I am a doctoral student studying at the University of Oxford, England. I recently came to Harvard on some research errand organised by my department. Whist here I came across your Harvard Law journal and encountered the Fenno series.Your publishing of this series highlighted some quite stark cultural difference between our two educational worlds. While I appreciated the humour of Fenno, I was particularly unnerved by one device used to win laughs: this seemed to rely upon the mocking of students in your own department. By naming and further capitalising on what the author considers as other peoples’ unpalatable idiosyncracies (obtuseness, dizziness etc), the writer exposes herself as a more expert purveyor of ill-feeling than artful wielder of fair and proper comic strategy. Making people laugh is a fine thing, but not when this is achieved at the expense of people whom all the readership most probably knows. In this case it becomes humour of a low kind indeed. As a British student perhaps I am missing something here. Thus might you explain to me as to why you would permit such devices so that I might in turn explain your reasons to my fellow ‘humorists’ at Oxford, who are also troubled and perplexed.
P.S. might you publish this letter in the Journal?
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