Robert Pratt Hastie
As someone who followed the Duke lacrosse case closely, it was interesting to also discover within a portrait of Richard Brodhead, and to notice that his earlier attitudes and actions may have foreshadowed the path he was to take a few years later, when confronted with a crisis of another sort, when he was President of Duke University.
In the lacrosse case, he seemed to exhibit a primary concern for public reaction (otherwise known as PR), to the extent that he appeared (at least to this observer) to be willing to sacrifice even innocent students for the sake of a university's image. For example, he stated, when interviewed near the case's end (Jan. 2007), "Why didn't I join with the defense team and file motions with them? Because it was essential that we not be seen as a partisan player in this..." --which is pious-sounding; but it a catch-all excuse which just as easily could have been uttered by a bystander at any lynching; and on reflection, seems (when taken in connection with other examples of Brodhead's indifference or even outright hostility to his falsely-accused students) to suggest a kind of callousness on his part towards the unjustified suffering of others. (Perhaps he was in agreement with Duke's Board Chair, Robert K. Steel, who said it would be "best for Duke" if the falsely-accused went to trial, and even if they were convicted; and when asked to explain his failure to defend them, replied, "Sometimes individuals have to suffer for the good of the organization.")
Towards the author of the Melville biographies, and even towards Melville himself, we seem to see a similar frame of mind exhibited: "Brodhead's false accusations against me must be in some way a consequence of his New Critical training and practice, I decided. In sober truth, if your training leads you to dehumanize Melville, to be blind to his agony, how can you not carry your training over to the way you treat real living people...? If you think that facts about authors are not real and authors are not real, then you may come to see living people outside your own private circle as unreal. Cut them and they do not bleed, or if they do bleed their suffering can never be of the significance of your own discomforts of the discomforts of your class...Some of the behavior of the Melville critics who refuse to look at documentary evidence is innate in their character, I assume, but some of their actions, I would think, must be a consequence of lifelong practice of a dehumanizing literary approach, the New Criticism. Their nature is subdued to what it works in, like the dyer's hand." (p. 173)
Alas, the committee searching for a new president for Duke could not avail itself of the discussions about Brodhead's nature as presented in this volume; otherwise its considerations might have turned in another direction; and its ensuing disgrace (which forever tainted the university for its role in "Scottsboro II") might have been averted.