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What's Happened to the Humanities?

What's Happened to the Humanities?

Edited by Alvin Kernan

This volume of specially commissioned original essays presents the thoughts of some of the most distinguished commentators within the American academy on the fundamental changes that have taken place in the latter part of the twentieth century. In the enormous expansion of American higher education from the university to the "demoversity," the humanities have become a more marginal part of education, a situation confirmed here by a statistical appendix. The individual essays offer close observations of the ways in which the humanities have been affected by the declining academic status, by demographic shifts, and by reductions in financial support, and by changing communication technology. They also explore the effects of these forces on classroom offerings, books, libraries, and reading in the age of images. When basic conditions change, theory follows, and several essays trace the meaning of the appearance of the new relativistic epistemologies in the humanities. Social institutions change as well in such circumstances, and the volume concludes with studies of the new social arrangements that have developed in the humanities in recent years: the attack on professionalism and the effort to make humanities the social conscience of academia and even of the nation as a whole.

Cause and effect? Who can say? What the essays make clear. however, is that as the humanities have become less significant in American higher education, they have also been the scene of unusually energetic social, pedagogical, and intellectual changes. The essays do not center on whether the changes have been for good or bad, or on what remedial actions might be taken to halt the decay of interest in the humanities, but on the nature and extent of the changes. The authors have opinions, of course, but they have focused on areas-- demographics, patronage, books-- where it is possible, if not entirely objective, at least to be sufficiently factual to discuss the issues meaningfully.

Table of Contents
Foreword by William G. Bowen and Harold T. Shapiro
Introduction: Change in the Humanities and Higher Education by Alvin Kernan

1. Democratization and Decline? The Consequences of Demographic Change in the Humanities by Lynn Hunt
2. Funding Trends in the Academic Humanities, 1970-1995: Reflections on the Stability of the System by John H. D'Arms

3. Ignorant Armies and Nighttime Clashes: Changes in the Humanities Classroom, 1970-1995 by Francis Oakley
4. Evolution and Revolution: Change in the Literary Humanities, 1968-1995 by Margery Sabin
Books, Libraries, Reading
5. Humanities and the Library in the Digital Age by Carla Hesse
6. The Practice of Reading by Denis Donoghue

7. "Beyond Method" by Gertrude Himmelfarb
8. Changing Epochs by Frank Kermode
9. The Pursuit of Metaphor by Christopher Ricks

10. The Demise of Disciplinary Authority by Louis Menand
11. Scholarship as Social Action by David Bromwich
Appendix: Tables and Figures on B.A.s and Ph.D.s in the Humanities, 1966-1993
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