by J J Cohen
... allow me to state, here and for the record, that this essay by Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is just silly. SJT is the former president of my university. Despite his line "Does, for example, an English department with 30 members really need three medievalists?" the English Department at GW has never had three medievalists -- in fact so far as I can tell, for 150 years it had only one, and last year we got number two. The History Department here went a very long time with no medievalists at all.
Yes, I know that he is using medievalists as a lazy shorthand for "scholars without much purpose." That doesn't surprise me. Trachtenberg was never a friend to the humanities. He did great things for GW's reputation, student body, and real esate holdings. He didn't do a lot for our intellectual climate. Luckily, tenure prevented him from doing much harm to the faculty he seems to have felt were mostly getting in his way.