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Memoirs of an Obscure Professor

Paul F. Boller

Publication Year: 2013

During the heyday of McCarthyism, the Chicago Tribune, offended by something he had written, contemptuously dismissed Paul Boller as "an obscure professor" - he was then teaching at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Some forty-five years later, reflecting on the incident, Boller wrote an essay on what it was like to be an obscure professor at one of America's less publicized campuses in a conservative community during the late 1950s and early 1960s. That essay became the foundation for this collection of autobiographical selections reflecting the interests and pursuits of a man who gained national recognition, both inside the academic community and beyond, but still values his obscurity. Whether it is a study of the much-maligned Calvin Coolidge or an account of his Navy service as a translator of Japanese during World War II, Boller brings to his writing a fresh approach and a lively and wry wit.

Published by: TCU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

I would like to thank former students David Broiles. David Carlson, Paul and Karen Faler, Marilyn Hill, George and Elaine Hopkins, Lee Milazzo, Peggy Nash, Diane Orr, Douglas Sloan, Marshall Terry, and Patricia Wallace for helping me get my facts straight in my reminiscences about Southern Methodist University in the years I taught there. ...

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pp. ix-xii

Back in 1953, when the Chicago Tribune took umbrage at something I had written and contemptuously dismissed me as "an obscure professor," I was amused, but my friends and associates at Southern Methodist University, where I was teaching, were gleeful. ...

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1. McCarthy Days in Texas

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pp. 1-34

Augustine started off by invoking his God. So did Rousseau, but he made it clear that the deity he adored had to take him on his own terms: good, bad, indifferent. Rousseau's way of putting it amused Henry Adams, but Adams skipped the invocation and simply announced his birth date and then stated the theme of his book: ...

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2. Some Brushes with History: Handling the Japanese Language During World War II

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pp. 35-72

William James once said that life was a series of interruptions, and I have always found this to be so. One afternoon, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I was chatting with Bob Wade, a fellow graduate student, in Yale's Sterling Memorial Library, when suddenly he broke off and cried: "Sorry , I've got to leave. ...

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3. Movie Music: The Sound of Silents

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pp. 73-96

I first became aware of film music one evening when I was about eight years old and living in Lancaster, New York. The film I watched in Lancaster's main theater was D. W. Griffith's Isn't Life Wonderful? (1924), an anti-war movie dealing with post-war Germany and containing a plea for brotherhood. ...

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4. The Bright Side of Calvinism: Those Coolidge Stories

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pp. 97-120

I first heard of Calvin Coolidge when I was seven years old. It was election night, November 4. 1924, when Coolidge beat John W. Davis, the Democratic candidate that year, by a large margin, and of course clobbered Progressive Party candidate Robert M. LaFollette, Republican senator from Wisconsin, ...

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5. Purlings and Platitudes: H. L. Mencken's Americana

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pp. 121-140

When I heard H. L. Mencken speak one afternoon during my undergraduate days at Yale in the late 1930s, I was a bit disappointed. He omitted a formal lecture for one thing, and for another opened the meeting up to questions from the audience without even making any preliminary remarks. ...

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6. The Quotatious Lyndon B. Johnson

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pp. 141-158

"By necessity," announced Ralph Waldo Emerson, "by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote." He was right. We all like to quote; we all make use of apt quotations on occasion. Quotations help us to clarify or emphasize or expand on a point we are trying to make. ...

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7. History and War: Beard and Batault

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pp. 159-172

When I began graduate work in history in the fall of 1939, Charles A. Beard was known as "the dean of American historians." The first seminar paper I did in graduate school was on Beard, and I still recall the excitement I felt while getting to know his books and articles on American history. ...

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8. Hiroshima and the American Left: August 1945

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pp. 173-204

For some Americans, August 6, 1945, not December 7, 1941, is "a day that will live in infamy." Since the late 1970s thousands of "peaceniks, " as they are called, have been gathering in towns and cities throughout the land on "Hiroshima Day" to atone for the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan and to renew their dedication to the cause of world peace. ...

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9. Academic Anecdotes

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pp. 205-236

My major interest as an academician was American intellectual history, or, the history of ideas in America, and most of the hooks I published during the first part of my career dealt with various aspects of American thought. But I was also interested in biography, and I never discussed the ideas of thinkers like Edwards, Emerson, James, ...

10. Afterthoughts

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pp. 237-240

A Note on Sources

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pp. 241-248


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pp. 249-257

E-ISBN-13: 9780875655574
E-ISBN-10: 0875655572
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875650975

Page Count: 258
Illustrations: 14 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013