more dark-age gloaming, in response to Situation SUNY

Well, at least it’s no longer just mere people in French departments who are weighing in, or other scared people in danger of extinction elsewhere in the humanities.

Hope this doesn’t mean the wrong sort of validation for a simplistic interpretation of all that jazz about “the post-human.”

Over to the proper grown-ups now…

Do Colleges Need French Departments? (NYT, 2010-10-17)

Martha Nussbaum, Cultivating the Imagination (NYT, 2010-10-17)

Martin McQuillan at the London Graduate School, If you tolerate this… Lord Browne and the privatisation of the humanities (2010-10-16) and BBC coverage (2010-10-15) of proposed £4.2 billion cuts. That’s compared to a budget that’s usually around £11 bn; £1 bn off research, £3.2 bn off teaching i.e. cut of 79% to that budget. More on that elsewhere in the British press. Yes, I blinked at the figures too, but that’s it, it’s not a typo, there you are: the end of a world; and of many people’s worlds, jobs, raisons d’être, the social/societal role and place of higher education, and, essentially, civilization as we know it. I’m sure there will be other civilizations, and other ideas of civilization, or at least I hope so; and this sort of humanist education might look different in comparison with Other Worlds–but it’s rather sad that I’m trying to be optimistic whilst having Octavia E. Butler’s post-apocalyptic fictions be the first things that come to mind. And trying to see their optimistic and positive sides. For there is of course the rest, too.

As ever the UK (and more specifically England) really needs to look beyond the mist-shrouded cliffs of Dover their shores, and do so properly, and see what’s happening elsewhere, the bigger picture, and think comparatively. Well, thinking might help too. There’s still some of that knee-jerk reaction against that recent beautiful piece of mythopoesis, “Americanism.” It’s a fiction. If people did more stuff in the humanities, more history, more literature, more comparative literature, were aware of translation as a cultural phenomenon–and of the inextricable interweaving of humanity and culture–they’d have spotted things like mythopoesis and fiction. (For related reasons, there is a great need for people to read more SF.)

Damn it, my (admittedly rather fine) RMST221 “introduction to medieval literature and culture” students got the point of Marie de France’s Chievrefoil. That makes the failures and idiocy of people twice or thrice their age, purportedly with a higher level of education, and with decades more experience of The World and Other People–well, “embarrassing” is the nicest and most diplomatic word I can think of.

Worldwide, we need an end to MBA-isation, and an end to the inclusion of economics as a whole field within the humanities. Some parts of economics do belong there properly, but they’re what used to be called “social history”, “sociology”, “social theory/thought”, and so on… y’know, the human, cultural, and environmental stuff. This misplaced economics business is tied to MBAisation and to the running of universities on very simplistic economic models (or indeed experimental, untested, and possible misapplied or irrelevant).

And an end to the ridiculous elevation of economics as the ruling meta-discipline.

There is already one of these. It’s called “philosophy.” And if we’re to live in academic tyranny, give me philosopher-kings any day. Archimimocracy is still of course preferable, but beggars can’t be choosers.

See also: more doom and gloom: SUNY Albany and our other recent cases of The Gloaming of the Dark Ages.

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