The question of whether there are any limits on scientific research has assumed an ever larger magnitude as scientists have devised ever more lethal means of annihilation and probed into the fascinating field of genetics. Some scientists assert there are no limitations on the broadening of knowledge. But in the wake of such events as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the danger posed to all mankind by the Greenhouse Effect, both scientists and non-scientists have come increasingly to believe that there are what Joseph Fletcher calls “the moral limits of knowledge.” In Mr. Fletcher’s view “the humanist subordinates everything, including science and knowledge, to the test of human benefit. . .to assert that knowledge is always good is immoral, as well as unscientific. In the Western ethical heritage prudence has always been and still is a cardinal virtue.”
Born in 1905, Joseph Fletcher has had a long and distinguished career as a theologian, philosopher, and humanist. He is a graduate of the Berkeley Divinity School and the University of London. He is the Robert Treat Paine Professor Emeritus of the Episcopal Theological School at Harvard University. For more than a decade he has served as the Visiting Scholar of Medical Ethics at the University of Virginia. He has lectured at more than 200 universities, colleges, schools, and seminaries throughout the world. His numerous books include The Church and Industry, Christianity and Property, and Morals and Medicine, a work published in 1954 and still widely in use.
The serenity of the groves of academe, particularly at Yale University, was shattered last December by the disclosure that the late Paul de Man, a distinguished member of Yale’s faculty and a former native of Belgium, had contributed anti-Semitic articles to collaborationist Belgian newspapers during World War II. This disclosure shook the reputation of the Yale professor many had come to know as an influential theoretician and teacher, and it was made by a young Belgian student, Ortwin de Graef, who discovered de Man’s articles while working on a doctoral dissertation. De Graef was working under the supervision of Sanford Pinsker, a former Fulbright Scholar in Belgium. Mr. Pinsker, a frequent VQR contributor, discusses the whole de Man controversy in his essay “Modernist Culture, the Cunning of History, and Paul de Man.” Mr. Pinsker has been a member of the English faculty at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the past two decades. His most recent books include a critical study of Cynthia Ozick and a collection of interviews with American writers.
Jane Brown Gillette makes her VQR debut with her story “Sins Against Animals.” She received her B.A. degree from Vassar College and later earned a Ph. D. in English at Yale University. In addition to writing short stories, she has taught at St. Alban’s School in Washington, D.C., where she currently resides.
Susan Stewart lives in Philadelphia. Her most recent books are The Hive, a poetry collection published by Georgia in 1987, and On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, The Gigantic, The Souvenir, The Collection, a study of literary theory published by Johns Hopkins in 1984.
Ross Taylor is an employee of the Library of Congress. He has previously published in VQR as well as in the Greensboro Review, Shenendoah, and Southern Poetry Review.
Sandy Solomon is a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program in Writing and currently resides in London.
John Engman’s first collection of poems, Keeping Still Mountain, was published by Galileo Press in 1984 and still available. He received a Bush Artist Fellowship in literature for 1987—88, and has new work forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, New England Review, and Bread Loaf Quarterly. He is a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The poems by Ray A. Young Bear in this issue are from his second book, The Invisible Musician, to be published by Holy Cow! Press this fall. His first book, Winter of the Salamander, was published by Harper & Row in 1980. A member of the Mesquakie Tribe of Central Iowa, he is a singer and co-founder with his wife, Stella, of the Woodland Songs and Dance Troupe of Arts Midwest.
A native of Mississippi, Martha Lacy Hall lives and works in Baton Rouge, where she is a fiction editor for Louisiana State University Press. She has had two collections of short fiction published, Call It Living (The Press of the Night Owl, 1983), and Music Lesson ( Illinois, 1984). She is appearing in VQR for the first time.
With the 1988 election only weeks away, James M. Banner, Jr. takes a look at the origins of American political culture and the impact on that culture by France, the first nation to recognize the independence of the United States. Mr. Banner received his B.A. degree in history from Yale in 1957 and a doctorate in the same subject from Columbia in 1968. He served as a member of the history faculty at Princeton from 1966 to 1980, was founding chairman of the now defunct American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities from 1977 to 1982, a member of the national governing board of Common Cause from 1973 to 1979, and a consultant to the impeachment inquiry of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary in 1974. He is the director of publications and communication for Resources for the Future, an organization located in Washington, D.C.
A native of Michigan, David H. Lynn received his B.A. degree from Kenyon and later obtained a Ph. D. degree in English from the University of Virginia. He now resides and works in Washington, D.C. and is completing both a novel and a collection of short stories.
William Peden is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and co-fiction editor of The Missouri Review. He is a member of the editorial board of Studies in Short Fiction. His interest in Thomas Jefferson stems from his days at the University of Virginia where he received a B.S. degree in 1934 and a Ph.D. in 1942. His work on Jefferson includes an unpublished doctoral dissertation, Thomas Jefferson: Book Collector, Bibliophile, and Critic, and The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, with Adrienne Koch, published in Random House’s Modern Library Series in 1944 and reprinted this year.
Robert Brickhouse’s story is his first ever to be published, although he has spent many years writing nonfiction as a journalist. This led to his interest in fiction writing which he has pursued in workshops at Piedmont Virginia Community College and in the creative writing program of the University of Virginia’s English department. He is a senior editor in the news service office at the University of Virginia, where he has worked since 1983.
A native of Georgia now residing in San Francisco, Frances Mayes is a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg. Other memoir/essays of hers have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Frontiers: Women in the American South, and Ironwood. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich recently published her book The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers and writers. Her latest book of poetry is Hours, and she is a member of the faculty at San Francisco State University.
A syndicated columnist with The Washington Post-Los Angeles Times News Service, Edwin M. Yoder is a native of North Carolina. He received his B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina and later studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He received a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing while serving as editor of the editorial page of the Washington Evening Star.
Doris L. Eder has read, taught, and published modern poetry and fiction for two decades and now writes, edits, and raises funds for one of Hunter College’s professional schools.
Richard T. Arndt is Diplomat-in-Residence and Director of Mid-Career Studies in the department of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia. After teaching French literature and humanities at Columbia University, he joined the Foreign Service in 1961, serving as cultural attache in Beirut, Colombo, Tehran, Rome, and Paris, as well as various Washington positions in educational and cultural affairs.
David Wyatt is a member of the English faculty at the University of Maryland. He received a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, and he is the author of Prodigal Sons; A Study in Authority and Authorship, and Fall Into Eden: Landscape and Imagination in California.
Gary McDowell is vice president for legal amd public affairs at the National Legal Center for the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Curbing the Courts; The Constitution and the Limits of Judicial Power published by Louisiana this year.
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