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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Humanties Woes

Some ailments that afflict our current disciplines. I might be guilty of many of these myself, but not of all of them at once.

1.  Social-scientification.  The social-sciencing of the humanities is the preference for topics that really don't belong to the humanities at all. Everything is displaced onto some other discipline considered to be more real. We are really interested in history and politics, so everything has a political pay-off.

2. Vagueness.  Everything is about the process, about raising the questions, not ever about answering them or talking about why some answers might be better than others. It's about being exposed to great things,  appreciating them, but not knowing how to do anything in concrete terms. It's all about interrogating the conditions about what it means to be human, blah, blah, blah. We pay homage to critical thinking but don't make the student actually think, or defend an actual position.

3. Post-modernification. This is related to the vagueness, but here the vagueness derives from an appeal to certain thinkers who proved to us that we can't really assert anything anymore. Certain fields, like composition studies, basically have destroyed themselves by using left-over deconstruction.

4. De-disciplining ourselves.  In the urge to be inter-disciplinary, we actually have contempt for any kind of discipline. We don't want to think very hard about anything.

5.  Linguification. Want to have the perfect terminology, and often mistake that for a theory.  We are obsessed with language but often use language badly.


Clarissa said...

I'm definitely guilty of the first. In my current article, I'm trying to move away from it but it's hard because my mind was trained to go In a certain direction and it's impossible to unlearn it.

Clarissa said...

Also, completely off-topic but I want to share and don't want to put it on my own blog. I finally found out who was hired at that place where I applied. Great news! He's better than me! He has a better CV, more publications. I'm so happy, it's like Christmas. Because it's fair. And I don't mind losing in the least if the process is fair. My faith in academia has been restored.

Leslie B. said...

...say more on composition studies.

...also comment on FL programs giving up literary studies. Is there an intrinsic reason why literature has to be what these programs study in year 4? (intrinsic = not having to do with history of discipline)

Leslie B. said...

...porfa, i.e. please, I should have said in the above comment. I have semi-formed opinions on these matters but they are underresearched. But the hatred of literature is something they have in common.

When I was young the big thing was to make literary studies scientific. I wonder if this is why people hate literature. The idea that it could be studied scientifically was what made me able to stick with it, but I am strange.

Leslie B. said...

I mean, *the hatred of literature is what composition studies seem to have in common with SLA.

Jonathan said...

See post above on foreign languages and literature. About composition, I think there is a complex history there. They had to professionalize themselves as a separate discipline to get out from under literature. If the best way to teach composition is through literature, then composition studies itself will not exist independently. it will just be what grad students and adjuncts do until they are good enough to teach advanced courses. It's similar with foreign languages: if the major is based on literature, then language instruction becomes the province of grad instructors and adjuncts, with no professional identity of its own.

Leslie B. said...

But composition has never had to be under literature, except to the extent people insisted it be. At Berkeley they have it in rhetoric, dramatic art, english, comp lit, ethnic studies, architecture, who knows by now how many different departments are teaching freshman comp (not designed just for their majors, but with readings chosen to be of interest to or appropriate for people in that discipline). I think they've created this faux discipline for bureaucratic reasons.

I am also opposed to the language vs. literature divide. There is plenty of literature that can be taught in FL 1. And most do NOT acquire the whole language in 2 years. This whole idea of skills, then bridge, then content is just bad program design, bad design of discipline if you will, and execrable pedagogy.