The Future of Humanities

At Rod Dreher’s blog there is a discussion on the current nature of humanities:

Consider the terms of choice among humanities professors in how they describe their work: trouble, interrogate, destabilize, critically examine, problematize, and on and on. These are not the terms of people who see themselves as part of an institutional tradition. I cannot stress this enough: they see their core mission as disrupting that very institution.

So what we are left with is essentially an insurrection. And it will come crashing down, of course: as we saw in the French Revolution, you can’t preach the subversion of all authority from an authoritative position and expect to remain in that position forever.

Humanities used to be about a thoughtful appropriation of one’s own traditions. If I want to be an educated member of Western Society I should have read and discussed Homer, a little Thucydides and Plato, and the Bible; I should be familiar with Augustine and Aquinas, the Reformers, and the Renaissance, as well as the history of my own nation and the major authors of my own language.

Increasingly the humanities is about forgetting the tradition, that is, creating barbarians.

What do you do when most humanities departments are determined to make us forget?

I argued in the past that a serious study of theology is increasingly impossible on campus because the contemporary university is obsessed with status, and desiring status is fundamentally opposed to the Gospel. If someone really wanted to study theology he would have to start something more like monastery: an atmosphere where one did not only learn the tricks of the trade (like ancient languages and literary criticism) and read big long books, but also lived in such a way that he he could think independently of the status-seeking and group-think that typifies a modern theology department.

Maybe something similar is going to have to happen with the humanities.

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