Arts of Living
Reinventing the Humanities for the Twenty-first Century
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: State University of New York Press
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This book would not have been written without the help and encouragement extended to me by two people. The first of these is my friend and colleague Richard Miller. Whatever clarity I’ve managed to give my ideas owes a great deal to the polishing provided by the many hundreds of hours we’ve spent in conversation...
1 Taking the Humanities Out of the Box
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The argument of this book is that the humanities must change. It may seem absolutely unthinkable that our enjoyment of the arts might abruptly die away, or that we might no longer take an interest in the past or ask ourselves what it means to be alive, but the unthinkable is now a possibility. Even if the humanities should...
2 Democracy Sets in the
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A way of life ended in America with the close of the 1960s. And like most really lasting changes, this one did not arrive as a cataclysm of the kind that gets boldfaced in the history books—the Fall of Rome, the Norman Conquest, the Industrial Revolution. It came quietly in the guise of confusion and unease. Children denounced...
3 The Great Divide
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As the historian Samuel Haber points out, the word profession prior to the eighteenth century could describe almost any activity—laying bricks or selling groceries—but by late nineteenth-century America, the difference between a profession and a mere trade meant the difference between power and relative powerlessness.1 In the preindustrial United States, a person of modest standing could be a preacher...
4 The Trouble with English
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If we want to understand the humanities’ role in the twentieth century, we need first to understand their uneasy relations to the social sciences, each of them struggling to take root under the shadows of the sciences. Initially, the differences between them were anything but well-defined, and scholars and scientists sometimes published in...
5 The Poverty of Progress
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The astonishing observations above tell us something, of course, about the outlook of the person who offered them, James Agee, a journalist widely admired in the decades after World War II. But they also tell us something about a change in social life occasioned by the flowering of the Progressive vision. In politics, that flowering...
6 The Wages of Theory
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When conservatives like Allan Bloom and Roger Kimball try to make sense of the humanities’ decline, they blame the 1960s, which they see as a time of unbridled selfindulgence that overturned all standards of good judgment and good taste.1 In their nostalgia Bloom and Kramer seem to forget that the administered society, the edifice...
7 World without End
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When people outside the university think of the humanities, they still commonly imagine them as a creative enterprise. They remember “great artists” like Leonardo, Shakespeare, and Beethoven as visionaries who enlarged the range of human experience. More and more, however, people working in the humanities see their own tradition in a somewhat different light, not as essentially creative but as critical....
8 Specialists with Spirit
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The modern world is a disenchanted world, and modern knowledge is a disenchanted knowledge. For a long time now, those who claim this modern knowledge as their property—Western intellectuals and their non-Western imitators— have found it all but impossible to believe in any significant correspondence between the inner life of human beings and the realities of the universe itself. Human beings...
9 “Art Serves Love”
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For the better part of the twentieth century, the humanities aspired to the power and prestige of the sciences. The path to equality, many humanists believed, lay in a reconstruction of their enterprise: their idea was to forge a science of culture, as in the case of English, history, and art history; or else, as in the case of philosophy, to support the culture of science by making a foundational contribution to its...
10 Travels to the Heart of the Forest
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So completely have professionals remade knowledge in their own image that most of us might find it hard, and possibly absurd, to seek knowledge from anyone else. After all, the university and its disciplines exist only for the sake of knowledge. And the disciplines have brought us, some might say, the most complex...
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Just before noon on September 11, 2001, while I was working at home on revisions to this book, my wife Barbara phoned to tell me that New York City was under siege. Of course I thought she was joking. Like millions of Americans that morning, I sat speechless as the World Trade Towers burned and fell, again and again in...
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Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2003