What a great memoir of Barzun! I was a grad student at Columbia in the '80s, when Barzun and Trilling were revered memories. We PhDs-to-be in English were studying with their students: Steven Marcus and John Rosenberg. And those guys were being swamped by a new wave of literary theory: The Jacques most talked about was Derrida though I, for the life of me, couldn't figure out what he was talking about. Deconstruction, Semiotics, the last gasp of Marxism ... Oh, mine was a pathetic era in the department, no doubt about it. Some professors were doing very good work, but so many seemed to be laboring on arcana.Anyway, when a book on the Yale theorists (Harold Bloom, Derrida, Paul de Man, et al) came out in the NYTIMES Book Review, I wrote a letter to the editor recounting current practice at Columbia. My letter was published and I received a wonderful letter from Jacques Barzun in response. Wow. How I wish I'd been a student in his day, but tant pis pour moi.
You can find Susan Balee's letter here.