Your Great Books, and Mine

As I wrote earlier this week, there is a powerful tendency for literature and other topics in the humanities to become a closed system of scholarly study. Engaging with big ideas of society, history, and culture is a privilege, but it should not be an exclusive privilege, nor a solely self-contained pursuit.  

That’s one reason I’ve chosen “No, I don’t think so” by Susan Wise Bauer for the next ProfoundNet. (Ms. Bauer is a professor of English at the College of William & Mary). She writes in response to an article in The New York Times (“In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth”), available here to subscribers. Here’s a snippet:

Did you catch the equation of “reading the great literary and philosophical works” with “a humanities education at an elite liberal arts school”?

This is the sort of thinking that always infuriates me: the unthinking assumption that education = degree at Ivy League school. The thread that connects all my work is this: I’m thoroughly convinced that real learning happens when a mature thinker sets out to educate herself.

Or himself.

It’s bad enough when literary scholarship becomes purely self-sustaining, but to suggest  that a liberal arts college is the only place to approach literary study makes it worse. As Ms. Bauer concludes, “You can read the Great Books on your own; […] You can explore history without enrolling in an elite liberal arts school.”

If we’ve reached the point, as the NYT suggests, where we need to defend the study of the humanities, then immediately excluding members of the jury (those not enrolled in a liberal arts college) is probably not the best way to start.

Thanks, Susan, for a thought-provoking post.

Advertisements

2 Responses to Your Great Books, and Mine

  1. […] Your Great Books, and Mine « Literati in the World […]

  2. Mike says:

    Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

    _________________________________
    Making Money $150 An Hour

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: