Humanities2014, 3(3), 379-397; doi:10.3390/h3030379 - published 15 August 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: What may be the relevance of the European tradition of the humanities and of humanism today? In his novels, Elizabeth Costello and Diary of a Bad Year, the South-African writer, academic, and current resident of Australia, J.M. Coetzee, both enriches and puts into question the European traditions that have shaped scholarship, literary writers and academic professions in the humanities. His characters’ meditations on the value of literature, humanism, and the humanities, their present crisis and future possibilities, are timely interventions made from a complex, critical, comparative, cultural and geographic distance. The metafictional investigations of the two novels test the limits of the genre in a manner consistent with more experimental strains of postmodern fiction, while the two protagonists reflect two main personae of the author as itinerant, ageing academic and writer. It is the position of this paper that Coetzee constructs a minor literature within the major language of English; this is made evident by the entirety of his oeuvre to date though it becomes thematized in these two works. This paper will trace some of the contours, confrontations and dialogs of the two books and explore certain tangents of the radical quests and questions they put to their readership.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 340-378; doi:10.3390/h3030340 - published 11 August 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This article is based on the conviction that the major problems nowadays are not technical, but ethical, and are incumbent on homo qua homo. The origin of these problems is the advancement of economicism as a supreme interpretation of human and social reality, which means the primacy of the “market” and considering human beings in terms of what they have rather than what they are. Economicism emerges in “modernity” and assumes that everything that does not have market value is either devaluated or rejected. In consequence, the human being has been devaluated and has turned into a simple object of the market. “Postmodernity” mixes economicism and techno-scientificism (chrematistics and instrumental rationality) with nihilism (absence of values), giving way to a technological and decadent capitalism that has erased “humanism” and the very idea of the human being. Thus, we are in urgent need of a humanist recovery of the “human” based on a rehabilitation of ontology.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 313-339; doi:10.3390/h3030313 - published 30 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The language of human rights can prove as difficult to define as it is to determine its boundaries as a legal discipline and to assert its universal acceptance. The indeterminacy and vagueness often observed in the language of its documents is clearly aimed at fostering Human Rights acknowledgment and protection; however, these same features are also a powerful tool for States seeking manipulative interpretations of human rights conventions. By combining the Appraisal Framework with an analysis of the rhetorical strategies employed in a specific type of legal document, this paper will explore the linguistic devices and rendering in translation of the so-called “Torture Memos” released by the US Government after 9/11 in an attempt to provide a legal framework for the CIA interrogation program for “unlawful combatants”.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 299-312; doi:10.3390/h3030299 - published 30 June 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The prominent Australian earth scientist, Tim Flannery, closes his recent book Here on Earth: A New Beginning with the words “… if we do not strive to love one another, and to love our planet as much as we love ourselves, then no further progress is possible here on Earth”. This is a remarkable conclusion to his magisterial survey of the state of the planet. Climatic and other environmental changes are showing us not only the extent of human influence on the planet, but also the limits of programmatic management of this influence, whether through political, economic, technological or social engineering. A changing climate is a condition of modernity, but a condition which modernity seems uncomfortable with. Inspired by the recent “environmental turn” in the humanities—and calls from a range of environmental scholars and scientists such as Flannery—I wish to suggest a different, non-programmatic response to climate change: a reacquaintance with the ancient and religious ideas of virtue and its renaissance in the field of virtue ethics. Drawing upon work by Alasdair MacIntyre, Melissa Lane and Tom Wright, I outline an apologetic for why the cultivation of virtue is an appropriate response to the challenges of climate change.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 283-298; doi:10.3390/h3030283 - published 27 June 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The representation of the practice of sati, the immolation of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyre, has garnered interest for long from postcolonial and feminist discourses among others. While advocates of Western modernity perceive sati as a murderous ritual, the proponents of orthodox Hinduism, on the contrary, claim sati to be a courageous cult of “wifely devotion”. In both bigoted beliefs, as poststructuralists observe, women largely appear as “mute objects”. Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies (2008) brilliantly sidelines the conundrum of polarizing representation of sati along the East-West axis and reflects instead the subjective experience of women as sati. The article examines how the rhetoric and ritual of sati in the novel enable marginalized women to acquire consciousness of their subjectivity in a colonized society. To this end, the paper analyzes deconstructive readings of sati, such as by Gayatri Spivak, and explores the way the novel uses religion as a ploy, which, instead of perpetrating violence, confers a subjective entity on the sati that can even subvert the constrictive norms of a colonized society.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 264-282; doi:10.3390/h3030264 - published 25 June 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The ways in which Humanities scholars talk about teaching tell something about how we interact with the past of our own discipline as well as anticipate our students’ futures. In this we express collective memories as truths of learning and teaching. As cultural artifacts of our present, such stories are worthy of excavation for what they imply about ourselves as well as messages they pass onto our successors. This paper outlines “collective re-membering” as one way to understand these stories, particularly as they present in qualitative interviews commonly being used to research higher education practice in the Humanities. It defines such collective re-membering through an interweaving of Halbwachs, Ricoeur, Wertsch and Bakhtin. It proposes that a dialogic reading between this understanding of collective re-membering and qualitative data-sets enables us to both access our discursive tendencies within the Humanities and understand the impact they might have on student engagement with our disciplines, noting that when discussing learning and teaching, we engage in collectively influenced myth-making and hagiography. The paper finishes by positing that the Humanities need to change their orientation from generating myths and pious teaching sagas towards the complex and ultimately more intellectually satisfying, articulation of learning and teaching parables.