Academic journal article Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry

The Crisis in the Humanities

Academic journal article Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry

The Crisis in the Humanities

Article excerpt

My work concentrates on the literary and cultural history of Great Britain and America from 1750 to the present, which I treat as a coherent, if also dynamic and volatile, socio-historical field. In the mathematical terms I often find convenient, it is a Catastrophic Field and only understandable as such.

Although engaged with the "Theory Movement" that rose to dominance at the close of the twentieth-century, my orientation in the material culture of book history, bibliography, and theory of texts set my work in a critical relation to the principal lines of that movement. My points of departure were less in contemporary theory than in what I saw as the unfinished business of classical philology, which possessed what Trotsky called "the privilege of historical backwardness." The Marxist and socio-historical features of the theory movement were therefore important for my work, not least of all in approaching questions of scholarly editing. All that led naturally to connections with the New Historicism that began to emerge in the late 1980s, when post-structural theory had played itself out and the Legitimation Crisis for the humanities moved from the theoretical issue it was in the 1960s to a practical fact of everyday academic life. There is no question that Legitimation-what we've been calling for the past twenty-years or so "The Crisis in the Humanities"--has been the central question for me. …

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