Cover of The Fortunes of the Humanities by Sander L. Gilman
The Fortunes of the Humanities
Thoughts for After the Year 2000
Sander L. Gilman

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2000
144 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804732635
Paper ISBN: 9780804732642

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Given the attacks on the humanities by the right ("Goethe is not taught anymore!") and the left ("Why teach dead white males?") over the past decade, how can we teach and research in the humanities in the years to come? Drawing on thirty years of experience, a distinguished teacher and scholar here presents a series of closely interconnected exercises in understanding the present state and future possibilities of the humanities, especially the teaching of "foreign" languages and culture.

Rather than rail at a worldwide conspiracy by universities against the humanities, the author argues that the gradual erosion of the status of the humanities has been due to the muddling of the goals of teachers, students, and administrators: all are at fault. Teachers are at fault because they have lost sight of the goal of their profession—the clear and direct transmission of critical thinking and complex knowledge to those who may not immediately benefit from it. Students are at fault because they want social mobility without the necessary investment of time in an apprenticeship to learning and the generation of knowledge. Administrators are at fault because they want to have an economically viable structure in a world in which value is too often measured by a cost/benefit ratio. All three groups must rethink the university.

The underlying theme of the eight essays and addresses, four of them published for the first time, is that teachers in the humanities are the spokespersons of the university's history and future, doing the heavy lifting in teaching the bulk of the students those intellectual skills—critical reading, writing, culture, and thought—that will serve them no matter what their major or future employment. The volume illustrates a series of positions from how a teacher should be able to get tenure to what can be taught in innovative, cross-disciplinary teaching. Other topics address why one should teach European languages, how books and jobs are related in today's academy, and whether scientific research can have a place in the teaching of the humanities.

About the author

Sander L. Gilman is Henry R. Luce Distinguished Service Professor of the Liberal Arts in Human Biology, Professor of Germanic Studies, Comparative Literature, and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago. Among his many books is Love + Marriage = Death and Other Essays Representing Difference (Stanford, 1998).