Special Issue "The Humanities in a Utilitarian Age"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 November 2016).

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Paul Keen Website E-Mail
Department of English Language and Literature, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
Phone: 613 520-2600 ext 2222
Interests: Romantic and Eighteenth-century print culture; literature and politics; commercial modernity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Marjorie Perloff’s comment that “one of our most common genres today is the epitaph for the humanities” is borne out by the barrage of disturbing evidence that has become a daily part of our working experience as teachers and researchers within universities. These problems, however, also constitute an important opportunity: a chance to re-imagine our answers to questions about the nature and role of the humanities, and why they matter. Responding to this challenge successfully, however, requires a better understanding of the longer history of this crisis, and of the insights that this might offer into our own predicaments today. Taking its cue from Raymond Williams’s insistence on the importance of developing “a special kind of map” charting the history of changing ideas about culture in order to wrestle with the larger social and political challenges of his day, this Special Issue is animated by the belief that today’s crisis in the humanities demands a similar historical turn. Topics may include: the influence of the larger institutional history of the modern university; the mediating force of changing ideas about the organization of knowledge and disciplinarity; relations between the humanities and the sciences; the influence of competing definitions of the public value of the humanities; the relation of these questions to wider debates about culture and society; tensions between the humanities as a field of critical analysis and humanism as an inherited set of cultural values. In doing so, the Special Issue will become part of a broader conversation, which includes several articles and editorials that have already appeared in this journal, some of which are listed below.

Dr. Paul Keen
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

References:

Jonathan Bate, ed. In The Public Value of the Humanities. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Timothy Brennan, Wars of Position: The Cultural Politics of Left and Right. NY: Columbia UP, 2007.

Albrecht Classen. "Humanities—To Be or Not To Be, That Is the Question." Humanities 2012, 1(1), 54-61.

Albrecht Classen. "Translation as the Catalyst of Cultural Transfer." Humanities 2012, 1(1), 72-79.

Stefan Collini. What Are Universities For? London: Penguin, 2012.

Thomas Docherty. For the University: Democracy and the Future of the Institution. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Gordon Hunter, and Feisal G. Mohammed. “The Real Humanities Crisis Is Happening at Public Universities.” New Republic, 6 September 2013.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114616/public-universities-hurt-humanities-crisis.

Paul Keen. "'Imagining What We Know': The Humanities in a Utilitarian Age." Humanities 2014, 3(1), 73-87.

Jon Klancher, Transfiguring the Arts and Sciences: Knowledge and Cultural Institutions in the Romantic Age. Cambridge UP, 2013.

Masataka Murasawa, Satoshi P. Watanabe and Takashi Hata. "Self-image and Missions of Universities: An Empirical Analysis of Japanese University Executives." Humanities 2014, 3(2), 210-231.

Martha Nussbaum. Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Marjorie Perloff. “Crisis in the Humanities.” Electronic Poetry Centre. Available online: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/perloff/articles/crisis.html

Robert Weisbuch. “Six Proposals to Revive the Humanities.” Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 March 1999. https://chronicle.com/article/Six-Proposals-to-Revive-the/34597/.

Raymond Williams.  Culture and Society, 1750-1950. London: Chatto & Windus, 1958.

Keywords

  • humanities
  • culture
  • utilitarianism
  • neoliberalism
  • the university

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
The Crisis in the Humanities—What Would Shakespeare do?
Humanities 2016, 5(2), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5020031 - 18 May 2016
Abstract
In this essay, I turn to Shakespeare for advice about how to alleviate the crisis in the humanities. University faculty and PhD students develop what I’ve called a dispositional immobility, a disposition to do what they do only in an academic setting. I [...] Read more.
In this essay, I turn to Shakespeare for advice about how to alleviate the crisis in the humanities. University faculty and PhD students develop what I’ve called a dispositional immobility, a disposition to do what they do only in an academic setting. I think humanities faculty and doctoral students can learn from Shakespeare a good deal about how to mobilize themselves and what they do as well as a lot about how to change the institution of the humanities, especially by following his practice of institution blending. Shakespeare, I will argue, can teach us how to move. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Humanities in a Utilitarian Age)
Open AccessArticle
The Human/Machine Humanities: A Proposal
Humanities 2016, 5(1), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5010017 - 01 Mar 2016
Abstract
What does it mean to be human in the 21st century? The pull of engineering on every aspect of our lives, the impact of machines on how we represent ourselves, the influence of computers on our understanding of free-will, individuality and species, and [...] Read more.
What does it mean to be human in the 21st century? The pull of engineering on every aspect of our lives, the impact of machines on how we represent ourselves, the influence of computers on our understanding of free-will, individuality and species, and the effect of microorganisms on our behaviour are so great that one cannot discourse on humanity and humanities without considering their entanglement with technology and with the multiple new dimensions of reality that it opens up. The future of humanities should take into account AI, bacteria, software, viruses (both organic and inorganic), hardware, machine language, parasites, big data, monitors, pixels, swarms systems and the Internet. One cannot think of humanity and humanities as distinct from technology anymore. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Humanities in a Utilitarian Age)
Open AccessArticle
“A Lock of Thy Bright Hair”: The Enlightenment’s Milton and Our Auratic Material
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 797-817; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040797 - 11 Nov 2015
Abstract
This article looks at how English critics, biographers, and poets once sported with the image, idea, and biomaterial of John Milton’s hair. Their play is contextualized within the materialist and instrumental values that were instituted in eighteenth-century literary criticism and biography and that [...] Read more.
This article looks at how English critics, biographers, and poets once sported with the image, idea, and biomaterial of John Milton’s hair. Their play is contextualized within the materialist and instrumental values that were instituted in eighteenth-century literary criticism and biography and that remain central to the humanities today. It was the philologists, antiquarians, bibliophiles, biographers, and anecdotalists of the long eighteenth century who linked the value of cultural objects to their work in the cultural world. The objects sheltered from that world—aesthetic ones in the modern sense—were meanwhile endowed with qualities purloined from an otherwise debunked supernatural register. These contradictory values, all object-centered, cultivated skepticism in observers and thus scripted still-privileged affective postures of mourning and melancholia with respect to objects of inquiry. Dynamic entanglement with Milton’s hair in eighteenth-century critical writing tells a different story. It teaches us to approach that writing as writing and to value “Milton’s hair” as auratic in the communicative sense later displaced by diffident, object-centered models of the aura. Can we define and engage our “material” along the lines of eighteenth-century “entanglement” with Milton’s hair? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Humanities in a Utilitarian Age)

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Open AccessEssay
The Indispensability of the Humanities for the 21st Century
Humanities 2016, 5(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5010011 - 04 Feb 2016
Abstract
This essay surveys the state of the humanities at this critical time. What will be the role of the humanities at the end of this century and beyond? I discuss the “crisis of the humanities” by examining the current challenges of globalization, economic [...] Read more.
This essay surveys the state of the humanities at this critical time. What will be the role of the humanities at the end of this century and beyond? I discuss the “crisis of the humanities” by examining the current challenges of globalization, economic shifts, and extensive budget cuts. I also discuss the social and political divisions that contribute to a crisis within the humanities. Since the culture wars that began in the 1960’s, the content, scope, and focus of the humanities have changed dramatically, and this has impacted how the humanities are perceived and valued by the general public. The second half of the essay makes the case for the vital importance of the humanities. I argue that the fate of the humanities is inseparable from the future of human beings. I highlight the current problems of war, environmental degradation, and mass surveillance that must be managed before they overwhelm and derail the potential for dramatic progress. Following recent scholarship and research trends, I explain how technological advancements will lead to the most significant evolutionary changes to the human being in aeons. Through technologies such as bionics, transgenesis, robotics, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence, Homo sapiens might be enabled to transcend its former limits and usher in an era of transhumanism. The relevant question is: What do we want to be? I argue that enhancement technologies will make their beneficiaries more robotic and less human, and explain why we must treasure the advantages of our distinctly human capacities and resist the prospect of empowering ourselves to become automatons. My underlying thesis is that developing an understanding of the most insightful ideas and cultivating an appreciation for the greatest creative works that humankind has produced will be crucial for maintaining our humanity. The humanities thus make a unique and indispensable contribution to defining what and who we want our descendants to be. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Humanities in a Utilitarian Age)
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