The Impermanent Wave
Incentive, it is said, is a necessary prerequisite for diligence. Since only two of the admittedly diligent History and Literature tutors of the Thirties were rewarded with permanent appointments to the Harvard faculty, it is assumed that incentive is now lacking for the History and Lit staff.
Young tutors interested in History and Lit find the avenue for advancement there at best uncertain, and hence devote most of their time to a department. As a result, History and Lit is populated by a part-time, transient staff that is too large for a cohesive discipline.
If the faculty and the administration are interested in maintaining History and Lit as more than an amorphous sidelight for several departments, some system of permanent appointments would seem to be in order. Since F. O. Matthiessen's death in 1950, there has been no Professor of History and Literature, and senior professors concerned with the field--like Perry Miller--are too pressed by departmental commitments to pay more than nominal attention to History and Lit.
Admittedly, the establishment of a few permanent positions in History and Lit will not prove a cure-all for the field's difficulties. But any system that will enable some men on a high faculty level to devote most of their time to History and Lit would surely be a step in the right direction.