Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 8. 1967.
Letters to the editor
Letters to the editor
Brookes - Hall clash over Asian Studies
Mr. W. J. Hall, o senior lecturer in Asian Studies, criticises the phasing out of Asian Studies as a separate subject on Pll of this issue. Here Professor Brookes replies to Mr. Hall's letter.
Sirs,—I, too, favour the right to know. Where better to start than of W. J. Hall's letter on p. 11? (Please read it before considering the following comments.)
1. The Numbers Game. A quick check reveals over 190 undergraduate enrolments and about 30 Honours enrolments this year in courses taught by Asian Studies staff, using Asian material. (They also do a limited amount of teaching on non-Asian topics.)
It is not possible, at short notice, to say how many students are covered by these enrolments; doubtless fewer, since some will be taking more than one such course; but W. J. Hall's figures are ridiculous. Indeed, he seems to have some difficulty with numbers: in calculating a percentage from his own fanciful statistics he has misplaced the decimal point. Since the enrolments have increased, we need waste no time on W. J. Hall's "principle" causes designed to explain a reduction.
2. Strangling Asian Studies? Whatever may be happening in W. J. Hall's fantasy world, at Vuw Asian Studies are being expanded. The present enrolments are only a beginning. They will increase for current courses, as their existence and quality become better known. The present staff (three of whom are new) will offer additional courses when they are fully settled in. And the policy for expansion laid down by the Deans' Committee provides (as W. J. Hall well knows) for additional appointments in the near future. The recent report of the Asian Studies Committee on future policy (which W. J. Hall calls the Brookes-Janaki Report) does not claim that the existing programme covers a substantial proportion of all students; it reaffirms the objective of attracting a substantial proportion of undergraduates in relevant faculties. That objective we shall achieve.
3. The Vulpine Committee. The so-called Brookes-Janaki Report was not devised by Brookes-Janaki, nor even by the Asian Studies Committee (which made only minor amendments to the draft). It emerged from discussions held among Asian Studies staff, as W. J. Hall well knows, since he took part in those discussions. The future policy on Asian Studies has been worked out by those who teach the subject, not by marauding departmental heads. It has been confirmed by the Asian Studies Committee and the Professorial Board.
4. Abolishing Asian Studies III? Since W. J. Hall participated in the staff discussions, he knows very well that the decision taken was to retain the Stage III unit, recognising however that its content may need to change to avoid overlap with departmental courses. Since he knows this, his claim that the unit is to be abolished with effect from next year is a crude and mischievous method of soliciting support.
5. The Sacrifice. W. J. Hall's talk about sacrificing his academic career in New Zealand might suggest to the unwary reader that he was resigning from his position on principle. In fact, he has a temporary appointment which expires at the end of the year. Presumably he means that when the vacancy is advertised he will not apply. He is, of course, entitled to do so, but no one is forcing him to.
6. The Right To Know Council. It seems that W. J. Hall wants company. That is not surprising: it must be lonely when everyone else is out of step. But supporters of Asian Studies might be more willing to rally to his tocsin were it not so obviously cracked.
R. H. Brookes
Professor of Political Science.
Sirs.—It is nice to know that Rex Benson is made of sterner stuff. Others may be susceptible to erotic stimuli, but the discerning critic considers only Art.
[A pox on Holy Art say I. Eros and Art are bad mixers, which is why 1 haven't seen a good erotic film since Bill And Coo. All these healthy limbs are a bore — give me the lure of the finer perversities. Anyone for animal husbandry? —Rex Benson,]
Arts Editor misunderstood production
Sirs.—Your Arts Editor. Bob Lord, seems to have misunderstood the intention of the Capek brothers in their play" The Life Of The Insects."
He sees the part of the Vagrant "totally unnecessary to the play for it adds nothing to the satire."
For Mr. Lord's information, the play is not wholly a satire. One cannot place a play of this nature into a convenient pidgeon-hole to suit the critic's individual idiosyncrasies.
As well as possessing certain satirical qualities, the Insect Play is finely tragic.
The Vagrant is not merely a mouthpiece of the Capeks' convictions, but also is intended as a living entity in himself.
The structure, I think, tends to this view. The Vagrant is a disillusioned wanderer who has not succeeded in life due to flaws in his own personality, among which is the inability to involve himself in human situations. He says musing to himself:
"Why did I love her? I caught hold of her insect hands like that and then I let her go."
He stumbles into a forest where he sees insects living the lives of people from whom he has already fled in disillusionment.
He feels more and more despair as the play proceeds. In the final scene when the Chrysalis is finally born and when he mingles among the moths, the glory of life effervescing, and then sees death take the moths moments after birth, he realises the hopelessness of life itself.
This Lear-like motivation for his death is far removed from the absurdity that the Vagrant gets the idea to die.
Sirs, I would suggest to you that your art critics when reviewing a production such as this, should not attempt to air their private philosophies in argument with the author's intentions, but constructively review the merits and demerits of the production itself.
A. P. Lenart.
Sirs,—Would you inquire of Mr. Peter Debreceny if he also regards Paul Peretz as Lucifer and John McGrath as Judas Iscariot?
Perhaps you could also suggest that he himself is either the martyred Stephen of St. John or The Revelation.
A. K. Rees-Thomas.
Another view of Asian Studies
Sirs,—" Disagreement in Asian Studies." Under this heading your issue of June 15 gave the disquieting news that Mr. W. J. Hall is leaving the staff of Victoria through "total disagreement" with the future policy of the Asian Studies Centre as recommended to the Professorial Board.
It appears that Honours students wishing to continue their researches in wider fields are to be advised to transfer to such institutions as the East-West Centre in Hawaii, and that Mr. Hall objects to the consequent "Amerlcanisation" of their Asian studies.
Professor Brookes, while agreeing with Mr. Hall that the student "must do his research in the appropriate country" raises certain problems: "For instance, a student interested in the development of a Chinese commune may encounter difficulties in getting into China. He would have to work from Hong Kong, or perhaps Taiwan."
It is surprising that you, Salient, fully aware that your own students were lately welcomed in Chinese communes, could accept and publish such a statement without question or comment. To anyone following the discrepancy between Hong Kong "news" of the Chinese "Red Guards" and the reports of recent visitors to China, it's a bit like accepting "Time" or "Reader's Digest" for an objective study!
Professor Brookes Is further quoted as saying that if a student wanted a "Western-type degree" he would go to Anu or perhaps the East-West Centre. (By the way, Salient, what the devil is Anu, anyway?) But the Swedish researcher, Myrdel, whose "Report from a Chinese Village" tin Swedish. 1963: English hardcover, 1965: paperback, 1967) is obtainable locally for 14/6, went to China to collect scarce information, not cheap degrees.
Further, this report to the Professorial Board, in recommending for undergraduates a course of Asian language studies which would "enable those in relevant faculties to acquire some informed awareness of the major cultures of Asia." proposes as first choice the study of Indonesian or of Malay. It makes no recommendation of Chinese, language of the most numerous and potentially the greatest nation on earth, chief medium of culture, finance and trade throughout the East, in Indonesia an object, consequently, of the most horrible and least publicised pogrom of modern times, and in New Zealand no way to present favours.
J. J. S. Cornes. Bg,