A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Jason and the Argonanut
Previous entry: "There aren't very many jobs for teenagers ..."
Monday May 12 2008

I think I am glad about this, not because I hate literature and art and all that, but because I love it, but a lot of them don’t:

For generations, the study of literature has been a pillar of liberal education, a prime forum for cultural self-examination, and a favorite major for students seeking deeper understanding of the human experience.

But over the last decade or so, more and more literary scholars have agreed that the field has become moribund, aimless, and increasingly irrelevant to the concerns not only of the “outside world,” but also to the world inside the ivory tower. Class enrollments and funding are down, morale is sagging, huge numbers of PhDs can’t find jobs, and books languish unpublished or unpurchased because almost no one, not even other literary scholars, wants to read them.

I can still remember a one-to-one lesson (more of a conversation really) which I did with Smart Girl (who is Smart Boy‘s sister) in which we discussed how she might set about choosing a boy friend.  One way, we agreed (and I think we really did agree – I honestly don’t remember this as just me telling her and her staying quiet), to check out boys is to put them through ordeals, of the sort that happen to Young Men in Literature.  As Author, she would put her Young Men through dramas and disasters and triumphs, and her Young Ladies would thus be able satisfactorily to choose between them, on the basis of more than mere charm and good looks.

If they wrote about things like that in Literary Criticism, maybe people might want to read it.

The author of the piece quoted above thinks literary criticism needs to become more like science.  I suspect that this belief is more like the problem than the solution.  The desire to produce “theories” of literature is, I feel, the problem.  But his point is that these theories can and should be tested.  It is worth reading, as we bloggers say, the whole thing.