A Modest Proposal

Norah Vincent, in her new Higher Ed column [" Hop on Pop," February 8], sneers that the contributors to Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book About Everything and Nothing are "mostly third-rate philosophers from mostly substandard institutions." Might I ask what qualifies Vincent to make such a damning judgment?

Vincent asserts that "just as Milton doesn't belong in the rave scene, sitcoms don't belong in the canon or the classroom." If only the divide between highbrow and lowbrow were so clean. Many of the Great Books that Vincent presumably would prefer university students to study were popular entertainment in their day. The Odyssey was sung aloud at public gatherings of common folks, and Jonathan Swift's satires often appeared in newspapers. In short, just because something is popular doesn't make it unworthy of study.

That Vincent's so eager to condemn and make crude generalizations raises considerable questions as to her competence to write a column on academia.

Kevin R. Kosar
Ph.D. Candidate in Politics
New York University

Comic Notion

Norah Vincent convincingly suggests the troubles of some strands of research and teaching about popular culture. Admittedly, the notion of Seinfeld as Socratic seems somehow less than enlightened, and the funding of the University of Southern California's new pop entertainment program by TV industry folk leads one to doubt how truly independent the studies of its faculty and students will be.

However, when asserting that "low culture is infiltrating the scholarly world," Vincent telegraphs an ugly case of elitism.

Why should the amusements of the working and middle classes be any less worthy of scholarly inquiry than the favored entertainments of the wealthy? While the "low" texts themselves may appear more simple and less sophisticated than those of "high" culture, the uses to which they are put by those who appreciate them are complex and intriguing. Many of us who do write and teach about popular culture prefer to negotiate these complexities, rather than blindly celebrating all that is popular or contemptuously dismissing it, as Vincent unfortunately has chosen to do.

Katie LeBesco, Assistant Professor
Communication Arts
Marymount Manhattan College

Pop it in the mail

Norah Vincent's column about popular culture in the classroom was right on. I'm going to mail it to the professor who taught a class I was unfortunate enough to take by the name of, what else, "Popular Culture." To hell with that mush.

James Carrick
Portland, Oregon

Rock On

Norah Vincent's column in last week's issue was the best piece of writing I've read in 10 years in the Voice. You guys are almost as bad as TV in dispensing the pap that passes for left-wing "comment." Most arguments (or positions) in your newspaper are neither made nor proven but asserted, usually hysterically. Please have your staffers read Vincent.

By the way, I also loved Nat Hentoff's column on John Rocker. I can't believe it! Two great pieces in one issue of the Voice.

Shelley Hartman
Bedford, Massachusetts

Shrinking World

Bravo, Nat Hentoff [" It's Not Only John Rocker," February 8]. It seems as if Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball—and sadly a lot of New Yorkers—are perfectly willing to join Bubba Clinton in the serial violation of the Constitution.

Rocker's comments were, without a doubt, despicable, unwarranted, and definitely stupid. But they were his opinions, and he had the right to speak them, whether or not people liked what he had to say.

Tim Mocarski
Racine, Wisconsin


Thank you for the article " Dread Locked" by Joel McQueen [February 1], about Kenneth Dickens's troubles, as a result of his hairstyle, with his employer, Federal Express.

I am a dreadlocked professional employed by a nonprofit in New York City. You would think that after a century of struggle and protest, a simple matter such as how one wears one's hair would not be a reflection of how a person performs a job, or whether that person should continue to hold a job at a mainstream corporation. FedEx should be ashamed of itself—and, in this regard, it should be clear that most companies that tout their "diversity" are still in the Stone Age.

There are many of us who grow our locks in order to accept ourselves, to acknowledge the fact that we do love ourselves and the nappy texture of our hair, despite all that institutional slavery has tried to strip from usas a people.

Clearly, this is discrimination. And the word will get out in the community regarding this practice, and it will hurt the business of FedEx. Simply put, a lot of us who use the service will not put our dollars where we cannot be free.

Franklin Madison
Jersey City, New Jersey

Locked Out

In response to Joel McQueen's article "Dread Locked," I should like to express my condemnation of Federal Express's totalitarian employee policies.

The dilemma faced by former FedEx senior service agent Kenneth Dickens is emblematic of a larger problem: corporate America has far too much influence on societal and cultural norms. A corporation should not have the right to discriminate on the basis of physical appearance.

I find FedEx's actions thoroughly appalling, and I applaud Mr. Dickens's decision to file with the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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