The Ghost on the Ramparts presents fourteen of R. B. Heilman's essays on the teaching of English and the profession of the humanities. These essays deal with such diverse topics as administrative ways and means, pedagogical shibboleths and heresies, uses and abuses of literacy, clichés of style, moot issues of history and criticism, and above all the nature of the humanities and their continuing significance. The persuasive discussions of all these subjects reflect the author's wide professional experience, his wit and wisdom, and his superb sense of style.
The chairman of a distinguished English department for over twenty years, Heilman well knew the ins and outs of administration. He considers not only the practical problems of maintaining a large department but also the more complex matters involving a chairman's attitude toward deans, toward colleagues of many kinds, and toward oneself as a committed teacher and administrator. Also a literary critic of established reputation, Heilman's explicative side appears in most of these essays as he provides illustrative examples from many different sources while discussing the nature of history and criticism in the humanities.
The unity of these essays is no less impressive than the mind of their maker, who instances a remarkable capacity for seeing life in the humanities steadily and whole.