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Antioch: A Student Retrospect

While I am aware of the controversy regarding Antioch, I am certainly not “embroiled” in it as many must be. Still, I found myself deeply interested The Antioch Review Editor’s comments about a particular aspect of his work at the college. Robert S. Fogerty, in the latest issue (Fall 2009), titles his editorial “Young Man Geertz” after Clifford Geertz, a returning vet who was a senior at Antioch in 1949.

Fogerty has gained access to almost 400 “Senior Papers” – a graduation requirement dating back to the late 1920s. His plans are to write a “prosopography” (collective biography) for which select papers will comprise the focus of his work. In his editorial, he offers selections from a numbers of these, considering what might have happened had Antioch shut its doors for good (it will resume 2011) to the very experiences written about in these essays. In just the small sampling he provides, it is clear that these papers are rich with period perspective, of young people writing of their own time of change, of the future they lived through, the history we look back on, and the Antioch that was: “Utopian, experimental, nonconformist, painfully earnest, desperately intense, and filled with political radicals and and aesthetic free spirits (or were they aesthetic radicals and political free spirits?), it was counter-culture before its time.”

Clifford Geertz went on to win a National Book Critics Award as well as many more distinguished awards in social sciences and was honored by numerous universities. His “Senior Essay” is included in this issue of The Antioch Review.

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