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Canadian Review of American Studies/ Revuecanadienned'etudesamertcaines Volume 29, Number 2, 1999, pp. 113-126 Oral History: An Interview with Peter Buitenhuis 113 Aspart of the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of the Canadian Review ofAmerican Studies (1995), the editors are pleased to present this latest in the series of interviews of former editors and presidents of the Canadian Association for American Studies (CAAS).The following interview is with Peter Buitenhuis, a professor emeritus from Simon Fraser University. He is a graduate of Oxford and Yale, and has taught at Yale, the University of Toronto, McGill, Simon Fraser University, and the University of California at Berkeley. His continuing work on writers and propaganda in World War II is a sequel to The Great War of Words: British, American and Canadian Propaganda and Fiction, 1914-1933 (University of British Columbia Press, 1989). This interview took place in Vancouver on 20 October 1995. BruceTucker (BT): Tell me about yourself, your background, your education and when you first became involved in American Studies. Peter Buitenhuis (PB): I was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy during World War II and was part of a fleet which was on anti-E-boat patrol and minesweeping after the invasion of Normandy. After I ieft the Navy, I went up to Oxford on a veteran's grant and read English language and literature there and was an oarsman. I had the good luck to row in a boat behind a scholar from the University of Oklahoma and the Naval Academy. When we were in our last year, we had a visit from one of his old professors at the University 114 Canadian Review of American Studies Revuecanadienned'etudes amencaines of Oklahoma who was looking for people to take back to Oklahoma to help civilize the place or something of that nature. So instead of going on to teaching in England, as I had planned to do, I accepted the invitation as an instructor at the University of Oklahoma and went on and taught English to football players and others of that ilk, which was a real revelation to me. I was really charmed and enlightened by the energy and enterprise of American scholarship and American universities and decided to stay on. After a kind of McCarthy-type investigation of the university by a committee of the Oklahoma legislature, the chairman said he wanted to get rid of the foreign worms in the apple barrel, which meant the non-American professors. So I left Oklahoma. BT: Was that a decision you made or did you feel you were forced out? PB: I was partly forced out because they wanted us all to sign a loyalty oath to the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Oklahoma. That was a dry state, and I wasn't particularly interested in signing that kind of thing and perjuring myself. So I thought I couldn't sign it, and I thought it was time for me to move on anyway. A lot of people left the university at that time. It was really very sad for the place. The Quakers left and a lot of foreign professors left because they couldn't sign an oath. They were not citizens, and they had no obligation to do so. They felt that it was a stupid exercise and left. I went on to Yale with the original intention of going on in English studies, but I discovered that most of the curriculum for the PhD was in subjects that I had largely covered before because it was a highly traditional English department. So I decided to go into American Studies, which I did with great enthusiasm under some very distinguished scholars, including David Potter, who was an historian of the South; Norman Holmes Pearson, who was a very fine scholar of modern American poetry and friend of Ezra Pound; and Stanley Williams, the biographer of Washington Irving, who became my thesis advisor. It was a wonderfully rich and diverse curriculum in which the whole of American civilization was addressed. BT: How was the Yale English department traditional? BruceTucker I 115 PB: It was, at that time, fairly anchored in the...


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