioner....”

----. “What Are Universities For? The real crisis on campus is one of identity.” Harper's (Dec. 1991): 47-56. Menand argues that right and left are alike misguided in seeing the university as a social microcosm; the university should “renounce the role of model community and arbiter of social disputes that it has assumed,” and “stop trying to set up academic housing for every intellectual and political interest group that comes along....”

“MLA Survey Casts Light on Canon Debate.” MLA Newsletter 23.4 (Winter 1991): 12-14. This survey suggests that the traditional literary canon is far from having been displaced or usurped by matters related to new “isms” or to “political correctness.”

“The Modern Language Association's Statement on the Curriculum Debate.” MLA Newsletter 23.3 (Fall 1991): 5-6. Rpt. in the Supplement to the ACCUTE Newsletter (Mar. 1992): 16-18.

Morrison, Paul. “Paul de man: Resistance and Collaboration.” Representations 32 (1990): 50-74.

Munroe, George B. “The Case Against the Dartmouth Review.” Wall Street Journal (22 Oct. 1990): A14. An exposé of the backing of the Dartmouth Review and other off-campus newspapers by right-wing foundations, and an account of the network of government agencies and public-policy institutes which have fostered neoconservative polemicists like Dinesh D'Souza.

Nightingale, Kevyn D.I. “Why being 'correct' isn't right.” The Globe and Mail (20 Jan. 1992): A16. Offering (in response to Abramowicz) a wildly garbled account of Isaiah Berlin's two freedoms, this article denounces affirmative action and claims that progressive change will come through “economic pressure levied by the 'invisible hand' of Adam Smith.”

Nodelman, Perry. “Is 'beauty' in the eye of the politically correct?” The Globe and Mail (25 June 1991): C1. Challenging the rhetoric of Ray Conlogue's article of 11 June 1991, Nodelman argues that “Calling Shakespeare 'beautiful' is merely an unscrupulous way of reinforcing a particular faction's power by denying that it is factional....”

Olivas, Michael A. “Counterpoint.” One of two reviews (under the heading “That D'Souza Book: Two Views”) of Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education. Change (Sept.-Oct. 1991): 58-60. Olivas argues that D'Souza “often gets his facts wrong,” and that his slanted analysis “resembles a debater's brief.”

Paglia, Camille. “Ninnies, Pedants, Tyrants and Other Academics.” New York Times Book Review (5 May 1991): 1, 29, 33. In characteristically overheated language, Paglia claims that a comparison with 1960s American popular culture exposes the “followers of Lacan, Derrida and Foucault” as “the real fossilized reactionaries of our time.”

----. “Academe Has to Recover Its Spiritual Roots and Overthrow the Ossified Political Establishment of Invested Self-Interest.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (8 May 1991): B1-B2.

----. “The nursery-school campus: The corrupting of the humanities in the US.” Times Literary Supplement (22 May 1992): 19. Arguing that Roger Kimball's “tenured radicals” are not authentic leftists at all, Paglia also proposes that “Leftists have damaged their own cause, with whose basic principles I as a 1960s libertarian generally agree, by their indifference to fact, their carelessness and sloth, their unforgivable lack of professionalism as scholars.”

Perry, Richard, and Patricia Williams. “Freedom of Hate Speech.” Tikkun (July-Aug. 1991); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 225-30. Commenting on certain “ironies of free-speech opportunism” in the reporting in the U.S. of campus speech codes prohibiting verbal harassment and hate speech, the authors suggest that “One might instructively compare this situation with the new Canadian constitution, which specifically limits the protection of certain kinds of hate speech, without much evidence that this provision has started Canada down the slippery slope towards being a Stalinist police state.”

Pfaff, William. “Universities burdened with pressures of changing values: Well-meaning people are promoting a new form of academic repression.” London Free Press (28 May 1991): A7. No such people are identified in this article.

Pollitt, Katha. “Why Do We Read?” The Nation (23 Sept. 1991); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 201-11. “In America today,” Pollitt argues, “the underlying assumption behind the canon debate is that the books on the list are the only books that are going to be read....” She resists the “medicinal” assumption she find shared by both sides in the debate: the view that “the chief end of reading is to produce a desirable kind of person and a desirable kind of society....”

Poston, Lawrence S. Review of Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education. Academe: Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors (Sept.-Oct. 1991): 53-56. A careful, balanced, and finally rather devastating analysis of D'Souza's arguments.

“President Bush Names 8 Scholars to Sit on Humanities Board.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (22 Apr. 1992): A25. According to this article, four at least of Bush's eight nominees to the National Council on Humanities, the advisory board to the National Endowment for the Humanities, are members of the neoconservative National Association of Scholars. Liberal academics are reported to have criticized what they see as an ongoing 'packing' of the council (at least four of whose 27 members are already members of NAS) with opponents of multiculturalism and women's studies.

Raskin, Jamin. “The Fallacies of 'Political Correctness'.” Z Magazine (Jan. 1992): 31-37. Raskin argues that “while 'political correctness' purports to describe censorious language or policies, it is in fact intended to render unspeakable or unthinkable whole categories of belief about power.” This article, which refutes four recurrent fallacies of 'anti-PC' polemics, is to be followed by a sequel entitled “PC Sophistry and Do Conservatives Really Support Free Speech?”

Ravitch, Diane. “Multiculturalism: E Pluribus Plures.” The American Scholar (Summer 1990); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 271-98. A critique of “particularist,” as opposed to pluralist multiculturalism. A response by Molefi Kete Asante (“Multiculturalism: An Exchange”) appeared in The American Scholar (Spring 1991) and is rpt. in Berman, pp. 299-311.

Rawson, Claude. “Old Literature and its Enemies.” Review of Alvin Kernan, The Death of Literature; Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry; and David Lehman, Signs of the Times. London Review of Books (25 Apr. 1991): 11-15. According to Rawson, the rise of theory in literary studies has resulted in “professional misconduct, bordering on intellectual terrorism in extreme cases,” and “a hijacking of the classroom by militant proponents of special-interest groups.”

Ripstein, Arthur. “In defence of shedding our blinkers.” The Globe and Mail (22 Apr. 1991. Dismissing Mark Kingwell's talk of relativism, Ripstein argues that while study of “the works of dead European men” is “crucial to understanding the way our culture views the world,” there are reasons to doubt that 'the classics' provide “an appropriate vocabulary for groups that have been historically mistreated and marginalized to voice their concerns.”

Robbins, Bruce. “Tenured Radicals, the New McCarthyism, and 'PC'.” New Left Review 188 (July-Aug. 1991): 151-57. Robbins' survey of the controversy includes the suggestion that “the whole purpose of the PC assault is to extend the Reagan/Bush agenda, taking over or silencing institutions like the National Endowment for the Humanities that fund and therefore set research agendas, and above all preparing the public for a cut in federal funding of higher education.”

Rothenberg, Paula. “Critics of Attempts to Democratize the Curriculum are Waging a Campaign to Misrepresent the Work of Responsible Professors.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (10 Apr. 1991); rpt. in Berman, ed, Debating PC, pp. 262-68. The editor of a book widely denounced as a “primer of politically correct thought” (Newsweek [24 Dec. 1990]) criticizes misrepresentations of it by journalists and by the neoconservative National Association of Scholars.

Said, Edward W. “The Politics of Knowledge.” Raritan 11.1 (Summer 1991); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 172-89. Said follows Frantz Fanon in offering “a critique of the separatism and mock autonomy achieved by a pure politics of identity that has lasted too long and been made to serve in situations where it has become simply inadequate.” With respect to the canon debate, he suggests that it may not “finally matter who wrote what, but rather how a work is written and how it is read.”

Schorow, Stephanie. “Tyranny of the Left: Freedom of speech under fire.” London Free Press (22 June 1991): E1. Based on material provided by the neoconservative National Association of Scholars, this article claims that “A McCarthyism of the left has arisen on U.S. campuses....”

Schrecker, Ellen W. No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. A detailed and chilling account of the purges of the late 40s and 50s which will challenge those who give credence to current claims about 'political correctness' as a 'new McCarthyism.'

Scott, Ian. “Feminist paper's editors receive death threats.” The Halifax Mail-Star (8 Nov. 1991): A3. This article reports death threats received by the editors of Pandora in Halifax, and a separate incident in which the editors of a bimonthly newspaper at Queen's University received the following message in a newsprint collage: “Congratulations! Here's your politically correct death notices ... we're gunna rape u dykes. In fact, we will kill any and all feminists slowly.”

Scott, Joan Wallach. “The Campaign Against Political Correctness: What's Really at Stake?” Change (Nov.-Dec. 1991): 30-43. Scott argues that in the campaign against 'political correctness,' “the entire enterprise of the university has come under attack, and with it that aspect that intellectuals most value and that the humanities most typically represent: a critical, sceptical approach to all that a society takes most for granted.... We are experiencing another phase of the ongoing Reagan-Bush revolution which, having packed the courts and privatized the economy, now seeks to neutralize the space of ideological and cultural nonconformity by discrediting it.” She analyzes the 'PC' debate in relation to a tradition of American anti-intellectualism, and comments on the manner in which “The logic of individualism has structured the approach to multiculturalism within the university—on many sides of the question.”

Searle, John. “The Storm Over the University.” Review of Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals; Darryl Gless and Barbara Herrnstein Smith, eds., The Politics of Liberal Education; and Timothy Fuller, ed., The Voice of Liberal Leraning: Michael Oakeshott on Education. The New York Review of Books (6 Dec. 1990): 34-42. Rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 85-123. Searle deplores what he sees as the politicizing of the humanities by the “cultural left”; while sympathetic to Kimball, he notes the “thinness” of his analysis.

“Senate Committee Rejects NEH Council Nominee.” MLA Newsletter 23.3 (Fall 1991): 1-4. A brief report on the Carol Iannone affair, in which the MLA, having opposed the nomination to the advisory council of the National Endowment for the Humanities of a scholar who had published only three refereed articles, was widely denounced in the American press.

Siegel, Fred. “The Cult of Multiculturalism.” The New Republic (18 Feb. 1991): 34-40. An attack on the “academic cultism, paranoia and power-mongering” which Siegel identifies as features of a “multiculturalist” orthodoxy derived from Foucault, from “deconstructionism,” and from “black and feminist agendas.”

Sinfield, Alan. Letter to the London Review of Books (23 May 1991): 4. A response to Claude Rawson, “Old Literature and its Enemies.” On the same page a letter by Penny McCarthy defends Sinfield against the charge of indoctrinating students.

Singer, Peter. “On Being Silenced in Germany.” The New York Review of Books (15 Aug. 1991): 36-42. Of relevance to the 'PC' debate on this continent.

Smith, Doug. “The 'new McCarthyism'.” Canadian Dimension (Sept. 1991): 8-13. A detailed analysis of the biased and duplicitous coverage of the 'political correctness' debate in the 27 May 1991 issue of Maclean's.

Smith, Jean Edward. “The dangerous new puritans.” The Globe and Mail (21 Oct. 1991): A15. A political science professor who believes that Milton wrote Areopagitica to protest “the censorship policies of King Charles I,” and that Princeton, where he studied during the McCarthy era, “did not knuckle under to the pressures of the moment” (for another view, see Schrecker), attacks the “storm-trooper tactics” of the “moral vigilantes” and “purveyors of sensitivity” who make up the 'political correctness' movement.

Stimpson, Catharine R. “Is There a Core in This Curriculum? And is it Really Necessary?” Change (Mar.-Apr. 1988): 27-31. An analysis of four competing attitudes towards cultural literacy is followed by an outline of a syllabus which would “show culture, not as a static and immobile structure, but as a kinetic series of processes, in which various forces often compete and clash.”

----. “New 'Politically Correct' Metaphors Insult History and Our Campuses.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (29 May 1991): A10. Challenging claims about a 'new McCarthyism,' Stimpson remarks that “No US senator has stood up holding a list of 'racists' and 'sexists' in higher education.”

----. “Big Man on Campus.” Review of Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education. The Nation (30 Sept. 1991): 78-84. While conceding that “the curricular and intellectual movements that have grown since the 1960s provide their share of silliness, folly, rigidity and blather,” Stimpson argues that D'Souza's book “saturates educational debate with slippery rhetoric, inconsistency and falsehood.”

----. “On Differences: Modern Language Association Presidential Address 1990.” PMLA 106 (1991); rpt. in Berman, ed. Debating PC, pp. 40-60.

Sutherland, John. “Down with DWEMs.” Review of Charles Sykes, ProfScam; and of Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals. London Review of Books (15 Aug. 1991): 17-18. Commenting that “The American press is waging a campaign against American universities, assisted by a barrage of muckraking books,” Sutherland argues that “The basic problem is much the same as it was in the Eisenhower years.” His review offers a brief but well-informed analysis of the “body-snatcher paranoia” at work in much of the 'PC' furore.

Sykes, Charles. ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education. New York: St Martin's Press, 1989.

Taylor, John. “Are You Politically Correct?” New York (21 Jan. 1991): 32-40. A collection of anecdotes designed to show that American universities have succumbed to a “fascism of the left,” and have substituted political indoctrination for education. (The sensational account of the Stephan Thernstrom case with which this article begins can be compared with Jon Wiener's discussion of the same episode.)

Tight, Malcolm, ed. Academic Freedom and Responsibility. Milton Keynes: Society for Research into Higher Education/Open University Press, 1988.

Valdés, Mario. “Answering Back.” MLA Newsletter 23.3 (Fall 1991): 4-5. Comments by the President of the MLA on the gross misrepresentations of the MLA by American editorialists and op-ed writers over the issue of Carol Iannone's nomination to the advisory council of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Washington, Peter. Fraud: Literary Theory and the End of English. London: Fontana, 1989.

West, Cornel. “Diverse New World.” Democratic Left (July-Aug. 1991); rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 326-32. Commenting on the multiculturalism debate in the U.S., West argues that “The political challenge is to articulate universality in a way that is not a mere smokescreen for someone else's particularity.”

Wiener, Jon. “Deconstructing De Man.” The Nation (9 Jan. 1988): 22-24.

----. “Dollars for Neocon Scholars.” The Nation (1 Jan. 1990): 12-14. A detailed account of the large sums ($55 million in 1988) being spent in American universities by the John M. Olin Foundation “in an effort to reshape the curriculums, take the intellectual initiative away from the academic left and give scholarly legitimacy to Reaganite social and economic policies.”

----. “What Happened at Harvard.” The Nation (30 Sept. 1991): 384-88. On the basis of interviews with the people involved in what Dinesh D'Souza represented as an attack on the free speech of Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom by black students and by administrators, Wiener concludes that “almost every element of the story D'Souza tells in erroneous.”

Will, George F. “Radical English.” This nationally syndicated column was published on 16 Sept. 1990, and rpt. in Berman, ed., Debating PC, pp. 258-61. Reporting on debates over curriculum at the University of Texas, Will claims that there and elsewhere “political indoctrination [is] supplanting education.”

----. “Literary Politics. 'The Tempest'? It's 'really' about imperialism. Emily Dickinson's poetry. Masturbation.” Newsweek (22 Apr. 1991): 72. An attack on the MLA's opposition to Carol Iannone's nomination to the NEH Advisory Council. Will describes Lynne Cheney, the Chairman of the NEH, as “secretary of domestic defence,” and declares that “The foreign adversaries her husband, Dick, must keep at bay are less dangerous, in the long run, than the domestic forces with which she must deal.”

----. Curdled Politics on Campus.” Newsweek (6 May 1991): 72. Will speaks of “a war of aggression against the Western political tradition and the ideas that animate it.”

Winkler, Karen J. “Proponents of 'Multicultural' Humanities Research Call for a Critical Look at Its Achievements.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (28 Nov. 1990): A5, A8-9. Scholars like Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cornel West are quoted as expressing concern over some of the directions taken by multicultural research.

----. “A Conservative Plans to 'Sound the Guns' at NEH.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (22 Apr. 1992): A33. Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., a recent appointee to the advisory council of the National Endowment for the humanities who opposes multicultural curricula, affirmative action programs, women's studies and Afro-American studies, is quoted as claiming that the Constitutional principles that shape American politics have “lately come to be menaced by the increasing democratization of politics.” He adds that “It's ironic that conservatives have to use politics to rid the campus of politics, but we do.”

Wong, Frank F. “Diversity & Community: Right Objectives and Wrong Arguments.” Change (July-Aug. 1991): 48-54. An attempt to mediate between advocates of cultural diversity (amongst whom Wong counts himself) and the views of academic neoconservatives like Allan Bloom.

Woodward, C. Vann. “Freedom & the Universities.” Review of Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education. The New York Review of Books (18 July 1991): 32-37. Judging D'Souza's investigation to be “reasonably thorough” and his documentation to be “fairly detailed, if sometimes very selective,” Woodward concludes that “there is reason to hope that the current aberration in the academy may be halted before it is too late.” Several responses appeared in the NYRB (26 Sept. 1991): 74-75.

“Yale Scholar Wrote for Pro-Nazi Newspaper.” The New York Times (1 Dec. 1987, late ed.): B1.

Zuckerman, M.B. “The professoriate of fear.” US News and World Report (29 July 1991): 64.

Self-Image and Spectacle in Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus

[Presented as a conference paper at the XXXII Colloque du Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance (Université de Tours, France, 29 June-8 July 1989), this essay was first published in Spectacle et image dans l'Europe de la Renaissance, ed. André Lascombes (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993), pp. 103-34.]


The spectacle is the existing order's uninterrupted discourse about itself, its laudatory monologue. It is the self-portrait of power in the epoch of its totalitarian management of the conditions of existence.

Guy Debord, La société du spectacle1


Faust. What meanes this shew? speake Mephostophilis.
Meph. Nothing Faustus but to delight thy mind, 
And let thee see what Magicke can performe.

Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (B: 475-77)2



However one interprets Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the lines I have quoted here come at a critical moment in the play. With a resonant blasphemy—Consummatum est—Faustus has signed his pact with Lucifer. But when his own blood appears to form an inscription on the arm from which he has drawn it, he is reduced to a state of dithering terror:

Homo fuge, whither should I flie? 
If unto God hee'le throwe thee downe to hell, 
My sences are deceiv'd, here's nothing writ: 
O yes, I see it plaine, even heere is writ
Homo fuge ... (A: 518-19, B: 467-69)

My purpose in juxtaposing Faustus’s anxious question and Mephostophilis’ blandly reassuring answer about the meaning of “this show” with Guy Debord’s diatribe against the non-stop electronically-mediated spectacle by means of which power is exercised and maintained in our own social order is to highlight a tension, at once ideological and formal in nature, in those tragedies of Christopher Marlowe with which I will be concerned here. For although the spectacle which Debord wished to analyze is very much a phenomenon of the electronic age, Elizabethan England was also, if in a quite different manner, “une société du spectacle”—one in which power legitimized and reproduced itself through progresses, civic processions and pageants,3 through public rites of celebration and of punishment, through an appropriation of the potentially subversive popular forms of carnivalesque festivity4, and finally through such overtly fictive forms as the court masque and the various dramatic genres which flourished on the public stage. But while the public theatre undoubtedly served, on balance, to legitimize constituted authority, its products amounted to something far removed from what Debord naively calls a “laudatory monologue.” Dialogic in its very form, the theatre also became a site of contestation, a public space in which the pageants of authority could be interrogated (“What meanes this shew?”), and in which its discourse could be represented as traversed by contradictions and ambivalence.

By the early seventeenth century the genre of tragedy, as J. W. Lever observed, had become one in which “man’s inborn freedom, his natural state of equality, his right to rebel against tyrants, were canvassed as vital issues.”5 Tragedy participated in what Franco Moretti describes as “the deconsecration of sovereignty”;6 and its challenge to religious orthodoxy, Jonathan Dollimore has argued, “generate[d] other, equally important subversive preoccupations--namely a critique of ideology, the demystification of political and power relations and the decentring of ‘man’.”7 But some two decades earlier, at the moment when this genre was being shaped—in reaction, as the Prologue to the first of Christopher Marlowe’s Two Tragicall Discourses of Mighty Tamburlaine, the Scythian Shepheard would have it, to the “jygging vaines of riming mother wits, / And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay” (lines 1-2)8—a deeply ambiguous subversion of power and authority, both civil and religious, was already being essayed. Marlowe’s 1 and 2 Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus are in a sense totalitarian plays; they are (to borrow Debord’s words) portraits “of power in ... its totalitarian management of the conditions of existence.” But in another sense they give away the show—in the Tamburlaine plays, by exposing the “scenicall strutting,”9 the manipulations of image and spectacle by which a would-be monologic authority constructs and legitimizes itself; and in Doctor Faustus by revealing what the puritan divine Thomas Beard was shortly to call The Theatre of Gods Judgements to be an intolerable edifice.10 In the lines which I have quoted as a second epigraph, Mephostophilis attempts to close down Faustus’s question as to what the demonic spectacle which he has just witnessed means: “Nothing Faustus,” he says, “but to delight thy mind, / And let thee see what Magicke can performe.” As I shall argue, however, Doctor Faustus is not itself a closed spectacle; the question “What meanes this shew?” resonates in the theatre even after the last lines of its epilogue.



My approach here to Marlowe's 1 and 2 Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus will take the form of an exploration of certain aspects of the relation between image and stage spectacle. Twenty years ago Catherine Belsey offered a suggestive analysis of what she punningly called "the subject of tragedy.” My subject is also the subject—or rather, since dramatic spectacle and imagery are alike a matter of the representation and self-presentation of human figures on stage, the construction of an imaged subjectivity. I shall be concerned with three closely-related aspects of the construction of subjectivity in these plays: with the emblematic tableaux which are a prominent feature of the stage-spectacle; with another kind of spectacle which, since it is a matter of verbal imagery, I shall call “virtual”; and with the obsessive self-definitions by which the protagonists contribute to their constitution as subjects within the dramatic spectacle.

These Marlovian subjects invite one to construe them in what I would suggest is a double—perhaps also a duplicitous—manner. They can be understood, in a Coleridgean sense, as active agents in whom the self “becomes a subject by the act of constructing itself objectively to itself”—and at the same time, in Catherine Belsey’s words, as figures “held in place in a specific discourse,” of whom it can be said that “In so far as signifying practice always precedes the individual, is always learned, the subject is a subjected being, an effect of the meanings it seems to possess.”11 As Belsey goes on to say, subjectivity is discursively produced. But the discourse of drama is specular as well as verbal. Subjectivity is also an effect of the dramatist’s specular organizing of the gaze—that of the spectators as well as that of the stage figures, who construct themselves and are constructed through their capacity to hold themselves and others up to inspection, and through their function as spectacle (at once actual and imagined) in the eyes of others. It is thus in large part through the interaction of self-image and of spectacle (both actual and virtual) that the doubleness of which I have spoken becomes evident.

The most obvious point of contact between image and spectacle in these plays is provided by their recurrent emblematic tableaux—“sights of power,” as Tamburlaine calls them,

Wherein as in a mirrour may be seene,
His honor, that consists in sheading blood,
When men presume to manage armes with him. 
(1 Tamb. V. ii, 2256, 2258-60)

Such moments occur also in Doctor Faustus, but as ‘sights’ of what Constance Brown Kuriyama, in a helpful portmanteau coinage, has termed “omnimpotence”12: one thinks, for example, of the magus gazing with horror at the bloody inscription on his own arm; or of the terrifying appearance, in response to his appeal to Christ, of a demonic trinity.

The imagery, here, is actual: we are looking at costumed bodies on a material stage. But on another level, that of poetic imagery, one can speak (misappropriating a term from optics) of “virtual” spectacle—of representations which, for all their vividness, are verbal constructions alone, and are realized as spectacle only in the imagination of the beholder. On this level, it is relevant to observe that the poetic imagery of these plays insistently reflects, not the organic components of the cosmos (where other Elizabethan writers found a reservoir of social and behavioural norms, a structure of natural law and natural morality), so much as its astronomical, elemental, inorganic and daemonic constituents. This imagery thus contributes both to the notorious interpretive reticence and ambivalence of the dramatic spectacle, and also to one’s sense of Marlowe himself as an extremist—as a writer, that is, who in giving voice to the discursive extremes of his era never appears to suggest with any conviction the possibility of a centre which might give them coherence, and in which they might meet and be reconciled.13 Marlowe’s subjects move through a polarized, de-centred world of warring elements, glittering artifacts, and fetichized objects of desire, “heaven and earth the bounds of [their] delight” (Dido, I. i, 31). The intermediate order of organic nature, of normative analogies to organic processes, and of an attendant network of natural law, is in most scenes conspicuously absent.

As Clifford Leech remarked, drawing attention to their constructed rather than mimetic nature, Marlowe’s characters are “sick elementals” on a “rhetorical stage.”14 This hint can be elaborated: Tamburlaine is sick because he is elemental; and Faustus, because of the nature of his confinement “Within the bowels of these Elements, / Where we are tortur’d, and remaine for ever” (B: 511-12). And what Leech called a “rhetorical stage” is another way of talking about that virtual spectacle the interaction of which with actual spectacle contributes largely to the representation of subjectivity in these plays.

I shall be also be concerned here with a related aspect of the linkage between image and spectacle—one which arises out of the protagonists’ own language. Tamburlaine and Faustus (who are themselves central stage images in the plays which bear their names) are represented, and present themselves, in a succession of different attitudes. We witness in both figures a process of rhetorical self-fashioning. But how, and from what elements, do these images construct themselves? A principal clue is provided by their obsessively self-referential language.

Tamburlaine presents himself through third-person self-reference as a talismanic object: his elemental constitution makes him an operator of a kind of ambiguously astrological or daemonic magic for which Marlowe’s principal source, I will suggest, lay in Ficinian interpretations of the Hermetic Asclepius. The constitution of this reified subjectivity is mirrored in the stage images, the “sights of power,” to which Tamburlaine refers.

Faustus, in contrast, may experiment with a Tamburlainean third-person rhetoric. But the habitual, indeed characteristic, mode of speech by which his dramatic identity is constructed is second-person self-address. The initial effect, of a split between the active self who delivers the quasi-Agrippan declamatio invectica of the first scene, and the passive silent self who in some sense stands in need of these persuasions, quickly modulates into something rather different: a Calvinistic trap of self-authenticating predication in which Faustus’s despairing self-definitions (“What art thou Faustus but a man condemn’d to die?” [B: 1546]) are validated by the fact that he cannot cease from making them. The mirror in this case is an internal one, of a kind described by Fulke Greville in one of his Caelica poems as a “fatal mirror of transgression”; and the magic involved is not transitive, but subjective.15 However, the ‘sights of omnimpotence’ in which this predicament is objectified are again directly linked to a rhetorically-produced self-image. Here, as in Tamburlaine, the stage spectacle corresponds to and is produced by the rhetorically-constructed self-image of the protagonist.



An interplay between what I have called actual and virtual spectacle is one of the structural principles of the first part of Tamburlaine the Great. Shortly after his first appearance on stage, Tamburlaine reveals the warrior’s armour which has been concealed beneath his shepherd’s garments:

Lie here ye weedes that I disdaine to weare,
This compleat armor, and this curtle-axe
Are adjuncts more beseeming Tamburlaine.
(I. ii, 237-39)

The emblematic gesture, with its suggestion that Tamburlaine is no more a protector of flocks and herds than his followers are the “silly country Swaines” (243) that they appear to be, is quickly supplemented by Techelles with an explanatory simile which amounts to another, virtual emblem:

As princely Lions when they rouse themselves,
Stretching their pawes, and threatning heardes of Beastes.
So in his Armour looketh Tamburlaine:
Me thinks I see kings kneeling at his feet....

Shortly thereafter, Tamburlaine responds to Zenocrate’s and her attendant lords’ pleas for their release with a speech which, envisioning her in a position of power and authority, attended by a hundred Tartars “Mounted on Steeds, swifter than Pegasus,” and drawn by “milke-white Hartes upon an Ivorie sled” (289-90, 294), obscures the fact of her captivity. But with the arrival of the Persian general Theridamas, Zenocrate is made part of a quite different tableau. Standing beside his three captives (whom one might imagine to have remained in a suppliant posture), and backed by his supporters, Tamburlaine declares: “I hold the Fates bound fast in yron chaines, / And with my hand turn Fortunes wheel about...” (369-70). Zenocrate has for the moment become an image of the forces over which her captor claims mastery. And the treasure looted from her, the “golden wedges” which Tamburlaine has ordered to be laid out so that “their reflexions may amaze the Perseans” (335-36), complements the image of himself as one who enjoys divine favour and protection: “See how [Jove] raines down heaps of gold in showers, / As if he meant to give my Souldiers pay” (377-78).

Tamburlaine’s improvisations, which include a re-interpretation of his initial gesture of self-revelation—

Jove sometime masked in a Shepheards weed,
And by those steps that he hath scal'd the heavens,
May we become immortall like the Gods
(I. ii, 394-96)

—are of course brilliantly successful. The eloquence of a man who, to the Persian court, was no more than a “sturdie Scythian thiefe” (I. i, 44) is now compared by the Persian king's chief captain to that of a god: “Not Hermes Prolocutor to the Gods, / Could use perswasions more patheticall” (I. ii, 405). (Hermes, one may want to recall, was also the patron of thieves.) Tamburlaine’s reply, “Nor are Apollos Oracles more true, / Then thou shalt find my vaunts substantiall” (407-08), is at once another vaunt and an expression of the operative principle of his rhetoric. He substantiates his vaunts, not as yet by deeds, but by supplementing their virtual spectacle with the material spectacle of staged tableaux. Thus the piled-up heaps of Zenocrate’s gold, interpreted as evidence of divine favour, ‘substantiate’ the hyperbolic claim of the immediately preceding lines:

Draw foorth thy sword, thou mighty man at Armes,
Intending but to rase my charmed skin:
And Jove himselfe will stretch his hand from heaven,
To ward the blow, and shield me safe from harme. 
(I. ii, 373-76)

When it comes to deeds, a similar interplay of actual and virtual spectacle is evident. The farcical battlefield scene in which Tamburlaine returns the crown, the emblem of sovereignty, to Mycetes, “the witty King of Persea” (II. iv, 686), but only so that he can wrest it from him again once his victim is properly “hem’d with armed men” (701), becomes a model for his treatment of Mycetes’s brother. Having in the next scene invested Cosroe with the crown of Persia, Tamburlaine is so struck by Menaphon’s exit line—“And ride in triumph through Persepolis”—that he bids Cosroe return “to war with us, / That onely made him King to make us sport” (II. v, 754, 805-06). The imagined spectacle of a triumphant entry into the Persian capital is the hinge which links Tamburlaine’s destruction of two kings, the regal clown Mycetes and the king-for-a-day Cosroe, who is reduced by this repetition of Tamburlaine’s gesture of giving and taking away to the stature of a saturnalian mock-king.

But none of this should be taken to suggest that Marlowe is inviting a moral condemnation of his protagonist. For even if the playwright can be seen as foregrounding the verbal and specular rhetoric by means of which Tamburlaine imposes himself, he is at the same time engaged in a thoroughgoing mystification of authority. This takes the form of a recurrent emphasis upon the subjecting power of the heroic gaze, which exerts a projective power over what it beholds and establishes its possessor as irresistible in a sense at once military and erotic. Mycetes tells Theridamas: “... thy words are swords / And with thy lookes thou conquerest all thy foes” (I. i, 82-83). The first encounter between this Persian hero and Tamburlaine is an erotic duet in which, it would seem, their eye-beams (like those of Donne’s lovers in “The Ecstasy”) become twisted and entwined. Standing face to face, they construct one another through third-person address as heroic objects of desire:

Ther. His looks do menace heaven and dare the Gods,
His fierie eies are fixt upon the earth,
As if he now devis'd some Stratageme:
Or meant to pierce Avernas darksome vaults,
To pull the triple headed dog from hell. 
Tamb. Noble and milde this Persean seems to be....
With what a majesty he rears his looks.... 
(I. ii, 352-57, 360)

Tamburlaine’s “strong enchantments” overcome Theridamas, who is, he confesses, “Won with thy words, & conquered with thy looks” (419, 423).

In the following scene this power of enchantment in one whom Cosroe describes as “the man of fame, / The man that in the forhead of his fortune, / Beares figures of renowne and miracle” (II. i, 456-58), is explained by Menaphon in a bizarre literalizing of his master’s metaphor:

                          ... twixt his manly pitch,
A pearle more worth, then all the world is plaste:
Wherein by curious soveraintie of Art,
Are fixt his piercing instruments of sight:
Whose fiery cyrcles beare encompassed
A heaven of heavenly bodies in their Spheares:
That guides his steps and actions to the throne,
Where honor sits invested royally....
(II. i, 465-72)

These qualities, it would seem, make it possible for Agydas to divine from Tamburlaine’s wrathful eyes, “That shine as Comets, menacing revenge” (III. ii, 1059), the inevitability of his own death—and they enable Tamburlaine, shortly before his own death, to defeat a whole army, “Like Summers vapours, vanisht by the Sun” (2 Tamb. V. iii, 4509), merely by showing his face.



This strange figure whose eyes encompass a kind of celestial microcosm would seem to be in some way related to that microcosmic man whom Giovanni Pico della Mirandola described in his Heptaplus as recapitulating, like the tabernacle of Moses, the entire structure of the cosmos by which he is contained. There are, for Pico, three worlds: the sublunary, the celestial, and the supercelestial—and also “a fourth world in which are found all those things that are in the rest.” As an inverse metonymy of the universe, this fourth world, man, is thus in a position to dominate the order of nature.16

Marlowe appears to be making a defiantly secular appropriation of Pico’s quasi-mystical ideas. But the “soveraintie of Art” which allows Tamburlaine to satisfy his thirst for sovereignty may suggest that the playwright also made use of other closely related materials in constructing this virtual image of his protagonist.

Like other exponents of the Renaissance Hermetic-Cabalistic tradition, Pico was intrigued by the teachings concerning human dignity and spiritual rebirth or deification which recur in the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, among them the Asclepius. 17 The Hermetic Asclepius, however, also alludes to another kind of god-making: Hermes claims that the power and force of man are exemplified by his capacity to fashion animated statues which, endowed with sense and spirit, can perform marvels, predict the future, provoke and cure diseases, and apportion misery and happiness to us according to our desserts.18 These earthly gods, he explains, are made by invoking demons or angels and introducing them by means of sacred and divine rites into statues which already incorporate certain natural virtues; the idols then “have the power to work both good and evil.”19

Pico’s older contemporary Marsilio Ficino (whose Latin translation of other Hermetic texts had prompted a surge of interest in this wholly legendary Egyptian sage), understood the Asclepian statue-making as a species of astrological magic,20 and as being closely related to Hermes’s divinely-inspired teachings about deification. On occasion, indeed, Ficino seems deliberately to be obscuring any distinction between the two forms of god-making—as when, in a commentary on the pseudo-Dionysius’s account of the ascent to God, he describes the divine image in man as a statua Dei.21 Another Italian writer, Ludovico Lazzarelli, was more explicit still in conflating Neoplatonic and Hermetic doctrines of deification with the daemonic statues of Hermes.22

That Marlowe’s representation of Tamburlaine as a daemonic force draws upon notions such as these may be suggested by the remarks of Tamburlaine’s enemies. Meander believes that "Some powers divine, or els infernall, mixt / Their angry seeds at his conception: / For he was never sprong of humaine race" (II. vi, 820-22), and Ortygius is unsure whether he is a "God or Feend, or spirit of the earth, / Or monster turned to a manly shape, / Or of what mould or mettel he be made..." (826-28). 

But Tamburlaine’s trajectory is also determined by his elemental composition. In contrast to Cosroe and his companions, all of whom “have suckt one wholsome aire / And with the same proportion of Elements, / Resolve...” (II. vi, 836-38), Tamburlaine explains himself in terms of elemental strife:

Nature that fram'd us of foure Elements,
Warring within our breasts for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspyring minds....

He is, as Cosroe says, a “fiery thirster after Soveraingtie” (842). Theridamas, drawing upon the same elemental analogy, declares any man “That mooves not upwards, nor by princely deeds / Doth meane to soare above the highest sort” to be "grosse and like the massie earth” (883-84, 882).

The predominance in Tamburlaine of the element of fire accounts both for the “terrour” of “his threatning lookes” (2 Tamb. V. i, 4135), and for his uninterrupted victories and violent tyranny. He himself describes his vermillion siege tents as threatening

              ... more than if the region
Next underneath the Element of fire,
Were full of Commets and of blazing stars,
Whose flaming traines should reach down to the earth.... 

His fiery nature, however, is also the principal cause of his death. Sixteen lines after the end of the speech in which, ordering his men to burn “the Turkish Alcaron, / And all the heapes of supersticious bookes, / Found in the Temples of that Mahomet, / Whom I have thought a God” (4284-87), Tamburlaine challenges Mahomet to take vengeance on him, and tells his soldiers to “Seeke out another Godhead to adore, / The God that sits in heaven, if any God” (4311-12), the Scourge of God feels himself “distempered sudainly” (4329).

Marlowe, the one-time theological student, has prepared the moment carefully. Those in the audience who wish to see blasphemy receive its due punishment are rewarded—if, that is, they are willing to accord divine status to the Prophet of Islam. But this notion of retributive justice is promptly challenged by the purely naturalistic explanation superimposed upon it by Tamburlaine’s doctor:

Your vaines are full of accidentall heat,
Whereby the moisture of your blood is dried,
The Humidum and Calor, which some holde
Is not a parcell of the Elements,
But of a substance more divine and pure,
Is almost cleane extinguished and spent.... 
(2 Tamb. V. ii, 4476-80).

The import of this medical jargon seems clear enough. Amyras laments that heaven has consumed its “choisest living fire” (4644). But the fiery Tamburlaine is, rather, a self-consuming artifact: the immediate cause of his death is the inopportune arrival of Callapine with yet another army, in the specular dispersal of which Tamburlaine exhausts his “martial strength” (4512). Having established himself as a reified subject in large part through his habit of third-person self-reference (“... sooner shall the Sun fall from his Spheare, / Than Tamburlaine be slaine or overcome” [1 Tamb. I. ii, 371-72]), the Scythian objectifies himself again in confessing his own mortality: “... this subject not of force enough, / To hold the fiery spirit it containes, / Must part...” (2 Tamb. V. ii, 4561-62).



One way of explaining the insistent blasphemies of 2 Tamburlaine in particular might be to suggest that Marlowe was deploying a mystification of political tyranny in a kind of displaced subversion of the increasingly evident religious tyranny of the Anglican church.23 But the inexorable rise of the daemonic, elemental protagonist of these plays, culminating in his equally inevitable death, is paralleled by the organization of actual and virtual spectacle in these plays in a manner which may point to a less positive conclusion.

Acts Four and Five of 1 Tamburlaine are largely concerned with the siege of Damascus—and with the representation of a crescendo of degradation and violence. This is organized in terms of the colours white, red, and black—which signify that while on the first day of a siege Tamburlaine will accept a peaceful submission, on the second day surrender will be followed by the slaughter of “any that can manage arms” (IV. i, 1429), and after that by the massacre of the whole population. On the first day (so the messenger says), Tamburlaine wears “on his silver crest / A snowy Feather spangled white ... / To signify the mildnesse of his minde” (1422-24). In this mood, with a speech that moves from hubris to bloody-mindedness (“Now cleare the triple region of the aire, / And let the majestie of heaven beholde / Their Scourge and Terrour treade on Emperours. / .... / Then when the Sky shal waxe as red as blood, / It shall be said, I made it red my selfe” [IV. ii, 1474-76, 1497-98]), Tamburlaine steps over Bajazeth, his footstool, onto his throne.

He appears next, dressed “al in scarlet” (IV. iv, s. d.), in a banquet scene which begins with bloody threats against the defenders of Damascus and devolves into an exchange of cannibalistic taunts and furious counter-curses with the caged and starving Bajazeth and Zabina. Bajazeth tells Tamburlaine he “could willingly feed upon thy blood-raw hart” (IV. iv, 1649-50); he is invited to pluck out his own (“twill serve thee and thy wife” [1652]), to eat scraps from Tamburlaine’s sword point, and to carve up his wife before she falls “into a consumption with freatting, and then she will not bee woorth the eating” (1688-90). “How now Zenocrate,” Tamburlaine asks his own consort, “dooth not the Turke and his wife make a goodly showe at a banquet?” (1696-97). Observing her response to be less than animated, he offers music to cheer her up—“If thou wilt have a song, the Turke shall straine his voice” (1702-03)—but promptly dismisses her request that he show mercy to her native land and to her father’s city.

This sequence comes to a climax in a scene which begins with another refusal of mercy. Tamburlaine, now “all in blacke, and very melancholy” (V. ii, s. d.), responds to the belated but very eloquent pleadings of the first of the virgins of Damascus with a sadistic lesson in the workings of virtual spectacle:

Tam. Behold my sword, what see you at the point? 
Virg. Nothing but feare and fatall steele my Lord. 
Tam. Your fearfull minds are thicke and mistie then,
For there sits Death, there sits imperious Death,
Keeping his circuit by the slicing edge.
(V. ii, 1889-93)

Virtual spectacle, however, is as subject to the rhetorician’s whim as defenceless women are to the mass-murderer’s. Having commanded the virgins to visualize “imperious Death” seated on his sword-tip, Tamburlaine at once declares that

... I am pleasde you shall not see him there,
He now is seated on my horsemens speares:
And on their points his fleshlesse bodie feedes.

As his monstrous play with words makes clear, the fleshless body of this virtual image is about to substantiate itself in a phallic violation of the virgins’ flesh:

Techelles, straight goe charge a few of them
To chardge these Dames, and shew my servant death,
Sitting in scarlet on their armed speares.

They will ‘see’ Death feeding on the blazon of their own blood.

With Zenocrate’s semblables reduced to “slaughtered carcases” (1912) and hoisted up onto the city walls, their murderer launches into an impassioned apostrophe—inspired by the dishevelled beauty of his beloved herself, who “like to Flora in her mornings pride, / Shaking her silver treshes in the aire, / Rain’st on the earth resolved pearle in showers” (1921-23). He declares that Zenocrate’s sorrows, though caused of course by his own refusal to call off the assault, “lay more siege unto my soule, / Than all my Army to Damascus walles” (1936-37). A dehumanizing aestheticism permits the roles of victor and victim to be reversed: “What is beauty saith my sufferings then?” (1941; emphasis added). “Ask the ‘slaughtered carcases’ of Damascus,” would be one possible reply.

It could be said with some confidence that most contemporary spectators and readers of the play would react in a similar manner to the violent excesses of this sequence. But the rhetorical function of Tamburlaine’s soliloquy appears to be to complicate, if not altogether to block, such a response. “If all the pens that ever poets held, / Had fed the feeling of their maisters thoughts, / And every sweetnes that inspir’d their harts...” (1942-44): Tamburlaine is in full flight. Are we likely to perceive this second use of a metaphor of feeding as tainted by the first (which precedes it by less than fifty lines), or by the Scythian’s cannibalistic taunts at his banquet? And if our answer to this or similar questions about the inversions worked by the aestheticism of Tamburlaine’s long soliloquy is an affirmative one, is that because the play-text offers us a position from which to resist the daemonic violence of his specular and spoken rhetoric, or is it rather because we feel sufficiently alienated from this play to want to read it against the grain? In the latter case, is that alienation an effect of the text, or an effect rather of our historical distance from it?

I suspect that such matters as these are not capable of being securely resolved. And yet the play-text may contain a clue as to the anticipated response. The nearest approach to a critical perspective upon Tamburlaine’s doings in this scene is provided by Zenocrate. But although she reacts with horror to the accumulation of “bloody spectacle[s]” (2121), she is also drawn into complicity with the man who is responsible for them. Tamburlaine’s “sights of power,” the corpses of his victims, “grace [his] victory” (2256); so also, in a different manner, does Zenocrate, who “consent[s] to satisfy” (2281) his wishes, and is crowned by him at the end of the scene. It is arguable that this sequence (like the similarly constructed sequence of the siege of Babylon and the conqueror’s fatal illness in 2 Tamburlaine) is designed to draw the audience into a similar attitude of complicity. Is Marlowe then exposing barbarism or participating in it? The lapidary ironies of Hero and Leander reveal him as the most exaggeratedly civilized of the Elizabethan poets; does the aestheticized savagery of the Tamburlaine plays make him also the most grotesquely sadistic writer of his age?



Doctor Faustus offers, in certain respects, a reversal of these patterns. This play is masochistic rather than sadistic; its protagonist a victim rather than a tyrant. Tamburlaine, I have argued, constructs himself through an interplay of actual and virtual spectacle in which he is made to appear, both by self-referential language and by quasi-choric commentary, as an irresistible force, at once elemental and daemonic. Faustus, in contrast, speaks not so much of himself as to himself, and the actual and emblematic spectacle in Doctor Faustus creates a recurrent impression of passivity, of a subject enclosed and penetrated by the discourse of the Other. Faustus is a passive spectator of the pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins and of the other daemonic images, Alexander the Great and Helen of Troy, summoned up by Mephostophilis. He is, moreover, visually framed by the Good and Evil Angels, whose words come to him as though from within. In the first scene of the play, the persuasions of the Evil Angel—“Go forward Faustus in that famous art, / Wherein all natures treasury is containd: / Be thou on earth as Jove is in the skie” (A: 106-08)—are of the same order as those which Faustus has already directed at himself, and the same might be said of the Good Angel’s exhortations five scenes later.

On the level of virtual spectacle, similar effects are evident, for unlike the linear and projective imagery of the Tamburlaine plays, that of Doctor Faustus is insistently reflexive and circular. As Mephostophilis reminds his questioner, “this centricke earth” (B: 606) is enclosed by larger structures:

As are the elements, such are the heavens,
Even from the Moone unto the Emp[y]riall Orbe,
Mutually folded in each others Spheares,
And jo[i]ntly move upon one Axle-tree....
(B: 607-10)

Faustus’s visits to the papal and imperial courts are preceded by an ascent into this structure:

From the bright circle of the horned Moone,
Even to the height of Primum Mobile:
And whirling round with this circumference,
Within the concave compasse of the Pole,
From East to West his Dragons swiftly glide....
(B: 785-89)

Another kind of circularity subsequently becomes apparent: Faustus feels a need to return to his own starting-point, for

the restlesse course that time
doth runne with calme and silent foote,
Shortning my dayes and thread of vitall life,
Calls for the payment of my latest yeares,
Therefore sweet Mephastophilis, let us make haste to Wertenberge.
(A: 1134-39)

Having completed the circuit of his travels, and that of his twenty-four years, Faustus strives in his last hour to arrest the “ever mooving spheres of heaven” (A: 1453). But he is compelled to admit that “The starres moove stil, time runs, the clocke wil strike, / The divel wil come, and Faustus must be damnd” (A: 1460-61).

It is, however, most distinctly through his habit of self-address that Faustus creates an image of himself as a doomed man. Like Tamburlaine, he regularly has his own name on his tongue. But the Tamburlainean third person, by which the Scythian hero reifies himself as an invincible talismanic object, is alien to Faustus. His initial efforts in this mode may indeed seem promising (although one notices that he works himself up to the third person through a preliminary self-address):

Is to dispute well Logickes chiefest end?
Affoords this Art no greater miracle?
Then read no more, thou hast attain'd that end;
A greater subject fitteth Faustus wit.
(B: 37-40)

But when the proud display of his declaration to Mephostophilis—“Learne thou of Faustus manly fortitude, / And scorne those joyes thou never shalt possesse” (A: 330-31)—is promptly followed by an offer to surrender his soul to Lucifer, the absurdity of this stance becomes evident. A Tamburlainean rhetoric is clearly incompatible with the predicament of one of whom we were told, before ever clapping eyes on him, that “His waxen wings did mount above his reach, / And melting heavens conspirde his overthrow” (A: 22-23).

Indeed, in contrast to Tamburlaine’s self-assurance, which is solidly connected to the elemental constitution that makes his vaunts substantial, Faustus’s first soliloquy exposes a subtle division between the speaking voice and the mute self which it so confidently addresses: this rhetoric conveys the compound image of a man who is at once the active, wilful subject addressing himself with such energy, and the passive subject who in some manner stands in need of these brash persuasions. As I have argued elsewhere, this first scene, in which Faustus fulfils the intention announced in his opening lines, of “level[ling] at the end of every Art” (A: 34), also manages to suggest that he is simultaneously moving towards another externally determined end—that of the Calvinist reprobate.24 The language with which he tempts himself is also, it would appear, the language of a daemonic Other.

Faustus’s habitual, his characteristic mode of speech is apostrophic self-address: “Settle thy studies Faustus...” (A: 31); “Now Faustus must thou needes be damnd...” (A: 438); “what art thou Faustus but a man condemnd to die?” (A: 1169); “Accursed Faustus, where is mercie now?” (A: 1329); “Ah Faustus, / Now hast thou but one bare hower to live, / And then thou must be damnd perpetually...” (A: 1450-52). This mode of self-address is, very largely, what constitutes his dramatic identity—and it does so in terms of an introjection of eschatological awareness, an increasingly powerful recognition of what is in store for him. At the same time as they enact a split between a perverse wilfulness and a strangely passive selfhood, his self-reflections also construct a trap of self-authenticating predication. The despairing self-definitions of Faustus would cease to be true if he could only cease from making them; but conversely, he could only cease from making them if they were not true—or rather, if he were not constituted as a subject by this very pattern of apostrophic self-address.

This rhetorical pattern is the precise equivalent of Greville’s “fatal mirror of transgression”: the tormented daemonic self-image which this internal mirror offers “bears the faithless down to desperation.”25 Faustus’s rhetoric, moreover, produces a kind of vertigo: he is pulled towards eternal torment by terror and disgust, as well as by delight—by the seven deadly sins, as well as by Helen of Troy. An eschatological awareness burns up through even his most fevered attempt at forgetfulness: Helen’s “sweet imbracings” are to “extinguish cleane” (A: 1352) the motions of penitence and despair that have wracked him, but the very language of the escapist fantasy which he constructs around her expresses through its inversion of gender and of subjection his actual relation to this spirit: “Brighter art thou then flaming Jupiter, / when he appeard to haplesse Semele...” (A: 1372-73).

Another more powerful inversion may suggest that the subject constructed in the first part of the play is, in its last scene, being taken apart before our eyes. Faustus in his first soliloquy aspired to beget in himself the powers of a god: “A sound Magician is a mighty god: / Here tire my braines to get a Deity” (A: 92, B: 89). He is alluding to that deification or rebirth which so interested Renaissance magi like Ficino, Pico, and Agrippa.26 But in his last speech, in what sounds like a kind of prayer, he cries:

You starres that raignd at my nativitie,
whose influence hath alotted death and hel,
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist,
Into the intrailes of yon labring cloude,
That when you vomit foorth into the ayre,
My limbes may issue from your smoaky mouthes,
So that my soule may but ascend to heaven....
(A: 1474-79)

He is reduced to an abject attempt to surrender his bodily integrity in a disgusting reversal of birth; having once aspired to “rend the cloudes” (A: 89), he now begs for physical dissolution in their entrails.



I have suggested that Marlowe’s 1 and 2 Tamburlaine leave contemporary audiences and readers no secure way of determining whether our recoil from the protagonist is a response intended by the dramatist or merely an effect of our historical distance from him. Doctor Faustus presents an analogous problem: is this play, as Leo Kirschbaum insisted, “wholly conventional in its Christian values and ... in no sense iconoclastic,” or is it rather, as Jonathan Dollimore argues, subversive and radically interrogative?27

It would be most interesting to know, in the case of Tamburlaine, what exactly were those “fond and frivolous Jestures, digressing (and in my poore opinion) far unmeet for the matter,” which the publisher Richard Jones excised from the text, lest they “proove a great disgrace to so honorable & stately a historie....” One might surmise that, like the Calyphas episode in 2 Tamburlaine IV. i, these passages would have undermined the totalitarian fantasy which the ‘honourable and stately’ text we possess seems, for the most part, to legitimize. (There may, that is to say, be a connection between Jones’s apparent approval of “the Scythian Shepheard ... that became so great a Conqueror, and so mightie a Monarque,” and his distinction between the “matter of worth” which contributed to this image of Tamburlaine and the “graced deformities” which—at the very least—must have deflected the audience’s attention in other directions.)28

In the case of Doctor Faustus, however, such speculations are unnecessary: an analysis of its textual history makes it possible to understand both this play’s subversive qualities and the manner in which these were suppressed by early seventeenth-century revisers and by mid-twentieth-century textual critics. To state the matter as briefly as possible: Marlowe’s play reverses the crushingly homiletic orientation of its principal source, The Historie of the damnable life, and deserved death of Doctor John Faustus (c. 1592)—not indeed by glorifying Faustus, whose pretensions are undermined through a sequence of mordant ironies, but rather by insistently implying that his wilfulness has itself been willed by higher powers.29 The intimate manner in which the protagonist’s damnation is unfolded makes a detached judgment of him difficult, and the absence of that moralistic authorial condemnation which in the prose Historie and its German original had masked the issue of predestination puts into question the nature of the divine power whose interventions shape the action.30 This play proved disturbing: the revision to which the text was subjected in 1602 turned it back, with a massive injection of grotesqueries and of moralistic commentary, towards the homiletic shape of the Faustbooks; and either at that point or in 1606, after the Act of Abuses outlawed blasphemy on stage, the theological harshness of the play was blunted by further revisions.31 Mid-twentieth-century textual critics, however, led by Leo Kirschbaum and Sir Walter Greg, and motivated more by their commitment to a distinctly twentieth-century liberal Christianity than by the textual evidence, argued that the resulting form of the play was very close to the Marlovian original—which was thus not so much a tragedy as an orthodox morality play, a Renaissance Everyman.32

A properly contextualized reconstruction of the textual history of Doctor Faustus can help to restore a sense of the continuities which exist—alongside all the differences—between this play and 1 and 2 Tamburlaine. The most basic of these resides in the playwright’s apparent determination to controvert, to subvert, or at the very least to expose the tyrannical workings of that divine sovereignty which was so central a feature of the Calvinist orthodoxy of Elizabethan England. Whatever we make of their political orientation, it is clear that 1 and 2 Tamburlaine put into circulation a radically anti-theistic discourse:

Come let us march against the powers of heaven,
And set black streamers in the firmament,
To signifie the slaughter of the Gods.
(2 Tamb. V. iii, 4440-42)

T. S. Eliot described the remodelling of this virtual image in Faustus’s last soliloquy as a “triumphant success”33:

O Ile leape up to my God: who pulles me downe?
See see where Christs blood streames in the firmament,
One drop would save my soule, halfe a drop, ah my Christ,
Ah rend not my heart for naming of my Christ,
Yet wil I call on him, oh spare me Lucifer!
Where is it now? tis gone....
(A: 1462-67)

One wonders whether Eliot appreciated the extent to which this agonized vision, and Doctor Faustus as a whole, challenges the kind of religious orthodoxy for which he himself became a spokesman.

Another kind of continuity resides in the manner in which, in Doctor Faustus as in Tamburlaine, Marlowe manipulates the reponses of his audience. I take just one example: the concluding chorus, which most critics have understood as imposing an orthodox closure upon the play. But listen to these lines:

Cut is the branch that might have growne ful straight,
And burned is Apolloes Laurel bough,
That sometime grew within this learned man:
Faustus is gone, regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise,
Onely to wonder at unlawful things,
whose deepenesse doth intise such forward wits,
To practise more than heavenly power permits.
(A: 1510-17)

The last four lines consist of two syntactically parallel clauses. What is there here to prevent a first-time listener from attaching the second of these clauses to the same grammatical subject as the first (to Faustus, that is, rather than to “things”)? The result would be a momentary misconstrual of the retrospectively available sense of this passage which may seem scarcely possible to anyone who already knows the text. But a listener who, on first acquaintance with this forked path, takes the wrong choice in construing it and finds herself in a cul-de-sac, can only correct her error by recognizing that “such forward wits” are not to be identified with “the wise.” To conflate the two, even momentarily, is to find oneself stumbling between the two stances which these lines emphatically separate—between a dangerous empathy, scarcely avoidable after Faustus’s last speech, with one forward wit, and the negation of that empathy in a complacent self-identification as one of the wise. But the contagious possibility of such a conflation is built into the syntax of these closing lines. As a deliberate trap, one wonders, or an accident of syntax?

To conclude my own text, I repeat Faustus’s question: “What meanes this shew”? It means, mon semblable, hypocrite auditeur, that we are being manipulated by a master of dramatic spectacle and poetic imagery. But to what extent we are being invited to challenge a theological and political totalitarianism, and to what extent we are being manoeuvred into complicity with it, Marlowe leaves for us to decide.




1  Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Exeter: Rebel Press, 1987), section 24.

2  My quotations from Doctor Faustus are from Marlowe's “Doctor Faustus” 1604-1616: Parallel Texts, ed. W. W. Greg (1950; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968). They are identified by the text from which they are drawn (A refers to the edition of 1604 and its reprints in 1609 and 1611, B to the substantially revised edition of 1616), and by their line numbers in Greg's parallel-text edition. For a statement of the principles governing my use of the A and B texts, and for analyses of the relative authenticity of the two versions of the play, see my articles “Verbal Magic and the Problem of the A and B Texts of Doctor Faustus,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 82 (1983): 324-46, and “History and the Canon: The Case of Doctor Faustus,” University of Toronto Quarterly 56.4 (1987): 498-522, esp. 505-15, and my edition of the play: Christopher Marlowe's “Doctor Faustus”: A 1604-version edition (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1991), xi-xxii, lv-lxix. In all of my quotations from Renaissance texts, u/v and i/j have been silently altered to conform with modern usage.

3  Louis Adrian Montrose remarks that “Popular and liturgical ceremonial forms were appropriated by the secular authorities; they were transformed into exclusive celebrations of the monarchy or the urban elite. Such ceremonies of power and authority are epitomized by the Queen's occasional summer progresses outside the capital and her annual Accession Day fêtes at Westminster; and by the annual procession and pageant for the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London” (“The Purpose of Playing: Reflections on a Shakespearean Anthropology,” Helios 5.7 [1980]: 59).

4  See Peter Stallybrass, “'Wee feaste in our Defense:' Patrician Carnival in Early Modern England and Robert Herrick's 'Hesperides',” English Literary Renaissance 16.1 (Winter 1986): 234-52.

5  J. W. Lever, The Tragedy of State: A Study of Jacobean Drama, intro. by Jonathan Dollimore (2nd ed.; London and New York: Methuen, 1987), p. xix.

6  See Franco Moretti, “The Great Eclipse: Tragic Form as the Deconsecration of Sovereignty,” in his Signs Taken for Wonders: Essays in the Sociology of Literary Forms, trans. Susan Fischer, David Forgacs and David Miller (Revised ed.; London and New York: Verso, 1988), pp. 42-82.

7  Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Brighton and Chicago: Harvester and Univ. of Chicago Press, 1984), p. 4.

8  My quotations from Marlowe's plays, with the exception of Doctor Faustus, are taken from The Works of Christopher Marlowe, ed. C. F. Tucker Brooke (1910; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941), and are identified by act, scene, and line numbers. (Tucker Brooke's lineation is continuous throughout 1 and 2 Tamburlaine, and elsewhere throughout each play.)

9  The words are Ben Jonson's, from his Discoveries : see Discoveries (1641), Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden (1619), ed. G. B. Harrison (London: Bodley Head, 1923), p. 33.

10  Orthodoxy has its revenges: Marlowe himself appeared as an exhibit in Beard's The Theatre of Gods Judgements (1597). After recounting Marlowe's death in an attempt “to stab one whome hee ought a grudge unto,” Beard adds: “The manner of his death being so terrible (for hee even cursed and blasphemed to his last gaspe, and togither with his breath an oath flew out of his mouth) that it was not only a manifest signe of Gods judgement, but also an horrible and fearefull terrour to all that beheld him” (qtd. from Marlowe: The Critical Heritage 1588-1896, ed. Millar Maclure [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979], p. 42).

11  Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. George Watson (1956; rpt. London: Dent, 1971), ch. xii, p. 152; Catherine Belsey, The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama (London and New York: Methuen, 1985), p. 5.

12  Constance Brown Kuriyama, Hammer or Anvil: Psychological Patterns in Christopher Marlowe's Plays (New Bunswick, N. J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 95, 110.

13  Wilbur Sanders, in The Dramatist and the Received Idea: Studies in the Plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), criticized Marlowe for lacking “a firmly-grounded centre of consciousness from which to conduct his exploration of human life” (pp. 139-40)—a remark which ignores the possibility that Marlowe's writings may have been deliberately anti-foundationalist and de-centred. The study which most adequately explores this possibility is Simon Shepherd's Marlowe and the Politics of Elizabethan Theatre (Brighton: Harvester, 1986).

14  Clifford Leech, Christopher Marlowe: Poet for the Stage, ed. Anne Lancashire (New York: AMS Press, 1986), p. 214.

15  See Caelica, XCIX, in Selected Writings of Fulke Greville, ed. Joan Rees (London: Athlone Press, 1973), p. 44.

16  Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Heptaplus, in Cesare Vasoli, ed., Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Gian Francesco Pico, Opera omnia (2 vols.; 1557-1573; facsimile rpt. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1969), vol. 1, sig. A4v: “Est autem praeter tres quos narravimus quartus alius mundus in quo & ea omnia inveniantur quae sunt in reliquis, hic ipse est homo....” I have studied certain implications of this notion of man as an inverse metonymy of the universe in “The World Turned Inside Out: Revolutions of the Infinite Sphere from Hermes to Pascal,” Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme 21 (1988): 303-13.

17  The importance of Pico's debt to this text can be quickly demonstrated. At the outset of his famous Oration on the Dignity of Man, he proclaims the marvellous nature of mankind, and quotes from Asclepius 6. (See Pico, De hominis dignitate, Heptaplus, De ente et uno, ed. Eugenio Garin [Florence: Vallecchi, 1942], p. 102; and Corpus Hermeticum, ed. A. D. Nock, trans. A. J. Festugière [4 vols.; 2nd ed.; Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1960], pp. 301-02.) But Pico then asks why we should not admire the angels and the blessed choirs of heaven more than man. He answers this question with his famous re-telling of the story of the creation, in which he identifies man's divinely-accorded indeterminacy, his capacity for self-fashioning and deification, as the basis of his dignity. But this is little more than an expansion of the well-known passage (Asclepius 5-6) from which he had quoted at the outset. Pico's handling of the matter is thus duplicitous: he undoubtedly knew that the answer to the problem posed for him by Hermes's celebration of human dignity is provided by Hermes himself. But the manoeuvre allows him to put Hermes's words (or something very like them) into the mouth of God himself.

18  Asclepius 23-24; Corpus Hermeticum vol. 2, pp. 325-26: “Species vero deorum, quas conformat humanitas, ex utraque natura conformatae sunt; ex divina, quae est purior multoque divinior, et ex ea, quae intra homines est, id est ex materia, qua fuerint fabricatae.... —Statuas dicis, o Trismegiste? —Statuas, o Asclepi. Videsne, quatenus tu ipse diffidas? statuas animatas sensu et spiritu plenas tantaque facientes et talia, statuas futurorum praescias eaque sorte, vate, somniis multisque aliis rebus praedicentes, inbecillitates hominibus facientes easque curantes, tristitiam laetitiamque pro meritis.”

19  Asclepius 37, Corpus Hermeticum vol. 2, p. 347: “... proavi nostri ... invenerunt artem qua efficerent deos. Cui inventae adiunxerunt virtutem de mundi natura convenientem eamque miscentes, quoniam animas facere non poterant, evocantes animas daemonum vel angelorum eas indiderunt imaginibus sanctis divinisque mysteriis, per quas idola et bene faciendi et male vires habere potuissent.”

20  Ficino derived authority from this statue-magic for the idea that, just as aerial demons can be attracted into statues, so also stellar influences and spirits can be drawn into material forms (see Ficino, De triplici vita [In agro Caregio, 1489], sig. h7v, r1r-v). Brian Copenhaver remarks that he allowed the Asclepian statue-magic to colour his interpretation of Plotinus's metaphysics (see Copenhaver, “Astrology and Magic,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Charles B. Schmitt, Quentin Skinner et al. [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988], pp. 275-79).

21  Ficino, Opera omnia (2 vols.; Paris, 1641), Comm. in orationem Dionysii de Trinitate, vol. 2, p. 7: “Si fecit Deus hominem ad imaginem suam, certe est in homine statua Dei, quamvis aditamentis abscondita.”

22  A conflation of this kind is evident in Ludovico Lazzarelli’s Calix Christi et Crater Hermetis, which was printed by Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples in his edition of the Hermetic Pimander and Asclepius (Paris, 1505). For an account of Lazzarelli’s conflation of these two forms of god-making into a Hermetic-Christian mystery of spiritual rebirth, see D. P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella (1958; rpt. Notre Dame: Notre Dame Univ. Press, 1975), pp. 67-71.

23  Archbishop Whitgift had since 1583 been enforcing uniformity within the Anglican church. John Penry, brought before the Court of High Commission as a dissenter in 1588, was, he wrote in his Appellation (1589), “threatned very bloodily” and told by Whitgift that “ere you depart the court we will finde sufficient matter to emprison you, and if you refuse the oath, to prison you shall goe” (Albert Peel, ed., The Notebook of John Penry 1593 [London: Royal Historical Society, 1944], “Introduction,” p. xiii). Rearrested in March, 1593, Penry was hanged on May 29. (It may be no more than coincidence that Christopher Marlowe appeared before the Privy Council on May 20, four days before Penry's condemnation, and that he was killed on May 30.)

24  See my article “Misreading Faustus Misreading: The Question of Context,” The Dalhousie Review 65.4 (Winter 1985-86), 511-33. In the following three paragraphs I am combining material first sketched out in this article (p. 515), in “History and the Canon,” 513-14, and in “Right Eye and Left Heel: Ideological Origins of the Legend of Faustus,” Mosaic 22.2 (Spring 1989), 82.

25  I am quoting from the first ten lines of Caelica XCIX, in Greville, pp. 43-44:

Down in the depth of mine iniquity,
That ugly centre of infernal spirits
Where each sin feels her own deformity
In these peculiar torments she inherits,
Deprived of human graces and divine,
Even there appears this saving God of mine.

And in this fatal mirror of transgression
Shows man, as fruit of his degeneration,
The error's ugly infinite impression,
Which bears the faithless down to desperation....

26  On this subject, see my article “Agrippa’s Dilemma: Hermetic ‘Rebirth’ and the Ambivalences of De vanitate and De occulta philosophia,” Renaissance Quarterly 41 (1988), 614-53.

27  Leo Kirschbaum, ed., The Plays of Christopher Marlowe (Cleveland and New York: Meridian Books, 1962), “Introduction,” p. 102; Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy, pp. 109-19.

28  Works, ed. Tucker Brooke, p. 7. It is of course possible that the material Jones cut was not part of what Marlowe wrote, but rather gags interpolated by the actors. But even if this were so, it would remain the case that the plays which London audiences knew in the late 1580s contained a comic counterweight to tyranny that is lacking in the published text. Which, in this instance, would be the ‘original’ text: the one which audiences had seen acted, or the one ‘restored’ by Richard Jones’s editorial attentions? The arguments of Jerome McGann in A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1983), ch. 3, are relevant here.

29  See Paul R. Sellin, “The Hidden God: Reformation Awe in Renaissance English Literature,” in Robert S. Kinsman, ed., The Darker Vision of the Renaissance (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1974), pp. 147-96, esp. 177-86; Robert G. Hunter, Shakespeare and the Mystery of God's Judgements (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1976), pp. 39-66; Martha Tuck Rozett, The Doctrine of Election and the Emergence of Elizabethan Tragedy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1984), pp. 209-46.

30  See my analysis of the Good Angel’s lines in “Misreading,” 520-21.

31  This narrative is based upon the following considerations. We possess two distinct substantive texts of the play, first printed in 1604 and 1616 respectively. The 1616 text incorporates the revisions for which the theatrical entrepreneur Henslowe paid in 1602; see Fredson Bowers, “Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus: The 1602 Additions,” Studies in Bibliography 26 (1973), 1-18; Constance Brown Kuriyama, “Dr. Greg and Doctor Faustus : The Supposed Originality of the 1616 Text,” English Literary Renaissance 5 (1975), 171-97; and my article “Verbal Magic.” When the revised text became available, the actors presumably discarded the text they had previously been using, which would thus have become available for printing: this would explain the entry in the Stationers’ Register in 1602, and the edition of 1604. (Only a single copy of this edition survives; there may have been an earlier edition of the same text in 1602 or 1603.) The evidence for the ideological orientation of what are probably further (post-1606) revisions is discussed in my edition of Doctor Faustus, pp. xlv-lxix.

32  The work of Greg, in particular, is analyzed in the articles cited in note 31; see also Michael J. Warren, “Doctor Faustus: The Old Man and the Text,” English Literary Renaissance 11 (1981), 111-47.

33  T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays (3rd ed., 1951; rpt. London: Faber and Faber, 1976), p. 122.