To the Editor,

I was surprised to find in The Montana Professor the politically correct usage "she" where "he" is called for grammatically. (See the review of my Recovering American Literature by Alan Weltzien in your Winter 1995 issue.) It makes little sense to organize professors who will supposedly not compromise their intellectual or scholarly principles and to put out a journal in their name, only to enact a pusillanimous compromise with militant feminism. Or does your reviewer sympathize with the contemporary assault on standards? He certainly sympathizes with hatred of the West and its standards when he misquotes me as referring to "the cultivated sensibility that turns us away in disgust from civilization." My sentence speaks of disgust with "cannibalism," not civilization. Its point is that politically correct critics do recoil, perversely, from "civilization"--as your reviewer in effect does with his slip.

The same critics misrepresent, among other things, Herman Melville to be politically radical like themselves. Is it more sympathy with the assault on standards that makes your reviewer uncomfortable with my statement that Melville was in fact "by no means the critic of the status quo that his [radical] critics assume"? If not, why does he querulously respond to this statement: "Maybe so or maybe not, but obviously Shaw, who does not present himself as a Melville biographer or scholar, knows better than the rest of us." I certainly do know better than this reviewer. But he could have enlightened himself with the aid of my footnote citation to unchallenged scholarly refutations of the Melville-as-radical imposture. Did he refrain rather than risk being politically incorrect, as he would be if he had to acknowledge that Melville's politics weren't radical?

Peter Shaw
New York, NY

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