Justifying their Existence – The Humanities

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Remember those Glory Days when you were a young graduate student and thought that you were going to light the world of academia on fire? The days when you felt you were Living On The Edge Of The World. Now that you’re a professor, the reality of life in the Academy is far different from what you’d imagined it would be, in fact it’s Worlds Apart.

You often feel that My Best Was Never Good Enough and you feel that your career is a Wreck On The Highway. The groundbreaking research you thought was ahead of you is now behind you, and quite frankly it was never really groundbreaking at all. You have some of the trappings of success – you have some graduate students and you see in them the same dreams you had decades ago, yet everyday you feel like you’re wearing a Brilliant Disguise.

You’re tired and jaded, and every day feels like a Lonesome Day. You need meaning in your life, a Reason To Believe that the material you publish is actually read by someone rather than just wasting paper in some obscure journal that no one other than a librarian ever picks up.

You’re Countin On A Miracle that something will make your writing meaningful. You want someone to ask you to Raise Your Hand if you dream of taking a different path for you feel that you’re living in the Darkness On the Edge Of Town.

Oh, there’s your colleague now. Good, your speech is ready, and the audience certainly looks attentive. Your moment of glory has almost arrived. You await your cue to take to the stage. When The Lights Go Out you have to take a Leap Of Faith and hope that 500 of your colleagues will appreciate the remarkable insights presented in your paper “A Marxist Perspective on Darkness on the Edge of Town” at the Bruce Springsteen Glory Days Symposium:


On September 9, hundreds of scholars will gather at Monmouth University, in the 55-year-old singer’s native New Jersey, for a three-day conference on his place in history.

The first-of-its-kind symposium is expected to attract more than 150 papers exploring Springsteen’s influence on US literature, sociology, religious thought and politics. Academics will debate his impact on America’s memory of the Vietnam war, and its higher education curriculum.

Scholarly gatherings that focus on popular entertainers are not an entirely new phenomenon on American campuses. The flourishing of cultural studies, which began in the 1980s, has proved a boon for aspiring Leavisites in the rock’n'roll domain, who were last seen in such numbers when Stanford University hosted a symposium on Bob Dylan in 1998. . . .

Womack will “discuss the nostalgic imperatives in Springsteen’s songs that allow us to enjoy a perspective towards the past as an archetypal paradise – a seductive space in which we can fulfil our collective longing for the illusory wholeness that lives in our memories and our dreams”.

Karl Martin, chair of the department of literature, journalism and modern languages at California’s Point Loma Nazarene University, will weave together Springsteen’s fabled auto-imagery with that used by the southern Gothic author Flannery O’Connor. . . .

For Springsteen, argues Martin, “the car represents a set of values, a certain way of looking at the world, and it’s something that ha changed as his music has matured, too. He’s no ordinary songwriter, that’s for sure.” . . .

According to Pardini, Springsteen “subverts a male-dominated, Italian-American Catholicism in order to subvert a national identity historically marked by the gender and racial conflicts of its class-divided society and to affirm the plural identity of an equal, and therefore free country”.

This is how your tax dollars are being put to good use. This is the way things work these days, so This Land is Your Land and that’s the state of our Humanities Departments. If you don’t like it then do something about it. Afterall, this is where you’re sending your kids – right Into The Fire. Your kids need the damn credential to get on in the Real World and this is the way the game is played, so this is The Price You Pay – you pray and send your kids into The Promised Land and hope, beyond hope, that they’re not Lost In The Flood of mediocrity.

4 Comments

  1. As I tell American friends, if your kids are bright enough, interested in the Humanities, and you can afford it, send them to Oxford or Cambridge.

  2. I wish I could say to these Arts and Humanities folks with the subject of their conference (slightly altered): 
     
    You had some victory that was just failure in deceit 
    Now the joke’s comin’ up through the soles of your feet

  3. Thanks for that post.

  4. Heh.

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