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  • The Case for the Humanities: Pedagogy, Polity, Interdisciplinarity by Eric Touya de Marenne
  • E. Nicole Meyer
Touya de Marenne, Eric. The Case for the Humanities: Pedagogy, Polity, Interdisciplinarity. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. Pp [i]-xi; 145. ISBN 978-1-4758-2501-5. $50.00 (Cloth). ISBN 978-1-4758-2502-2. $25.00 (Paper). ISBN 978-1-4758-2503-9. $23.00 (eBook).

Given the current state of crisis of the humanities in the United States, this book is particularly well-timed. Touya de Marenne both compellingly argues the essential value of the humanities which inquire “what ought to be,” and their inherent importance as a lens through which teaching and researching science should be reenvisioned. A truly interdisciplinary study, this volume reconsiders the relation between higher education and the world in which we live. Touya de Marenne questions both the aims of humanities and the difficulty of assessing their success at achieving those goals, while nimbly progressing through a plethora of sources, from classical philosophy to more recent economists, writers, musicians, artists and scientists. Given Touya de Marenne’s previous publications and research, it should be no surprise that this volume also offers a compelling case for French Studies (especially trauma, postcolonial studies and other interdisciplinary approaches). For those seeking a concise argument to present to their administration, colleagues and students, the preface will prove invaluable. The entire volume, however, deserves to be read. Creating connections between theory, society, politics, economics, history and the arts, the author both illustrates and argues the way humanities permits us to ask the “big” questions, reconfigure, remap and redefine the boundaries of power and knowledge. In short, Touya de Marenne engages the reader artistically, politically and cross-culturally on the present and future of humanities and the human condition.

Revealing commonalities and issues stemming from antiquity to the present, the first chapter calls for a reconceptualization of our pedagogical approaches, and especially a recognition of the border-crossing and ways that the other can help us better understand ourselves. Confronting the marketization of education, Chapter two (Humanizing Economics) cites McClosky, Steinbeck, Kuhn, Mirowski, Bourdieu, Lyotard and others in order to claim that a liberal education teaches students the art of persuasion as well as breadth, depth, and the ability to adapt to change, all skills invaluable to the working world. This weakest chapter of the volume stumbles in several ways. Firstly, it preaches to the choir who [End Page 191] already believe in the value of the humanities, while not sufficiently recognizing that many economists may well be trained in the liberal arts and believe in the inclusion of methods examining “globalization, economic ends, equality, and the marketization of society” (60), and thus “meaningfully rehumaniz[ing] their grasp of the subject” (60). Secondly, as in other chapters where titles are sometimes in foreign tongues (e.g., Antelme’s L’Espèce humaine (106), while others are translated into English, e.g., that of Blanchot (107), neither of which appear in the bibliography or notes), sources are not always adequately attributed: where do Martha Nussbaum or Paulo Freire make their claims? (51); where can we find the various “reports,” and economic statistics such as those on unemployment? (52). Thirdly, the chapter’s writing seems more rushed and choppy than elsewhere. In contrast, Chapter three (“Searching for STEM’s Telos”) not only argues the sciences’ tendency to ask “what is” without pondering the why and ethical implications of their approach, but shows what happens when they do join inquiry with such reflection. Descartes, Da Vinci, Einstein and Hawking among others reveal the value of interrogating the meaning of scientific inquiry through art, literature, imagination and the “interdisciplinary mind” (77, 79). Touya de Marenne’s argument soars when revealing how art, music, creativity and other humanistic approaches have been and can be integrated into the analysis, synthesis, and creation of scientific inquiry. “The most outstanding thinkers in the scientific domain were also very creative people influenced by their interests in the arts,” he writes (75).

The final chapter (“Transcendent Humanities”) closes the book with brio. Arguing that while digital advances combined with today’s utilitarian approach have proven short-sighted when it comes to viewing...


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pp. 191-192
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