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The Cornell Romanesque

Skorton made his State of the University address today to the University Trustees and Council. The Alumni Magazine has a brief synopsis.

For those of you with some spare time, I would encourage you to watch the video. It's notable for two reasons. First, it is by far the most Lehman-esque of Skorton's speeches -- channeling bits of Cornelliana and including quotes at length. And that should be taken as a compliment.

Secondly, the speech channels Cornell's history as a means for enduring the current challenges facing the University. And Skorton maintains that Cornell will only continue its excellence by maintaining what it has always
pursued-- classical and contemporary inquiry, innovative thinking, student access to education, and public engagement.

But there is also a need for the University to maintain the uniquely Cornellian experience -- one that embraces Ezra's tradition of open access and inquiry, diligent ethic, and independent action.

Skorton mentions Carl Becker's famous "freedom and responsibility" essay, but also introduces a new term -- the Cornell Romanesque -- and cites French professor Richard Klein '62 who has developed the term:

There is something you can call a Cornell Romanesque not a style but a mystique a romantic place of fictions where thousands of adolescents grow into adulthood in this isolated but weirdly cosmopolitan place. At Cornell it is possible to think the most critical and passionate thoughts in an atmosphere of fierce mutual attention. So it has been. And so it will be.

This notion appeals to me because it channels the oft-demanding and unsettled experience of a Cornell education. But it also suggests the enduring strength of spirit found on campus that is able to both inspire and mature students. And the former necessarily informs the later.

Sigh. Such insightful introspection makes me wish that The Muse was still around.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on October 23, 2009 (#)

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