Poetry and Debates on the Value of Arts and Humanities

Are the Humanities obsolete? Or were they obsolete even before they were formed? Plato disparaged any study that could not demonstrate clearly its own truth and moral validity–which ruled out the arts and any philosophy that allowed for skepticism and uncertainty. Since then, the Humanities and Liberal Arts have been attacked and defended. More recent attacks have focused on the Humanities’ alleged lack of technological acumen and economic utility, its presumed moral relativism, and its ideological tendencies toward the Left (or, at other times, toward the Right). How then can these studies and artistic pursuits–criticized as both anti-modern and postmodern, epistemologically and morally dubious, economically worthless, and politically harmful–defend themselves? In an era of alleged economic scarcity, when all public funds must be rigorously accounted for and a robust return is expected for all investments, when the prevailing values are those of finance, entrepreneurship, and technical innovation, how can the Humanities justify themselves as worthy of study and funding? What other values might they invoke? Or can they only present themselves as adjuncts of the dominant ideology, arguing, for instance, that a degree in English will help toward career in law or business?  This course will examine these debates, from Plato’s Academy to today’s corporate university.

Also AMST 414

Undergraduate Course #: 
M 1:30pm-3:20pm
WR, Hu
Course Attribute: 
American Lit