The Porno Prof at Hamilton

The newest member of the Hamilton College English and Creative Writing department is Visiting Assistant Professor Alessandro Porco, who has published two books of pornographic poetry, including a repellent poem on his fantasy of having sex with the twin daughters of  Laura and George W. Bush. One indulgent reviewer praises Porco’s first collection, The Jill Kelly Poems (named for a favorite porn star) this way: “While poems such as Ménage à Bush Twins would make the hair on George W.’s back stand on end, Porco’s lewdness is balanced with a style that leaves the reader yearning for more.”  For many readers, perhaps not.   

In a 2005 interview on the website PopMatters, one Nikki Tranter notes that  Porco wants “to have sex with porn-stars on a regular basis,” so “Porco’s presentation of the porno-life is an authentic one.”  In  another interview, Porco says that the title poem of his second  collection Augustine in Carthage, is a “trans-historical re-imagining of Book III of St. Augustine’s Confessions in present-day Montreal,” with T.S. Eliot serving as a “Tiresias-like guiding presence.”  Among other things, says Porco, his poem “examines” the “hypocrisy of spiritual conversion.”  It also includes “21 of the filthiest limericks I could think to write” and a scene of Jesus having sex with his mother.

Of late the college named after Alexander Hamilton has been straying into the outer edges, inviting even the criminally radical, like Susan Rosenberg, into its classrooms, in her case as an artist-in-residence. The affirmative hiring of the outré seems to have been taken up with considerable zeal at Hamilton. History Professor Robert L. Paquette has described the contrasting case of former Hamilton visiting professor, medieval historian Christopher Hill, who had won the Pushcart prize for his novel Virtual Morality while a graduate student, as well as glowing reviews by students and several holders of distinguished faculty chairs, including Paquette himself. After four years of such accomplishments and while teaching the highest number of students in the department, Hill was jettisoned from the pile of eligible applicants when the position became tenure track. (Paquette resigned his distinguished chairs in the aftermath of the Hill affair.)

Faculty members also sabotaged a privately funded effort to establish the Alexander Hamilton Center dedicated to promoting the study of Western civilization. After the college tried to trademark the name, it became the Alexander Hamilton Institute and found a home off campus. AHI now provides a refuge for students, professors, and members of the public who seek genuine intellectual exploration and understanding of Western civilization.

At Hamilton last fall, as an extended part of their freshman orientation, young men were subjected to special therapeutic sessions on sexual assault. In the spring, the student body was reminded of the dangers of sexual assault with clanging church bells and blaring air horns. But will the hyper-sensitive feminist faculty members who present every frat boy as a rapist-in-waiting voice any objections about a thirty-something faculty member whose vitae includes poetry about sodomizing the “girl-next-door”?
No doubt the Hamilton faculty will discount objections to the hiring of Porco, especially by AHI Co-Founder and now Executive Director Paquette. As part of his email message to Hamilton College President Joan Stewart, he asks the obvious question of whether any professor writing pornographic poems about President Obama’s daughters would get a job. I expect the usual charges of censorship, poetic ignorance, prudery, and Puritanism. There will be the predictable arguments about linguistic playfulness, irony, transgressivity, academic freedom, etc.

This is the kind of “transgressiveness” that launches one into a comfortable tenured position, where he can simply indulge his base proclivities. Sadly, the students in Porco’s classes, who increasingly study in an intellectual vacuum, will have little upon which to make a judgment or complaint in the face of this Ph.D. pornographer assigning them grades. Requirements for classes in Western civilization have all but disappeared from high school and college campuses—and especially at Hamilton. The only exposure a college student is likely to have to St. Augustine—or Eliot–is from the likes of Porco.

What is happening on our college campuses goes beyond propaganda, like that of subversives of an earlier period spreading communist ideology and holding teach-ins. It goes beyond indoctrination in political correctness. Those granting the degrees and making the hiring decisions have lost their credibility. There are still only a few like Paquette within the halls of higher learning sounding the alarm about inmates inside teaching pornography in doggerel.

Mary Grabar

Mary Grabar is a visiting fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization.

5 thoughts on “The Porno Prof at Hamilton

  1. This whole string is mindless. Has anyone read Porco’s work? He’s a fine scholar and a good poet. Who is Mary Grabar and why is everyone going crazy over this foolishness? This is the current version of redbaiting–something the haters do to keep busy and distract the rest of us from issues that really matter.

  2. Ever since reports surfaced publicly that the English department at Hamilton College had hired a porn junkie named Alessandro Porco as a visiting professor, “Robert Carlson” has been blogging up a storm in a feeble attempt to perform damage control. Whoever stands behind the curtain of “Robert Carlson,” he/she has connections to College, but as Carlson’s own blogs on The New Criterion website reveal (http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/The-Hamilton-follies–cont-d-7133), Carlson can’t get the players right even with an insider’s scorecard.
    Now let’s deal with “Carlson’s” accusations. Chris Hill arrived at Hamilton as an ABD. At Hamilton College, he not only completed his dissertation while teaching more students than anyone else in the history department, he published in the Wall Street Journal. During his term appointment, the College was, needless to say, quite quick to publicize Hill’s work in that (prestigious) “non-academic source” on the campus website (http://www.hamilton.edu/faculty-newsletter/summer-2006). In four years–and I do not exaggerate–Hill had become something of a legend as a teacher, and as evidence, before he left Hamilton’s campus, he received by vote of the students arguably the College’s most prestigious teaching prize.
    So that we are comparing apples with apples, it must be stressed that Hill was jettisoned, as Mary Grabar writes, not while he was standing for tenure, but in the first round of a search to fill a position that Hill, by his very success in the undergraduate classroom, had helped to turn from a term appointment into one that was tenure-track. A more relevant standard, then, in this case is not what someone standing for tenure should have published, but what, say, departmental colleagues at Hamilton had published when they were first appointed to a tenure-track position at the College.
    As for Paquette’s resignation of his distinguished chair, seems to me that I know something about it. On 1/14/2011, I sent a lent a letter to Chairman of the Board A.G. Lafley that resigned my title and all the perquisites that went with it, a sum that over a short period of years exceeds tens of thousands of dollars. Although in the letter, I told Chairman Lafley that I would not play Jefferson and go into a “long train of suffering,” I did make clear that the Hill affair and the fallout from it factored into my decision to resign the chair. There, you have it from the horse’s mouth.
    “Carlson” pronounces that I am still “well paid.” One wonders how he/she got that supposedly private information. No matter. If Carlson had attended one of my courses, I would have graded him down for generalizing without a meaningful standard of comparison. Thus, I encourage Carlson to do this: Rank order members of the faculty at Hamilton College who have put in thirty or more years of service. You need not name any names but one. You have my permission to locate me in rankings by name and publish the result.
    Finally, on the matter of Porco’s hiring: The issue is not about academic freedom, it is about standards of excellence and the proper direction of a liberal arts education.

  3. Mary Grabar has repeated a number of false stories about the Hamilton history department. In particular, she says that “after four years of such accomplishments … Hill was jettisoned.” For better or for worse, Hamilton has a strong commitment to publication–and the history department (with Paquette’s support) has a stronger commitment than the college at large. Christopher Hill did not write anything that was published during his four years at Hamilton, except perhaps for one book review in a non-academic source.
    Paquette, by the way, did not resign his distinguished chairs (plural) in the wake of the Chris Hill affair. He had a single distinguished chair, and he resigned it many, many months after the Chris Hill affair. He continues to teach at Hamilton College, where he is well paid.

  4. Hamilton is a bastion of thought. Many people found Elihu Root’s right wing thoughts profoundly upsetting but he lived on campus.
    If you don’t like the man’s poetry, protest or ignore him.
    For a while, Alex Haley, the author of “Roots” was our artist in residence. He was later proven to be a plagerist – Hamilton’s Honor Code expressly prohibits plagerism.
    There will always be differences of perspective and opinion. Beauty, boldness and ugliness are indeed in the eye of the beholder.
    When we advocate censoring the institution, we stifle the very free thought that makes the Hamilton education valuable.
    Porn, like obscenity, is hard to define although people may claim to know it when they see it. I would suggest ignoring him – if he is a serious artist worthy of serious consideration he will have other work more profound. If scatology is all he can accomplish, perhaps he can provide the Rugby club with some new songs. Either way, relish the intellectual debate. Do not lower the institution to Fox news like blather.

  5. What you fail to realize is that all of this IS Western Civilization.
    And one reason why we Asians are so keen on preserving our great Eastern Civilization cultural values, which, by the way, never overdosed on the “rugged individualism” that you people invented and tried to sell to us.
    No siree! Just see how far your “rugged individualism” goes.
    You can keep it.
    When asked what he thought about Western Civilization, Gandhi replied, “that would be a good idea.”
    Om Shanti

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