Bennington College

Letter from Reginald "Doc" Cook to Peter Stanlis

Show simple item record Cook, Reginald "Doc" 2018-04-03T12:36:08Z 2018-04-03T12:36:08Z 1942-11-21
dc.description.abstract November 21, 1942 Dear Peter Your letter was an exhilarating one. Not all the boys I’ve talked with have had the success you have had with the Army. It’s the old story, the person who has the stuff receives the [...] commensurate with his capacities. It does seem odd for a person who did not appear to be technically-minded to fund himself in a very highly technical capacity. Apparently you are well-rounded and all I can say is more and more power to you. Anytime the literary man can show how practical he is, he better show it - even to an extreme. It give the old [...] a well-deserved revision. How often we hear about those who can, do, and those that can’t, teach! Emerson used to remark “I like people who can do things.” In explanation of his position he told anecdote (on himself) about how his son Edward and he tried vainly to drag the big calf into the Emerson barn. It refused to budge and it looked like a defeat for “the comic yankee,” when along came the Irish girl who put her finger in the calf’s mouth and let it directly into the barn. I don’t know how much of the regimentation you as a member of the Air Corps have to endure. But today an old student dropped in to say that he was getting plenty of it as a radio technician at Fort Monmouth. Before entering the service he was a devotee of democracy; now he is slightly disillusioned. The caste system [affects] him; so too does the ignorance of some of his fellow soldiers. As a connection, he reasoned logically that the only solution was more and more education. He has been in the service since August, and, in 14 weeks, the army has transformed him from a student of liberal thought to a technically-minded person. This interests me very much. Just stop and think of the multiple transformations which are taking place. Your own transformation, for example. However you bring a broad perspective to your experience and you bring a favorable point-of-view. You look forward towards collectivism. Undoubtedly what is happening in the Army is happening purposely not simply by chance. It is not very possible that all this program has been carefully prepared/prefaced? Ten to fifteen million ‘organized” or technically-trained men will go along way toward influencing the direction of our next step in the United States of America. This is what I gather you meant when you wrote that the war was a powerful deterministic force acting against individualism. I thought your letter very revealing and intelligent in its awareness to what is taking place. Do you happen to remember Edward Arlington Robinson’s Demos and Dionysus or Frost’s Departmental? In a sense the two poets are concerned with a similar problem; namely, the relationship of the individual to society. In the former, Dionysus, representative of the individual challenges and [thrusts] bac, the arguments of Demos, who represents the people. Robinson’s Dionysus is dubious of Demos’ exactation of reason and equality, and [...] Demos is scornful of Dionysus’ exaltation of art and love. Demos might be the mouthpiece or sounding board of the military in the following passage, which is worth pondering! We had had too much of the [...] individual with his free fancy and free this and that, and his ingenuous right to be himself. What right has anyone now to be himself, since I am here to fix him in his place and hold him there? And as far as your fit world, I’ll have it all alike and of a piece - punctual, accurate, tamed and uniform, and equal. Then romance and love and art and ecstacy will be remembrances of man’s young weakness on his way to reason. Frost’s position you will know well enough. Now Robinson sides with Dionysus against Demos; it is implicit in the poem, and Frost is no man to [form] regimentation. The Lone Striker made Frost’s position quite clear. Are, there, these two poets counter-fictionist? Is there no good word to be spoken for a morally self-reliant individualism? Middlebury is heading toward a big decision. It’s anticipated that only 130 men will be in residence next semester. What shall the college do? Shall it move all the way towards a women’s institution? Or shall it let down the banner and take in military [units] of 300 to 500 men? The last sounds logical but I expect those who do the deciding around here are faced with the problem of trying to satisfy the proponents of a liberal education for women. With 300 live American soldiers around the campus, no matter what the discipline may be, it is expected that difficulties would arise. For [myself] I should favor the military units coming into residence. It is said that they would provide their own instructors, and that the curriculum as it now stands, with the exception of the physical sciences, would be [...] to them. The argument is, why should a soldier waste his time studying political science or American literature or philosophy? I can think of good reasons but I would have to blow them through a trumpet in order to make them heard. In spite of a [...] football season, the spirit has held up very well. Somehow the work gets done and there is plenty of it. For three weeks I was “out straight” correcting papers - over 300, some of which required an hour for reading, correction and [personal] reaction. It is for this reason that you have not heard sooner. I am having a breathing space now, yet soon again there will be nearly 300 more. All my spare time is given to committee work. Sometimes it hardly seems worth the effort. If only one could put all of one’s energy and time into the teaching, the results would be far more effective. Our energy is dissipated and often wasted. After a long session in committee, I feel too fatigued to tackle the real work - the literature itself. This committee work is the way we make a return for the [...] freedom of our sabbaticals. Somehow everything gets done and I am not always ashamed or embarrassed at the [results]. Some of the students look eminently [...] in the classroom and on the paper. They deserve everything we’ve got to offer. If only the authorities would give us the chance to concentrate [our abilities]. It has been a splendid autumn - striking color in the hills, day with [fire-spun] haze, brilliant [...] and mornings that are crisp and [...]. Some afternoons the air has been filled with flying spider webs and wayward winged seeds. Then again there have been the migratory birds, stopping for a day or only for a few hours, to crop the seeds in some upland [...]. So I have come upon them. It is pleasant too as I sit in my office in Monroe to hear the “steel-cold scream” of the blue jay as it darts across campus, between chemistry building and the gymnasium. Throughout the autumn I have heard it, and it lifts me as very few more conventional matters do. It is now deer hunting season and with a light full of moon on the first day the hunter made many kills. This fall of snow was almost providentially against the deer as it was for the hunder. Five deer were fetched into town before the morning was many hours old. Thanksgiving this year will be one of venison for some, turkey for others. I do not know whether you remembered Dr. Harrington (Professor Emeritus of Philosophy) and a truly brilliant man. He died on Wednesday of this week and Dr. Bryant (Professor Emeritus of Physics) died earlier in the autumn. [Mr. Owan] is now in the Naval Corps, I believe. Mr. Carter is a captain in the [specialist] division and so on and so on. There have been over 30 changes in the faculty this year. I shall not forget to send you a copy of Directions. There will be many copies available so please do not try to pay for one. I should like to return your good will toward me during last year. The very finest to you in every way. Most sincerely, RL Cook en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.publisher Bennington College en_US
dc.subject Cook, Reginald "Doc" en_US
dc.subject Stanlis, Peter en_US
dc.subject Frost, Robert en_US
dc.subject Robert Frost House en_US
dc.subject World War II en_US
dc.subject Middlebury College en_US
dc.title Letter from Reginald "Doc" Cook to Peter Stanlis en_US

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