Content Warning: politics, poetry, bowties
Everyone should have a bowtie-wearing professor. This figure is deep in our collective unconscious. Looking at old photographs or watching old movies, you’re likely to encounter this wise and genial figure complete with tweed jacket, pipe, and floppy hat. Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones comes to mind, as well as his father, played by Sean Connery.
Surrounded on all sides by strip malls and highways, my California state college nevertheless had one bowtied professor. I was already wearing ties to class (and oddly enough, not the only English major to do so), and so was eager to sign up for a class by the bowtie guy, John Brugaletta (Ph.D., University of Missouri). I enrolled in his course on Shakespeare, and while we chatted a few times we didn’t strike up any great student-teacher bond, despite our mutual allegiance to neckwear.
He’s retired now, and you don’t find many bowtied professors these days. And that probably has something to do with politics. There’s a new book out called “Passing On The Right: Conservative Professors In The Progressive University.” The “passing” in the title refers to the kind of passing for white that light-skinned blacks used to do during segregation, or passing for straight that many gays felt forced to do. Currently, conservative academics feel more marginalized than communists, and believe they have to hide in the closet.
And apparently the most surefire way to de-closet yourself is to come leaping out wearing a bowtie. In a piece by The Atlantic called “Do American Universities Discriminate Against Conservatives?” the serious and lengthy interview with the new book’s authors ends with this amusing exchange:
Green: Is it true that any professor who walks into a classroom wearing a bowtie is, in fact, a conservative?
Shields: Absolutely. No question. They just scream conservative. You can’t find liberals who wear ties anymore, much less bowties. Conservatives tend to dress up a little bit—they’re more formal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a liberal professor in a bowtie. Have you, Josh?
Dunn: Not that I can recall.
The book’a cover doesn’t feature a bowtie (the one above, incidentally, is by longtime Ivy Style sponsor R. Hanauer at BowTies.com). However, it does feature some items you probably have in your very own closet — whether you’re in there with them or not:
While searching (and failing) to find a picture of my bowtied professor, I found one of his poems. He has published several volumes of verse and was the editor for many years of a renowned poetry journal. Never knew his politics, and it certainly didn’t matter when it came to the study of Shakespeare. Below is one of his poems, fittingly called “Pindaric Ode On Politics.”
Note that it rhymes, which is something you’d probably expect from a poet who wears bowties. — CC
Pindaric Ode On Politics
By John J. Brugaletta
What drives them to impetuosity,
to overthrow of custom, history,
tradition’s dignity, the charm of use?
Why all this spreading of the term “abuse”?
There is no evolution eons long.
We must have human thoughts the length of song,
or better yet, the size of one quick cry
before the Reaper enters and we die.
We were allotted lordship, so to reign
That some must lead while subjects bear the pain.
The two are separate and always were,
one of them purebred and the other cur.
What though starvation not infect the best?
We bear the burden of the golden crest.
The question now arises, “Who is best?”
Is it who likes to pose with hand in vest?
What use is liking, though it custom be?
And what of those judged best by history?
A few were lionized for killing foes,
but most esteem the ones who always chose
to share their coat or water with the child
who shivered or was thirsty. They were mild
with harshness, empathized with those in pain
and were not always prepossessed with gain.
They treasured life, down to the ant or fly
and did not ask what benefit or why.
We live not all alone; we are a clan,
a varied family with servant man.
A nation so immense will soon divide,
unless an iron fist is posed to strike
the recusant or rebel, either side.
But who is harmed if two don’t think alike?
A certain reticence will cool both brows
and couch all differences in tender terms.
Let not the bumpkin in us mire in sloughs
the equines or the doughty pachyderms.