Titled “What Are the Humanities Worth?,” Mr. Fish’s talk will deal with a troubling paradigm shift in the humanities. I’m going to try to explain this without messing it up: we in the humanities argue for the continuing relevance of literature, philosophy, and the arts (and especially, at the UCWbL, clear writing!), yet must contend with an education system tilting ever more toward what the market demands, that is, churning out more degree holders in sciences and computer technology. Things get especially more complicated when we consider the increasing cost of college tuition–when so much debt is on the line, who can blame you for dropping your English major to pursue something else?
The opinions on these issues range from sunny optimism to glum realism. On one hand you have William Deresiewicz’s call to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in our pursuit of the life of the mind, while on the other hand you can find William Pannapacker’s dire warnings about the “life of the mind,” which make for such scary reading that, were he a senior in college today, would probably frighten Mr. Fish himself away from the humanities.
For his own part, Fish has written about these issues before, but his talk on May 8 will specifically tackle one very provocative question: if we agree there’s a difference between first the humanities in general, and second the academic study of the humanities, what would be lost if the latter “were allowed to wither”?
The presentation begins at 6 PM in the DePaul Student Center (2250 N. Sheffield Ave.), room 314.