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The Two Cultures


Shelley Winters' stay at Kirkland House earlier this week was a perfect example of what a Ford Foundation visit ought to be. It could well be used as a model for all future visits to this community by people from the non-academic world.

The purpose of such visits should be an exchange of outlooks and values, but there are two pitfalls which must be avoided. One obstacle to a productive exchange arises when the visitor feels compelled to become an academic, and delivers labored, often pretentious lectures in a pseudoscholastic vein. This is what went wrong with Governor Rockefeller's Godkin Lectures. A visitor from the world of practical politics, or the Broadway stage, has much to offer the Harvard community, but he must not be afraid to speak in his own language, not the language he thinks Harvard expects.

But it is possible for the emphasis to swing too far in the other direction as well. Master Charles Taylor took a calculated risk in inviting Miss Winters, since the visit could have turned into just another Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year affair, with hordes of photographers following Miss Winters around as she struck one photogenic pose after another. And Miss Winters' lecture Tuesday night could have taken the form of a long Louella Parsons article. If the exchange of views is to be a success, the visitor must learn from Harvard, too. Visitors should not feel obligated to adopt a scholastic approach, but they must treat the task of communication seriously.

Miss Winters succeeded in avoiding both pitfalls. Her lecture was entitled "The Actor and the Modern Theatre," but happily, it did not live up to its awesome title. She approached her task with humility, and her talk was an informal, rambling, and thoroughly delightful discussion of acting from the point of view of an actress.

And, because Miss Winters learned from Harvard, her lecture was also a great deal more. She was strongly affected by her stay here, and the crowd in the Kirkland Junior Common Room heard a great actress publicly recant some of the basic values of her life and her profession. In dramatic fashion, her lecture illustrated how fruitful an exchange between academic and professional cultures can be.

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