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So, if you want UD’s long-ago take…

… on the crisis Ross Douthat is writing about here, go here. UD said quite the same thing fifteen years ago.

And by the way. Read the post directly under this one, which has to do with a crisis in another discipline – psychiatry – and you’ll see that the same principle is in play, whether the field in tatters is English studies or psychiatry. If you lack any agreement about the specific set of things you are collectively studying, and about how to use and value those things, your discipline is going to expand and expand until it explodes. A late-stage, pre-eruptive sign is that your discipline is increasingly taken over by amoral political actors. Note that responsible psychiatrists are indeed trying to respond to Bandy Lee (and by extension Justin Frank and other ideologues) by reasserting the discipline boundaries and ethical rules of psychiatry.

Specifically: You do not abuse the integrity and credibility of your profession by weaponizing it against people and ideas you hate.

Margaret Soltan, January 12, 2020 9:24AM

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3 Responses to “So, if you want UD’s long-ago take…”

  1. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Yes, and go back another fifteen years or so and Richard “Underground Grammarian” Mitchell was writing about “losing the good of the intellect” and fearing where the academy was headed.

  2. David Foster Says:

    I suspect there may be another factor, also. John Adams said, famously: “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

    It has always struck me that the problem with this formulation is that there are a lot more people who *want* to be poets or musicians, etc, than are actually any *good* at these things, and the same is probably true of many academic fields. Hence, they create storms of verbiage in order to convince people (including themselves) that they are actually doing something worthwhile.

    You don’t much like C S Lewis, UD, if I recall correctly, be he said something relevant. Objecting to some sweeping philosophical statements included in what purported to be an English Literature book, he remarked “Literary criticism is difficult, and what they do is very much easier.” I expect there’s a lot of that kind of thing.

  3. theprofessor Says:

    Our English department has been so ravaged by cuts that they more or less have to focus on the canon. I think that they have room for only one eye-brow raiser per semester, and most of them are hard-core traditionalists, regardless of their left-wing politics.

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