Can ‘Neuro Lit Crit’ Save the Humanities?
Alice Rawsthorne, that prescient design critic of the International Herald tribune, had it right when she observed that 90% of our designers work for 10% of the world's population. A fortiori, 90% of our humanists work for the fiscally lucky 10% of all extant human beings.
As I look back in my retirement at sixty years of humanist activity, I deplore the prevalence of Iv(or)y Tower dominance in our "discipline". (My PhD in American Studies, 1957, Western Reserve, dead-ended in a new kind of cultural colonialism.)
I started to globalize English, first by assimilating AfroAm and Appalachian Lits into American Lit, then adding Canadian and Caribbean, African Lit. I decided my new rubric was International English by accessioning Commonwealth Lit.I couldn't resist the wiles of Lowell Blair, editor of Michigan State Press, when he introduced me to R.K.Narayan.
English is not a fiefdom for $100,000 professors and legions of untenured peons. It is a profession ideally suited to helping the masses become more humane in our first global era. We first abandoned the common schools and secular media to an unexamined consumerism in our hunger to make it big in the "Humanities". We abandoned our natural charges to the hysterical hijinks of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
And now we want to bury our heads in another sandbank of polysyllabic foolishness. We have forgotten that the simple mandate of the humanities is to help the under-tutored to be more humane. At least that's why I value literature.
What we need is the literary equivalent of Cameron Sinclair's Architecture for Humanity and their Bible, "Design Like You Give A Damn." We don't need more Ph.Ds in the Humanities. We need more savvy elementary and high school teachers to lead the least supported out of their urban hellholes.
University presidents with million dollar salaries should be cashiered as phony humanists. Ninety percent of the humans alive today are suffering subhuman lives. Our curricula should be designed to save them inhumane lives. That's why literature and the arts are crucial.
April 6th, 2010