“...[B]efore we can truly appreciate works of art for what they are, before we can in fact understand them, we must immerse ourselves in the beliefs and the challenges of the times in which they were created. In short, we must view them not from the outside looking in but from the inside looking out.” (43-44) ...Bertman cites a poem by Walt Whitman which tells a story of a learned astronomer who receives applause and favor from his pupils, but, “[l]ike the biologist who seeks to comprehend a living organism by killing and dissecting it, the ‘learn’d astronomer’ turned the majestic stars into a cosmic corpse.” In the poem Whitman becomes disillusioned with the the professor and writes, “How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up up in perfect silence at the stars.” Bertman concludes his article, “If we must be the ‘learn’d astronomer,’ each of us in our own fields, then let us be him before the long beard grew, before the heady accolades came his way, before intellectual humility was covered by a thick, desensitizing callus of professional conceit, and let us instead be him as he once was, young and innocent, eagerly fashioning with his own hands a tiny telescope so he could come closer to heaven’s vault. Let us recapture that innocence so that we can still, in the company of our students, from time to time glide out into the ‘mystical moist night-air’ and look up ‘in perfect silence at the stars.’” (45)
Bertman, Stephen. “Mis-Teaching Art History.” Foundations in Art: Theory and Education (FATE), v.33, (2011-2012): 42-45. Print.
And here's the full poem by Walt Whitman:
When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured
with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.