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Humanities, Culture, and Interdisciplinarity

The Changing American Academy

Julie Thompson Klein

Publication Year: 2005

The study of culture in the American academy is not confined to a single field, but is a broad-based set of interests located within and across disciplines. This book investigates the relationship among three major ideas in the American academy—interdisciplinarity, humanities, and culture—and traces the convergence of these ideas from the colonial college to new scholarly developments in the latter half of the twentieth century. Its aim is twofold: to define the changing relationship of these three ideas and, in the course of doing so, to extend present thinking about the concept of “American cultural studies.” The book includes two sets of case studies—the first on the implications of interdisciplinarity for literary studies, art history, and music; the second on the shifting trajectories of American studies, African American studies, and women’s studies—and concludes by asking what impact new scholarly practices have had on humanities education, particularly on the undergraduate curriculum.

Published by: State University of New York Press

HUMANITIES, CULTURE, AND INTERDISCIPLINARITY

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-

I am grateful for the conversations and resources that nurtured this book. Barbara Ashbrook and the recently departed Enayet Rahim hosted me on several trips to the National Endowment for the Humanities, affording access to the Endowment’s library and in-house materials. Fred Schroeder of the University of Minnesota at Duluth supplied the entire backlist of the...

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INTRODUCTION Humanities, Culture, and Interdisciplinarity

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pp. 1-8

This book investigates the relationship of three ideas in the American academy—humanities, culture, and interdisciplinarity. Of the three keywords,“humanities” and “culture” have a longer history. The English word “humanities” derives from an educational program introduced in ancient Rome under the heading of humanitas. The ancient Greeks did not speak...

Part I. HISTORICAL WARRANTS

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pp. 9-

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1. FORMING HUMANITIES

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pp. 11-33

This story begins in 1636. When the first institution of higher education opened in this country, humanities played a central role. Harvard College was a Puritan-based institution with a prescribed curriculum based on the Bible, the classical trivium of language-oriented arts, and the quadrivium of mathematical or scientific arts. Students learned Greek, Aramaic, ...

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2. CHANGING HUMANITIES

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pp. 34-54

Over the course of the twentieth century, higher education in the United States underwent a profound transformation. The numbers alone are staggering. In 1910, 355,000 students were enrolled. After World War II, the count rose to 2 million and by 2000 had reached 15.3 million. The institutional profile changed as well. In 1900, there were 977 postsecondary institutions ...

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3. FORGING THEORY, PRACTICE, AND INSTITUTIONAL PRESENCE

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pp. 55-80

Any nomenclature, Kenneth Burke taught us, acts as a terministic screen that filters, directs, and redirects attention along some paths rather than others. Terminology is not only a reflection of reality. It is also a selection and a deflection. Much of what we take to be observations about reality may well be the playing out of possibilities implicit in our choice of terms...

Part II. INTER/DISCIPLINING HUMANITIES

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pp. 81-

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4. REWRITING THE LITERARY

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pp. 83-106

The dominant trend in higher education for much of the twentieth century was the growth of specialization, but in the latter half of the century a historical reversal of this trend began (Gaff and Ratcliff, “Preface” xiv). Since the 1950s, many disciplines have become more porous and multi or interdisciplinary in character, to the point that Dölling and Hark now describe...

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5. REFIGURING THE VISUAL

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pp. 107-127

The other disciplines in this set of case studies—art and music—have several features in common. They inherited a humanistic identity vested in creativity and the values of liberal education. They occupy a presence beyond the academy in performance venues, museums, and other cultural institutions. They are nonverbal media whose data are more resistant to verbal explication ...

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6. RETUNING THE AURAL

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pp. 128-150

Someone once said that writing about music is as meaningless as dancing about architecture. Musical data resist verbal explication more than the data of other humanities, especially in the case of historical works that were never recorded (R. Parker 10). Music is not routinely included in national reports on the state of humanities either. When ...

Part III. INTERDISCIPLINING “AMERICA”

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pp. 151-

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7. RECONSTRUCTING AMERICAN STUDIES

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pp. 153-175

American studies is one of the oldest and, many argue, the most successful interdisciplinary fields in the United States. With the exception of isolated references, the term “American studies” did not appear much before 1920. The terms “American civilization” and “Americanist” were used more often. The institutional roots of the field lie in the 1920s and 1930s, when...

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8. DEFINING OTHER AMERICAS

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pp. 176-201

Douglas Bennett calls identity fields a kind of “sacred edge” in the reopened battle over inclusion and exclusion (144). American studies was a staging ground for interests in race and gender. However, former President Mary Ellen Washington recalls, when the Radical Caucus of the American Studies Association (ASA) formed in 1969, African Americans were relatively invisible ...

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CONCLUSION CRAFTING HUMANITIES FOR A NEW CENTURY

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pp. 203-220

Jerry Gaff likens scholarship to the molten mass of radioactive material that forms the core of the earth. Periodically, it erupts in a volcano or the tectonic plates shift, changing the shape of the earth’s crust. Inevitably, it also finds its way into the intellectual landscape of the constantly shifting curriculum (“Tensions” 701). The final chapter returns full circle to the...

Works Cited

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pp. 221-249

Index

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pp. 251-267


E-ISBN-13: 9780791482674
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791465776
Print-ISBN-10: 0791465772

Page Count: 278
Publication Year: 2005

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Subject Headings

  • Interdisciplinary approach to knowledge.
  • Education, Humanistic -- United States.
  • Humanities -- Philosophy.
  • Humanities -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States.
  • Learning and scholarship -- United States.
  • Learned institutions and societies -- United States.
  • Culture -- Study and teaching -- United States.
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