Open Ending: Expanding English/Extending English
And therefore, to say the truth, I cannot really think that humane letters are in much actual danger of being thrust out from their leading place in education. . . . There will be crowded into education other matters besides, far too many; there will be, perhaps, a period of unsettlement and confusion and false tendency; but . . . a poor humanist may possess his soul in patience. . . . The majority of men [sic] will always require humane letters.
-- Matthew Arnold
Where are we going, and how not to get there? This chapter will not add to the growing chorus of doomsaying in and about the humanities. Although there is good reason to fear bad consequences from a spread of political correctness, the equal and opposite reactive forces of journalistic exposé and politicians' control of the purse should keep English's lunatic fringe from uncontested dominance. It will also keep the rhetoric on both sides impassioned and resentful for a time, until repetition leads to boredom and quiescence--signs of which are already readable. The American campus will continue to register the class shifts and race tensions of the larger society and must "work out its salvation with diligence" (as a theological poet would put it). As in other academic fields, human inertia will work against rapid devolution and, indeed, against any sharp departure from practiced habits of reading and teaching.
But--the retort will come--for how long? How long can any citadel of rational thinking and measured expression hold out when, it is said, the barbari