A Chicago Professor from the University of Chicago’s literature department has been formally banned from attending the city’s Master and Slaves Together meetings. Dr. Ralph DeWitt is a world renowned scholar and noted authority on the author W. Somerset Maugham and his 1915 novel Of Human Bondage.
Master Frank McKnight, leader of the local group, described the professor as “deeply confused” but also “unable to keep his trap shut.”
DeWitt believed the group to be a literary circle, focused on Maugham’s novel, in spite of frequent corrections that the group’s interest in bondage was literal and dealing with sadomasochistic sexual practices.
DeWitt remained resolute. “What they don’t understand is there is something for everyone in Maugham’s work. Even Masters and slaves. Fanny Price, Phillip, Mildred? They all could fit right in to a meeting like this. Here, let me read a passage to you . . .”
McKnight said they tried to be kind and supportive but that DeWitt “just wouldn’t shut up” about the book. “It was completely disruptive and something had to be done.”
The group tried direct communication and even locking DeWitt out of the event. “He crawled in through the bathroom window just to get to the meeting. The guy is unstoppable.”
The MAsT chapter came up with a different solution. Slave Tiffany explained their innovative approach. “Every month, we book speaking engagements for him that conflict with our meetings. He always sends an apology for not being able to attend. It is kind of sweet.”
Sometimes a speaking engagement can’t be found. When that happens, McKnight says they send a fake invitation but make it far enough away that by the time he drives back home, the meeting is over.
He admits the practice is a bit deceptive, but “what can you do? The guy is like a machine when it comes to talking about that book.”