Monday, August 14, 2017



William Abbott Oldfather, letter to Levi Robert Lind (April 5, 1939), in William M. Calder III, "'Tripe and Garbage': William Abbott Oldfather on the Limits of Research," Qui Miscuit Utile Dulci: Festschrift Essays for Paul Lachlan MacKendrick, edd. Gareth Schmeling and Jon D. Mikalson (Wauconda: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 1998), pp. 87-93 (at 89-90; footnotes omitted):
[T]he more "research" which I attempt to do, the more I feel doubt about its relative importance in the total scheme of cultural values. Treated as beautiful, stimulating, + meaningful for life and joy, Greek literature, thought and fine art are of transcendent value; but treated as mere materials for scientific research, and by that I mean linguistics, and grammatical statistics, studies of drain-pipes, shoestrings, door knobs, locations, trivial forms of social and political organization, and all the rest of the tripe and garbage that are dignified by the term "research," they seem hardly more important than mineralogy, or comparative anatomy, or even educational statistics—than which what can be more banal? Of course some knowledge of the material setting is useful as background and proportion and emphasis to the appreciation of better things. But I sometimes feel that too much attention to the sauce is apt to lose us the rabbit. When our subject ceases to mean anything important for our daily living, then it will go, and it ought to go, the way of all flesh.

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