Dissent Magazine - Arguing The World - Are English Departments Killing the Humanities? -
As a means of rekindling this blog which has fallen by the wayside of late, I want to post a short response to this article, one whose idealism is something with which I wholly sympathize. At the outset, it is of course not just English departments which are responsible, but rather the humanities in general. However, with the rise of cultural studies as an academic discipline out of North American English departments, such a discipline in my opinion looking like more or less atrophied philosophical theories applied to quasi-random cultural detritus mostly unworthy of careful study, perhaps English departments must accept more of the blame. In contrast to many (note: certainly not all) whom I've met who have been formed by these departments, I believe it possible to maintain standards of academic rigour and judgement, and in accordance with which determine which texts are in fact worth careful study, without necessarily calling down on oneself the appellation of 'elitism.' I think the author subscribes to this belief too. And, the political ramifications of the general tendency toward lowest-common-denominator educational topics (there is nothing more damning to philosophy than making it 'relevant,' as this presumes the beliefs and behaviours of the present moment, and usually the most superficial elements of those beliefs and behaviours, fundamentally determine what is of value to study from past thought) are possibly the most important effect of that tendency to consider, as the article seems to state. As I argued in a post from last year (yikes!), education with the purpose of allowing recognition of one's own historical situation as the site in which other historical situations may be viewed, analyzed, and critiqued, i.e., liberal education, is for me the only way to develop political awareness enough to view, analyze, and, most importantly, critique the present political situation. Without this form of education, human beings become easily manipulable by those in power, and, as a study of tyrannical governments both past and present show, those in power know this. I will probably have more to say on this in a future post. Presently, I am currently working through Arendt's The Human Condition, writing a book review of Robert Pippin's Hollywood Westerns and American Myth, preparing to join a local reading group on Husserl's Logical Investigations, looking forward with a mixture of trepidation and relief to my thesis defence, purportedly to be held at the end of January or early February, and dealing with the fallout of a traumatic personal upheaval from several months ago. Hopefully after the dust settles, things will become more regular here.