Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Practically Abandoned by One’s Friends

Whence, where, and why the English major? Adam Gopnik asks in the New Yorker, noting its impending demise like the Latin prerequisite before it ― “a dying choice bound to a dead subject.” Despite his sympathies, Gopnik finds the apologias of the discipline's defenders unpersuasive, mocking “The Economic Case for Saving the Humanities” proffered by Brown University’s Christina Paxson as “the kind of Letter to a Crazy Republican Congressman that university presidents get to write.” Like most pragmatic parries, it surrenders the tradition’s essence in the vain hope its accidents might carry the day or, at least, prolong the inevitable. Hardly surprising, given the bottom line for Paxson’s fellow economists: “Is it worth it?” ― not the best way to defend the intrinsic worth of the humanities, even in an age that abhors such “useless knowledge.”

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