About Dr. Leonard

George J. Leonard
Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities
26th year at San Francisco State University

5th year review: 2007-2012

BA Columbia 1967;
MA Columbia 1968;
Ph.D. with Distinction Columbia 1972.

Languages learned:
Mandarin Chinese, Greek, Russian, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish.

Academic Positions held:
Assistant Professor of English, Yale;
Visiting Assistant Professor of English, U.C. Irvine;
The Writer-in-Residence, Scripps College, Claremont Colleges;
Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities, San Francisco State University.

Professional Development

The influence of my work, 2001-2006

In the period of this review, 2001-2006, there was a rapid expansion of scholarly interest in my theories. I'll divide this section into:

1. Aesthetics, theory of the avant garde.
2. Multiculturalism, particularly the Confucian survival in transnational Chinese and Chinese American culture.
3. "Invention of History" Early years in entertainment.

1. Aesthetics and Religion

In 1994, I published Into the Light of Things: the art of the Commonplace from Wordsworth to John Cage. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Within four years, Philip W. Jackson in John Dewey and the Lessons of Art, (Yale University Press: 1998) spent fifteen pages on "George Leonard's Argument" using my theories as exemplars of "spiritual" explanations of the main Western avant garde. (See, "Spirituality of Art-Centered Experiences" 69-78, 86-89, 102)

In the period 2001-2006, interest in that "spiritual" theory of the avant garde rapidly spread. This list is not exhaustive. I limited it to books from major presses; no articles.

1. Jack Miles, "Global Requiem: the Apocalyptic Moment in Religion, Science, Art," in Susan L. Mizruchi, editor, Religion and Cultural Studies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001)

"I should like to review the career, particularly the late career, of John Cage…. George J. Leonard, in a brilliant study entitled Into the Light of things: the art of the Commonplace from Wordsworth to John Cage, writes [continues for four pages, basing his reading of Cage on my book. Into the Light quoted or reviewed for four pages, 200-204 passim.]

2. Larry Shiner, The Invention of Art: a Cultural History(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) Varieties of Resistance: Emerson, Marx, Ruskin, Morris.

George Leonard has argued that Wordsworth's vision of a 'blissful hour' when we will find Paradise in 'the simple produce of the common day' was a dream of eventually dispensing with the separate work of art. Leonard reads the famous lines in this sense… (234ff continues for four pages, expanding on ILT)

[I tried to disentangle Cage from Duchamp. I sharply distinguished between Pop and Dada. Shiner elaborates:]

George Leonard has argued that whereas Duchamp failed to do away with art, the composer, John Cage, succeeded, bring Western society to Wordsworth's hoped for blissful hour when the art object can be dispensed with, and we may emerge "into the light of things." (Continues for several pages, expanding on my point that Cage is not Dada. 292 ff.)

3. Steven Johnson, The New York Schools of Music and the Visual Arts (Studies in Contemporary Music and Culture, V. 5, New York: Routledge, 2001) Johnson too was interested in the Cage/Duchamp distinction.

George Leonard has shown that there are important differences between Cage and Duchamp. He explains that Duchamp's work was a protest against art and the concept of beauty, while Cage advocated that beauty exists in everything. His Zen inspired rejection of emotionalism notwithstanding, Cage was hardly indifferent to the sounds around us. For Cage, Duchamp's readymade demonstrated that everyday objects have beauty. Leonard explains that this elevation of the 'commonplace" is part of a tradition that he refers to as "natural supernaturalism" and traces back to William Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. See George J. Leonard, Into the Light of Things, (etc)(132)

4. David Carrier, Writing About Visual Art, New York: Allworth Press, 2003.

Danto's definition responds to this modernist art, but his general way of thinking, George Leonard notes, was anticipated by the Romantics. "Natural supernaturalism had been about awakening to the world; now we awaken to what Natural Supernaturalism did to the art world. We know ourselves, and thereby, free ourselves… There's every chance that we may decide that one of the experiences we want to continue having from art is what transfigurationist art has given us: the awakening, the wonder." (182)

5. Jeff Kelley, The Art of Allan Kaprow. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004) John Cage's friend and best student, Allan Kaprow, created the "Happenings" inspired by Cage's 4'33" in the 1950s. I pointed out that their techniques became the techniques of Earth Day and the ecology movement, a kind of 24'00" about the Earth's sacredness. Cage and Kaprow were both Zen practitioners, and they were encouraged by my rehabilitation of D.T. Suzuki. Jeff Kelley, another member of the group, writes in the definitive biography,

Zen had been a philosophical interest and an aesthetic influence for Kaprow since his involvement with John Cage-that is, for most of his career… In Into the Light of Things, George Leonard argues that D.T. Suzuki, who popularized Zen Buddhism in the United States though he was not himself a Zen master (he was an English teacher in Japan before moving to Chicago in 1897) in fact introduced a "new variant" of the long held American taste for seeking divine potential in everyday things. (199-204)

Note in acknowledgments: "George Leonard's insights about American Zen were spellbinding reading and crucial to my thinking about Kaprow's koanic works of the late 1970s…" (230)

6. Michael Sheringham, Everyday Life: Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present. (Oxford University Press, 2006) Like Kelley, Sheringham, who is the Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at Oxford, accepted my argument that Earth Day began in Wordsworth's poetry and that, in Cage's work and Kaprow's concept art, Natural Supernaturalism has finally abandoned the artworld, to become a modern religious movement, "ecology."

George J. Leonard traces this back to Wordsworth's vision of Paradise as "a simple produce of the common day." For Leonard, the evolution of the "art of the commonplace," from the Wordsworthian "hallowing" of the ordinary to recent conceptual art, with its jettisoning of the art object, has a spiritual orientation. In the 1960s, he argues, "concept art led inevitably into world ecology and habitability." Cage went on (etc. for two pages)" (pp 80-81)

7. Lawrence Buell, Emerson. (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard U. Press, 2004). The Chair of Harvard English, Lawrence Buell was also interested in my account of American Zen's debt to Emerson. ("I am an enthusiastic reader of Into the Light of Things" he wrote me.) and Leonard is cited. Dr. Buell, whom I subsequently advised through emails, adopted my discovery about Suzuki and Emerson, but more importantly, accepted my rehabilitation of Suzuki. Using Harold Bloom's concepts of influence, of the dignity and inevitability of creative misinterpretation, I tried to give Suzuki's now maligned, unhistorical Zen for the West a new dignity. Lawrence Buell writes,

One may sniff at the actual results of such efforts as superficial popularizations by liberal do-gooders, east and west. One may complain that figures like Suzuki and Emerson… were unhistorical and obfuscatory…. Nevertheless, their goal of arriving at common grounds of ethico-religious understanding across cultures is bound to seem increasingly crucial as the world continues to shrink… Note: See George J. Leonard, Into the Light (etc) pp 147-162… for further insights on the interpenetration among strands of Suzuki's and Emerson's thought and influence. (197-198)

8. Martin Jay, Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme. (Berkeley: University of California, 2005). Martin Jay (not to be confused with Jay Martin, later in this list) adopts my neologism, "art of the commonplace."

In England, critics like Archibald Alison, painters like John Constable, and poets like William Wordsworth were able to validate an "art of the commonplace," which disparaged the notion of an elite art object in favor of the subjective response of the artist or the sensitive beholder to virtually anything, no matter how trivial or mundane…. Footnote: For an account of this tradition, see Leonard, Into the Light of Things. (151)

9. Martin Jay, Refractions of Violence. (New York: Routledge, 2003)

Moreover, what Arthur Danto famous called the "transfiguration of the commonplace" has now been extended to those dimensions of human experience that were below all previous thresholds of respectability and suitability…. Note: For similar analyses see… George J. Leonard, Into the Light of Things etc.(215)

10. Walter J. Jost, Rhetorical Investigations: Studies in Ordinary Language Criticism. (University of Virginia Press, 2004) Walter J. Jost is intrigued by my point that Cage's effort is largely linguistic-the stretching of an old word over new things. Jost expands the idea. He seems to have found "provocative" the idea that the contemporary global ecology movement is continuous with Natural Supernaturalism and concept art.

Of course, it may be objected that in any case, as George Leonard has shown in his provocative Into the Light of Things, so-called ordinary and everyday people, objects and practices have been quite prevalent in all the arts for at least two hundred years… From the Renaissance onward… sacralizing the mundane in the rise of Protestantism and its work ethic; seeing everyday life as full of expressive possibilities in romanticism; rejecting ordinary conventions in the name of a more freely constructed existence in twentieth century varieties of avant garde; and even (as Leonard argues) overcoming the art of the ordinary altogether in the name of the real things themselves, as in the ecology movement in contemporary art. (107)

11. T. Saler Michael, The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground. (Oxford: Oxford U. P. 2005) English critic T. Saler Michael, responded to my concept, "Industrial Supernaturalism" (Monet painting the steam from a steam engine in the Gare St. Lazare as reverently as Constable would paint a cloud vapor).

The traditional historiography has emphasized intellectuals disdain for the products of mass culture. See, for example, (etc.) [But] George Leonard has also traced an important lineage of artists, extending from the early nineteenth-century English Romantic poets through John Cage, which regarded "art" and the products of everyday life (including industrial commodities) as indistinguishable, as they all were expressions of a transcendent spirit. George J. Leonard, Into the Light etc. (184)

2. "Multiculturalism," U.S. China relations

"Silicon Valley" by Cathy Newman, National Geographic Senior Writer. National Geographic (52-75) Volume 200, number 6, December 2001. When the Geographic did its Silicon Valley article, I served as principal advisor on Asian American issues. Cathy Newman ended the article,

I had driven to Redwood City… to talk to George J. Leonard, a professor of humanities and Asian studies at San Francisco State University. We sat in his teahouse, a sanctuary really, poured green tea into thimble-like cups. As the fragrance of tea filled the room, we admired the translucent glaze of a celadon bowl and an earthenware pot in the shape of a lotus leaf.

Silicon Valley sits on the edge of the future. Perhaps it even is the future. Yet, so many were being left behind. The contrasts were as unsettling as the earthquake zone that helps define its geography. To keep my balance, I needed an anchor, a steady handhold. Leonard offered one, using as a framework the teachings of Confucius.

"Confucius says, 'Of course, you want to be rich and famous,'" Leonard said. "It's natural. 'Wealth and fame are what every man desires.'" But Confucius understood there is a moral decision too, and sooner or later an accounting begins.

"The question," Confucius said, "Is what are you willing to trade for it?" (75)

"China's Journey," May 2008 special issue of the National Geographic. I am honored to be the mentor and principal authority on Chinese topics and articles, for Cathy Newman, Senior Writer. Her influence was all over the Special Issue the Geographic published on China in 2008. Ms. Newman is one of a half dozen "senior writers" for the Geographic, with 25 years of service. (Not a free-lance. A tenured full professor, so to speak, not a lecturer.) To Cathy's great credit, she wants to drastically change the National Geographic's, coverage of China, during "peaceful rise." Cathy is the hardest working journalist I've ever met. In October 2006, she flew out to Redwood City, and for five days I gave Cathy, in our home, an immersion course, an intensive tutoring in Confucianism and contemporary PRC culture. She not infrequently sends me three queries a day on Chinese questions, and I have written a short book in emails alone.

She very responsibly wants to end the Geographic's "orientalist" approach. This is America's second largest magazine, going into 8.2 million households (ten times the size of the New Yorker)-plus a children's magazine, 26 foreign editions and their own TV network. And the Geographic is trusted. The first thing I told Cathy was that in the Geographic's coverage, "the people aren't people. They're androids. Admirable androids, or scary androids, but androids." The second thing I asked her was, "When was the last time a Han Chinese person in the National Geographic smiled?" Cathy is changing all that.

In October, we watched years of video I'd taken in China for class, selecting new Chinese locations which would be good subjects for future National Geographic articles.

3. The "Invention of History": Early years in entertainment

1. "Fabricated Fifties" in Elizabeth E. Guffey, Retro: the Culture of Revival, (Chicago: Reaktion Books and U of Chicago Press, 2006.) Guffey, a Stanford Ph.D., is cleverly doing with the "Retro" concept, much what Susan Sontag did with "Camp" (lots of American pop culture and French philosophy).

"Retro" [means] a kind of subversion in which the artistic and cultural vanguard began looking backwards in order to look forwards…. As Voltaire noted, history does not change, but what we want from it does. [Retro's] "most potent connotation is often overlooked: retro suggests a fundamental shift in the popular relationship with the past… Half-ironic, half-longing, retro considers the recent past with an unsentimental nostalgia…. Often insinuates a form of subversion while side stepping historical accuracy. {9-11]

"On the fourth day of the Woodstock Festival of 1969," Elizabeth M. Guffey-a professor at SUNY Purchase-writes, "just before Jimi Hendrix's celebrated finale, the stage was held by a group of unknown undergraduates from Columbia University. But these students were not from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), leaders of a revolt that had rocked the campus the previous year. Instead, the rock-'n'-roll revivalist group Sha Na Na bombarded the audience with tightly choreographed of 1950s classics like "Teen Angel" and "At the Hop". The festival's unlikely scene stealers sported dated looks, including greased ducktails, white socks and cigarettes rolled into T-shirt sleeves. Sha Na Na's impossibly upbeat and exuberant version of the 1950s seemed the opposite of the arty psychedelica and hard rock that characterized Woodstock. (98)

The best-known group to recall and satirize 1950s tunes remained Sha Na Na, whose synchronized dance moves and vocal harmonies were subtly infused with Camp. George Leonard, the group's leader, described himself as a '22-year-old Susan Sontag buff." Recalling the group's transformation from Ivy League glee club to television stars, Leonard spoke of a 'vision of a group that would sing only '50s rock and perform dances like the Busby Berkeley films that he 'learned to love in college readings on Camp.'" (106)

Posters for Sha Na Na's appearances on college campuses evoked what one band member [Leonard] called a pre-political teenage Eden,' announcing "Jocks! Freaks! ROTC! SDS! Let there be a truce! Bury the hatchet (not in each other)! Remember when we were all little grease balls together. (113)

2. Daniel Marcus, Happy Days and Wonder Years: the Fifties and the Sixties in Contemporary Cultural Politics (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press 2004). Marcus (without mentioning me by name) describes how Sha Na Na's invented "Fifties" have been used politically. Marcus and Guffey both have been corresponding with me, since the Columbia Alumni Magazine, Columbia College Today is doing a 4000 word article with illustrations, "Sha Na Na and the Invention of the Fifties."

"Conservatives [in the Reagan Era] parlay(ed) the cultural nostalgia for the Fifties that had circulated in the 1970s into the basis for a political offensive…. (58) But, Daniel Marcus discovered, like Elizabeth Guffey, that image of the "Fifties" was no older than Sha Na Na, and it had replaced the early popular image of the Beat Fifties. "Sha Na Na, the first and most successful of the [Fifties] groups, formed in early 1969, and quickly gained popularity… This ascription of the social domain and style of hoods (in 1950s slang) or greasers (as they came to be known in the 1970s) as the emblematic experience of 1950s youth came to be a common trope in later media discussions of the era." 12-13 ff.

"The massive popularity of The Fonz [on Ron Howard's TV show, Happy Days] completed a process of cultural redefinition that had begun with Sha Na Na-that the prototypical figure of youth culture in the Fifties was the urban, white, male working-class greaser. [The Beats] were superseded by mainstream interest in the greaser." (30) Reagan and the Baby Boom politicians, Marcus then shows, battled during three presidencies over who was the legitimate heir to an invented historical era.

3. Simon Reynolds, Retromania.

"Everything Old, The Atlantic", a lively review of Simon Reynolds' much discussed new book, Retromania.

Reynolds is an Oxford-educated historian, who writes the rare books about rock which a scholar can respect. The review omits his knowledge of critical theory. After five successful books about rock or pop culture in the last twenty-five years, Reynolds is, next to Greil Marcus, perhaps the most respected historian of popular culture, worldwide. The measure of his ever-growing influence is that his new book, Retromania, is being published simultaneously in English, Italian, French, Spanish and German.

UK edition published NOW by Faber & Faber
US edition published NOW by Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Italian edition published September 2011 by ISBN Edizioni
French edition published 2012 by Le Mot and Le Reste
Spanish-language edition published 2012 by Caja Negro
German language edition published 2012 BY Ventil Verlag

Retromania just came out, but his argument is already being quoted as gospel in Time. That's where I noticed it. It's reviewed everywhere. His books are something like official histories now. New York Times review

Salon Magazine interviews Reynolds. "Will nostalgia destroy pop culture?"

More reviews.

New Works 2001-2012


Two-hour motion picture of the Musical, Ivy League Boys, written and staged by City Lights Theater Theater. The reader can judge for themselves if they like it. I've included a link to the film of it! Ivy League Boys on Vimeo The password is thegreatcolumbiamusical.

(Click the arrow and let it download for a minute before starting. The black page means it's downloading.)


Musical, Ivy League Boys, written and staged by City Lights Theater Theater

Since 1994 I've been represented and managed in theatrical matters by attorney Irving Glovin (best known for packaging the book and then the movie of Schindler's List). Once Irving picked me up, we sold the rights to three of my novels and my first draft of the screenplays to Ron Howard or his associate Ken Schur.

I am about to sell Ken Schur a musical, Ivy League Boys.

Before I get to the musical, The New Yorker just did a seven page profile of Rob a few months ago, as the star of a new discipline, forensic linguistics. I'm mentioned in it.

He testifies in high profile murder trials, trains the FBI at Quantico, and was, no fooling, On Her Majesty's Secret Service before the London Olympics. TIME recently named Rob the second smartest rock star in rock history.

I've been continually praised in the press for Sha Na Na, and a 2010 book by the reigning rock critic, Simon Reynolds- published simultaneously in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish- completed the job.

Here's how I came to write Ivy League Boys. I was in New York visiting my son at Columbia and I went to see Jersey Boys. It was about to sell one billion dollars in tickets- Avatar money on a nine million dollar investment-but I had never seen it. Never liked the Four Seasons. I saw the audience's enthusiastic reaction to Jersey Boys. Irving Thalberg used to say, "Find the love story." Jersey Boys had. It was about shifty Tommy De Vito turning his protégé, innocent young Frankie Valli into a star. I saw that, telling the Sha Na Na story, I could turn myself into the Tommy De Vito character, and make my brother Rob into the innocent, talented younger brother, the Frankie Valli character. Above all, Jersey Boys showed me that if I did the brother act story as a juke box musical, instead of as a written memoir, I could incorporate classic rock songs set to the kind of "Fifties dances" I created for Sha Na Na. I'm one of the few novelists who can think like a rock choreographer. I had a year and a half of personal training in choreography from Boris Butleroff, a Balanchine dancer, before doing Sha Na Na. It would be the classic formula that ticket buyers (and investors) love: "I want something just like a giant hit- only different." Different enough to be worth seeing. Ivy League Boys was different. It was set in the macho Old School Ivy League before the women came. My story was "just like" Jersey Boys but it was no clone. If you liked Jersey Boys, you'd like Ivy League Boys, but it wouldn't be overly familiar. It had the Mad Men-era appeal too. I fictionalized it, to stay close to Jersey Boys, making "Robbie" into the star, Frankie Valli, and making "Georgie" the Bad Guy, parallel to Tommy De Vito. There's little connection to our real characters, this is entertainment, not a documentary. In the final version it will be completely Dream Girls style, even with Sha Na Na's name changed. We'll just say, "Inspired by the true life story of Sha Na Na."

I had little more than that premise for Ivy League Boys when I went to ask a theater here in Silicon Valley, City Lights Theater, for advice. City Lights Theater offered me a fully staged reading after hearing me act out only the first twenty minutes of Ivy League Boys- all I had written. They cast it, using amateur actors and college kids available to them, gave it a few rehearsals and staged it a year ago. For the year since, I've been editing the film of it. It's not for public use, it's just a "demo reel" to show a few professionals like yourself that with professional actors and live music and dance onstage, this would work. The movie idea really turned out to be a smart move. Once backers saw the movie, they knew a fully professional production would work. This summer I fended off an offer from Rick Danzansky and Barry Tatelman, who had invested in Scottsboro Boys and other works. They're worth a quarter of a billion dollars, with a B, but I didn't like what Rick and Barry wanted to do with it. I want to work with Ken Schur again, with Universal Pictures, and hopefully with Ron Howard, once again, advising or participating in some capacity.

New Critical Book:

What About China? The "Lost Generation" inherits China, and what that means to us.

In October 2012, the "fifth generation" of Chinese leaders formally inherited the Party, the Politburo and China. Not since Edwardian England has an empire so vast been ruled by so small and inbred a group. Moreover, this caste shares a defining traumatic experience. They spent years in concentration camps and work camps during Mao's disastrous Wen Hua Da Geming, "Great Cultural Revolution" of 1966-75.

My cultural biography of this "Lost Generation"-tens of thousands of whom, including my wife, fled to American universities during the 1990s-shows how their "Dickensian blacking factory" experience alienated them from previous generations, destroyed socialism in their eyes, raised the prestige of America, capitalism and democracy (they conflate all three.) I show "facts on the ground" in Beijing to support my assertion; facts that the Western media does not have access to, has not noticed, or is blinded to by the old paradigms.

The book is based on twenty-five years of close personal observation and unprecedented access during annual stays in Beijing. I speak Chinese proficiently, so that my scholarship is enriched with eyewitness accounts and unpublished sources. I am already the editor, and principal author of an 800 page hardcover essay collection, The Asian Pacific American Heritage: a Companion to Literature and Arts (Routledge: 1999) which was voted "One of the Outstanding Academic Books of the Year, 1999) by the American Library Association. I have not only the personal contacts but also the scholarly methodology to deal with the vast subject. If nothing else, this book will help the West lose the false picture of "China" as a unified timeless mass and see it as a series of human generations in conflict just as we are-as all normal human societies are. Nobody, amazingly, has approached "China" from this angle, right at the moment when this approach will yield the greatest results.

We must immediately investigate who the Lost Generation are, and how big a change they are from the generations they're replacing-indeed, rejecting-simply to believe what we have already begun to hear coming from China. The Gorbachev Moment is coming. Our ability to trust the Gorbachevs and Yeltsins when they come will determine the peace and security of the 21st century.

I completed the research during my 2011 Leave With Pay. My principal family connection is with a man who had been Mayor of Beijing and was slated to become the third or fourth most powerful man in the Politburo in October 2012. The book, I was told by agent and editors, would be easier to get published after that had happened, and so I finished a different creative project instead.


Sale of new professional screenplay, Extinction.

I believe the reader will accept that the sale of one's screenplay on the Universal Pictures/ Imagine Entertainment level is the equivalent, for that profession, of publication by Knopf or Simon and Schuster.

Screenplay: Extinction, purchased by Ken Schur, producer in conjunction with Universal Pictures. Ken Schur developed Leonard's The Ice Cathedral for Ron Howard/Imagine Entertainment/ Universal Pictures, Hollywood. Writing began at the Essex House on Central Park South in January 2005. Finished 2006. Currently under contract and in development.

Screenplay: The Ice Cathedral (status report)

Director Ron Howard had exercised his option to complete the purchase of The Ice Cathedral for Imgine Entertainment in conjunction with Universal Pictures, Hollywood.

In an April 13, 2004 letter, Suzy Barbieri, the Vice President for Motion Pictures at Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment (Universal Pictures) confirmed that Ron Howard still intended to personally direct, and that they had paid for screenwriters to do a new draft of the screenplay.

As an update to previous correspondence, your novel The Ice Cathedral, which we have been developing into a feature film, is moving forward at an exciting pace. We are currently expecting a new draft of the screenplay and have high hopes that Ron Howard will direct the film in the next few years. The story has a compelling premise, and is filled with such fascinating characters and themes, that we all believe it will make a smart and emotionally gripping film.

New Published Articles

1. "Steinbeck, Beckett: Waiting for Godot."

In Mashkoor Ali Syed's John Steinbeck: a Centennial Tribute (Jaipur, India: Surabhi, 2004.), identifies a likely allusion to Of Mice and Men in Waiting for Godot as a typical Beckett footnote thanking an earlier work for inspiration; in this case, to the then-fashionable leftist author, Steinbeck, a particular favorite in Beckett's postwar French circles. Essay explores the parallels between the two sets of waiting bums, notices that Steinbeck's ending is far bleaker than Beckett's. (80-88.)

2. Long theoretical article, "David Antin, Improvisation, Asia" appeared in special David Antin issue of The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 2001, Vol 21 no. 1.

On the aesthetics of the odd genre called "improvisation" in the West, trying to know it through comparison with some Chinese aesthetic categories; David Antin as the test case. (106-124)

Participation in the world of ideas:

The San Francisco Art Institute made Leonard's speech: "Cage, Suzuki and the making of American Zen." its first live webcast.

Thanked in the Acknowledgement by Jay Martin, Journey to Heavenly Mountain, 2002.

Thanked in the Acknowledgement by Jack Miles, Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, New York: Knopf, 2002. (In October 2003, Miles, already a Pulitzer Prize winner, won the MacArthur "Genius" Award for this book, a half million dollar grant of seed money to free him for his next project.)

Thanked in the Acknowledgement, by Howard Isham, Image of the Sea: Oceanic Consciousness in the Romantic Century (Peter Lang 2004) xxiii + 415 60 illus. $81.95

David Carrier, Writing About Visual Art, New York: Allworth Press, 2003. Dedication of the new edition of this much-assigned text to me and to Richard Kuhns, aesthetician. "George Leonard, a distinguished commentator on Richard Kuhns, was a rock and roll star and the choreographer for Sha Na Na. George has written about popular culture in ways that have decisively influenced me."

Sole Anonymous Referee, U. of Chicago Press on Nu, (the Nude). a work of Chinese aesthetics written in French.

Finally, as for collegiality, I am proud that I was able to persuade Wordsworth Circle to let me review the Humanities Department emeritus professor Howard Isham's work, though published by Peter Lang.

"Image of the Sea: Oceanic Consciousness in the Romantic Century.Wordsworth Circle (Refereed) September 22, 2004. Publisher: Wordsworth Circle, Volume: 35, Issue: 4, Page: 207(1)

Service as a Professor to the College of Humanities:

2001- Currently: Editor, The San Francisco Humanities Review.

With co-Editor James Kohn, we first transferred much of our old print publication, MAGAZINE, to permanent online access. Then-once the new software became available-we conceived, designed and maintained an online book review, which currently receives two books per month, much of it from small presses who can't get their authors reviewed by commercial publications; but also from the likes of Duke University Press. I've reviewed four books in the past year. Reviewers include Bill Christmas and Eric Solomon. The San Francisco Humanities Reviewhas just created "Working Papers," a SFHR sub-site where the best student work can be permanently published online by any sponsoring College of Humanities professor.

For the Department of Interdisciplinary Humanities:
Chair, Hiring, Retention, Tenure, Promotion Committee 2000-2001
Chair, Retention (two tenure track candidates and lecturers) 2005-2006
Member, Retention 2006-2007


The Goals of my Teaching: Securing the Economic Foundations of Happiness, Morality and Civility

To paraphrase Brecht, you need an economic foundation for the higher virtues to rest on.

My conviction is that what San Francisco State University does best, is a social project so vast, so crucial in 2007, that if we weren't here, the State of California would go under. At an Asilomar retreat, they estimated that every year California adds the equivalent of the population of Modesto. We at SFSU are not only teaching; we are converting unemployed to employed, renters to homeowners, blue collar to white collar, the silent to the assertive, foreign to native, the timid to the self-assured. I intend all my courses to contribute to that effort, crucial at this time in the state's history.

People who, everyday, go to a job they like where people respect their skills, will lose their alienation, will lose the urge to risky or self-destructive behaviors; will start thinking about partners, about children, will discover happiness, and create a good society. We not only teach, we change lives.

The Means to those Ends:

Confer the Ability to Argue a Case in Writing

The most useful skill that I personally have, which I can transfer to them, is the ability to argue a case in writing. All their lives that skill will be a help. Therefore, all my courses are disguised writing courses, and we write two or sometimes three times the fifteen pages of "evaluated prose" the department currently requires. I've written a writing book specifically for our students' needs. (Other professors, of course, have equally valuable skills, and their classes are devoted to conveying those. This is just my special focus.)

Confer the Ability to Speak Up in Public and to Debate Rationally

Secondarily, I apparently have some ability, as a moderator, to get students expressing-and rationally defending-their ideas. I work to create a safe environment in which each student practices the vital skill of arguing a point in front of a group of semi-strangers. John Dewey and the "liberatory" educators alike agree that a student is always learning something in class, but it may not be what you intended. They may be learning that "people like me sit at the margin of the class and listen to others talk and run the show." They may already have been taught that at home, particularly if they are women and home was in another country.

The classroom should be a safe place to practice new behavior, particularly behavior vital to achieving the economic foundation described above. It isn't enough to say, "do it." The teacher has to, through firmness as well as through warmth, create an environment in which people realize that experimenting is safe. It's very much like the techniques I use to break writer's block.

The discussions get hot. As my course introduction warns, by continuing to take this course you accept that we'll be covering the hot-button topics that people are supposed to avoid in polite conversation. Humanism and Mysticism tackles God, man, religious politics, East, West. Romanticism often gets into Romantic freedom and the ego, into Delacroix's unsettling sadomasochistic images ("dare to love a beauty that is dangerous," he wrote) or Stendhal's discussions about men and women, discussions that anticipate Freud's darkest moments. The several courses I teach on ethnic studies are all about contemporary ethnic cultural orientations. That's what having tenure is all about. They didn't give us tenure to make us happy, but to free us to engage in conversations that couldn't be safely conducted in any other part of society. School is a laboratory in which we experiment with ideas. We learn to debate rationally, without losing our tempers, looking for common ground on which to built. That's a life skill worth having.

Transmit ideas, set the Example of a Scholar/Writer's Life

Thirdly, my theories and ideas-which in the last five years have become the subject of international scholarly publication-enrich my classes. My scholarship's reputation has played a role in my advanced students' success. My students can compete with those from the prestigious research universities. Three research assistants have gotten into the Ph.D. programs of their choice (Claremont, UCLA, George Washington) and with hefty scholarships. I write recommendations constantly, helping others obtain everything from teaching jobs to summer internships.

Re-center on undergraduate education, at this time

For all the reasons above, I'm cheered by many of the conclusions of the recent outside external review, which moved undergraduate education back to the center. I had already made that move in 2004. Although full professors in our department customarily teach a graduate seminar every other semester, since 2004 I have voluntarily passed on mine, and instead taught a Humanities 130 or a similar entry-level Humanities course.

San Francisco State University has been an unprecedented success at bringing the community into the classroom. Inevitably, that has created some of the most challenging teaching situations in the country. Three years ago I decided that if 50 of those "untraditional" undergrads had come to me to be taught, I could no longer teach a twelve person graduate seminar instead; particularly when the only way I could teach those rewarding and responsive grads meant deputizing one of them to go do that difficult undergraduate teaching in my stead. I'm pleased to say that the Humanities Department, after a May, 2006 retreat in which we all discussed our disquiet over the situation, decided that no grad students will teach any longer on their own; only assist real professors. (Details of scheduling are still being worked out.) Even so, I, personally, will continue to pass on the graduate seminars and take on the large lower division undergraduate courses instead. However, that's just my personal decision.

Teaching Data

Course evaluations are attached.

Several times the University has informed me that graduating students had cited me in particular as a helpful advisor. I keep my SFSU students' class bios on file in the office forever (20 years, now.) People stop back from many years ago, to get a recommendation or to try to finish. Thinking back over the last five years, I'm proud that in 2004-5, I gave a student from ten years back, several 699s at once. Celeste Rogers-Jennings had the worst writer's block I've ever encountered, a raft of "Incompletes" but she needed to finish her BA to move up any further at her bank). I walked her through other incompletes to graduation (with the kind help of Professors Birt and Scott.) I did the same this last term (two course equivalents) for Nathalie Schepers, who also had discovered her vocation as teacher of severely disabled children too late. She had to retroactively raise her GPA to get into a credential school. We did it. I've mentored a former student through his tough years teaching at Al-Kuds University in Ramullah; and for two summers in Beijing have flown in from Shanghai 1990s Humanities major Michael Ohlsson, to get some paid work from Universal Pictures. I'm the faculty advisor for two unpopular campus groups that told me they couldn't find anyone else willing to do it. I do an increasing amount of work with the study abroad program, so much that they told me at Asilomar 2007 I probably contributed 1/3 of their recent leap in enrollment. Tonight Maritza Torres, who found her career in Europe, emailed me to ask if I would come to her graduation and take a picture with her.

The most touching experience of the last five years: in 2004 one of my graduate students, Merin McDonell asked me to perform a very formal wedding service, which I did, in front of 140 guests and a jealous Catholic priest her parents had invited at the last minute.

Sample Course Evaluations since 2006

(The full list is on file in the Department Office. These are the evaluations I have on my own file. No negatives have been omitted.

HUM 130
Fall 2009

/I really enjoyed this class and am happy that I was able to take it freshman year. It was a great intro to art history and I look forward to taking more classes with him.

/This was a great course and I think it is great to have Prof. Leonard early in my college career.

/Prof. Leonard made my experience in the Humanities department great. He is a great teacher and infuses freshmen with drive to pursue course work after complete.

/Great teacher, learned a lot of things that I can bring into real life.

/Experienced professor, taught subject matter extremely well.

/This course was very good, I enjoyed the passion in the teaching. I wasn't sure about my major and now I consider changing to humanities because he is a great professor.

/Thank you. Hopefully I will get to take another one of your courses.

/I think Prof. Leonard should teach freshmen because he knows what he's doing. He helps us get used to this first year with any questions we have and any help we need. He reassures us that we can do it.

/Grad students are too overwhelmed with their own studies to effectively teach undergrads which is why full professors should.

/I think it is a great thing to have full professors teaching me. However, this course was somewhat misleading in it's initial description.

/I value having a professor over a graduate student teach my class. I learned so much this semester that I wish it was a full year course. He helped me work with my struggles while encouraging.

/This course simulated a true educational environment. It made me cherish education 2X as much as I did before.

/I feel that it is much better to have a full professor teaching rather than a graduate student.

HUM 345
Spring 2007

/Dr. Leonard has, hands down, been the most effective professor that I've had thus far at SFSU. His passion and knowledge for the subject is more than tangible, and his class has persuaded me to pursue a humanities major.

/It has been beneficial to have had a full professor as an instructor, his vast experiences teaching comes through clearly and I can observe fellow students excitement of having been exposed to, and taught about entirely new subject matter/ideas.

/This is my second course with Dr. Leonard, after my first Humanities course with him I decided I wanted to study humanities. His courses are stimulating and extremely thought provoking. I am convinced he has given me the tools to further educate myself after college as well as given me the confidence to complete a humanities and French major. His courses give any person of any major the classic professor/student relationship you seek in a college environment, he truly cares about his students and has an intense way in which he gives lectures. I would recommend Professor Leonard to anyone looking to be inspired.

/The more experienced teachers should always teach the newer students in college. They need the guidance because they might still need the attention.

/Excellent teacher... great for advanced but new students... really gets you into the subject.

/Please, let the instructor Dr. Leonard teach the course to any student!

/I recommend this class and professor to everyone I know. Regardless of they're major or background. Not only does the subject cover many things that everyone should know and learn, but the professor fosters his students and class in a way that makes this a life changing experience rather than a simple 3 units taken to fill a schedule.

/The fact that you show such mastery of the subject along with such a passion for the subject. It makes me want to come to class and dread the times it is cancelled for the day.

/Dr. Leonard is a large contribution to my education. I feel that as a segment III course professor he really helps non-humanities majors. I, being a science major, have greatly appreciated his vast knowledge.

/Wonderful course. Only negative was the lack of a syllabus. I am happy that I will be able to apply what I have learned in this class to real life. Very comfortable classroom feeling. Will definitely be recommending the course and professor to my friends.

/George Leonard: thank you for this course although I am not a humanities major this course has widen my horizons on, well, everything. You should continue to teach this course with the syllabus guidelines and encourage people to dominate the discussion in the workplace, I dominated somewhere at a pool hall and Portland. Thank you.

/Dr. Leonard is brilliant. I am glad to have taken this class. I hope it continues in the future and that he continues to teach it.

/By having an experienced professor, such as Dr. Leonard, teaching this course it is ensured that both Humanities majors and non-Humanities majors will be introduced to a new area of knowledge. Nurturing of these will be assured with Dr. Leonard, not with a grad student.

/Having an experienced teacher helped my learning. Undergraduate courses usually are pretty bland and boring. Not so here, I would wish my graduate teachers would be as fun but based off experience so far, I'd think not. The experience and knowledge Dr. Leonard brings entices me to learn more.

/Course was unstructured, but in such a way that stimulated my learning. Prof. Leonard is able to instruct in a way that is many levels above what I am used to. He is able to illustrate ideas using pre-existing materials, he can convey a great amount of material this way.

/This class has been an invaluable addition to my learning. It gives you a strong basis for learning on your own. It has taught me things that will shape my life far after I am out of school. This class should be mandatory for every SFSU student. A brilliant teacher and an indispensable class.

Fall 2012

/This class was very eye opening and the instructor made it much more productive and exciting.

/This is the best course I have ever taken, it makes me excited and proud to be a college student. Grad students don't need George, undergrads need him to excite them about learning.

/This was a fantastic class that covered many interesting and even controversial topics in a historical, intelligent manner. I will recommend this class and take any others with Leonard that I can.

/Great course. Interesting material. The museum assignment was a highlight, the directions about what sort of work that we were to pick could have been more clear because I know some people had to go back to the museum on their own time to finish the assignment. Overall, I really enjoyed the class. The professor was able to present controversial material in a humorous and memorable way.

/Professor Leonard has taught me to look at things in a different way. He is one of the reasons I transferred to SF State.

/Once again Prof. Leonard has outdone himself. Hum 345 was a one of a kind course, providing a new look (for most of us) at the myriad of religions spiritualities. He's the best professor I've had in 6 years of undergrad (CSUMB and SFSU) and my undergraduate education would have been severely lacking without him.

/A bit disorganized but highly intelligent and influential. I learned an immense amount which a TA could not have transmitted. Needs a clearer syllabus with specific dates.

/Prof. Leonard created a very unique environment, strange, but unique, that could not have been accomplished by any TA . I felt that this 3 hour period was a comfortable and intellectual time that I don't get in other classes.

/Group discussion are very helpful, learning other views on the subject.

HUM 450
Fall 2009

/I really enjoyed this class and am happy that I was able to take it freshman year. It was a great intro to art history and I look forward to taking more classes with him.

/This was a great course and I think it is great to have Prof. Leonard early in my college career.

/Prof. Leonard made my experience in the Humanities department great. He is a great teacher and infuses freshmen with drive to pursue course work after complete.

/Great teacher, learned a lot of things that I can bring into real life.

/Experienced professor, taught subject matter extremely well.

/This course was very good, I enjoyed the passion in the teaching. I wasn't sure about my major and now I consider changing to humanities because he is a great professor.

/Thank you. Hopefully I will get to take another one of your courses.

/I think Prof. Leonard should teach freshmen because he knows what he's doing. He helps us get used to this first year with any questions we have and any help we need. He reassures us that we can do it.

/Grad students are too overwhelmed with their own studies to effectively teach undergrads which is why full professors should.

/I think it is a great thing to have full professors teaching me. However, this course was somewhat misleading in it's initial description.

/I value having a professor over a graduate student teach my class. I learned so much this semester that I wish it was a full year course. He helped me work with my struggles while encouraging.

/This course simulated a true educational environment. It made me cherish education 2X as much as I did before.

/I feel that it is much better to have a full professor teaching rather than a graduate student.

[End of Review statement.]


The David Carrier Interview

The Dream of the Ice Age

Dr. Leonard's Writing Methods
(from L.A. Times and N.Y. Sunday Times)

Teaching in China

With John Cage (We've Ruined the Silence)

My Son's First Handgun