Calendar of Events

Fall 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014
Paul Jay (English, Loyola University Chicago)
Book Cover
Critical Humanism and the Literary Futures Market
3:30 pm Curtin 118

Recorded lecture (YouTube)

I want to use the Center's linked focus on the temporal and financial meanings of “futures” to explore the benefits and risks involved in grounding our work in a specifically critical humanism, one that both contests and revises its traditional claims, practices, and subjects. Perhaps the key risk here is that a critical (or anti- or post-) humanism threatens to alienate a mainstream audience largely wedded to the idea that the humanities have a primarily curatorial function, one committed to preserving and venerating the past. (I'll argue we need to develop a more nuanced way to talk about the temporality of the humanities.)

Our challenge is rhetorical, strategic, and pragmatic: how do we design a humanities practice for the future that ensures we will have a future? How do we develop language for describing a new humanities that makes sense to people who understand them in very conventional terms? These days defenses of the humanities too often fall back on idealized, pallid, and outdated descriptions of their value that can be as counter-productive to our future as attacks that blame the “crisis” in the humanities on theory and political correctness. We need to develop a language strategically calibrated to underscore the value of theory and critique, the significance of new, innovative methodologies, and a vision of the humanities that links up with the STEM disciplines.

The risks involved in such a collective enterprise are particularly pronounced in literary studies, especially with regard to the shift from emphasizing literature to a new stress on literacy, and on the literary as a mode, style, or perspective that operates within but also outside of literature. I'll explore as well the risks and benefits of new work grounded in aesthetics, formalism, reading (close, hyper, surface, etc.), cognitive studies, neuroscience, ecology, and technology, including the pros and cons of their response to the siren call of utility and marketplace value.

Brown bag lunch discussion
Friday, September 26
12 noon Curtin 939
Reading: Paul Jay, "Conclusion: The Humanities and the Public Sphere in the Age of the Internet," The Humanities "Crisis" and the Future of Literary Studies (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Paul Jay is Professor of English at Loyola University Chicago. His research interests include literary and critical theory, modernism and modernity, literature of the Americas, border studies, globalization, and the role of the humanities in higher education. His most recent book is The Humanities "Crisis" and the Future of Literary Studies (2014).

UWM Year of the Humanities

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