[Humanist] 24.712 freedom

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Feb 15 07:37:08 CET 2011


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 712.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2011 11:19:20 -0800
        From: Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.710 two sets of questions
        In-Reply-To: <20110214093353.3AA93EC6FC at woodward.joyent.us>


Dear Willard,

To entertain you, I would reply that the use of the term "intellectual" in
the first quotation is anachronistic.  The French may like to call essayists
outside the formal Academy as "public intellectuals," when they are, when
one reads them, philosophizing flaneurs and boulevardiers.  Saul Bellow,
originally a Canadian, as you know, wrote an amusing story collected in a
volume titled HIM WITH HIS FOOT IN HIS MOUTH, called "The Last
Intellectual."  It was about Harold Rosenberg, who may indeed have been the
last of that breed of characters.  The term is a reification of the Russian
term for a class of free-floating educated persons called "intelligentsia,"
outside the 3 Estates and the Peasantry and the nascent proletariat of the
19th Century.

Academics with tenure may pursue studies that are scientific and cultural,
perhaps even somewhat intellectual in character — but the latter only when
there no "boundaries" imposed on their inquiries by the tenuring powers.
Which answers perhaps to the second quotation about the "inter" vs the
"intra" in departments, set up for administrative purposes by the
institution and its supporters, private or public.

As you know, Spinoza philosophized and for his trouble was excommunicated by
the Netherland rabbinate.   Galileo speculated from what he saw or thought
he saw in his speculum in the tube, and was awarded permanent house arrest.
The question is dicey, but it ought to result, with perseverance and luck,
in some sort of freedom to think at all. Einstein did his work from a corner
of the patent office in Zurich, was it?  Curie in, according to a movie I
glimpsed the other night, a leaky storage shed outside the Halls of Academe. Veblen from a corner crib office in the basement at King's College.
 Emerson left the Unitarian Church as too restrictive!  Thoreau experiments
for some years in a jerrybuilt shack of planks purchased from an Irish
railway worker.  Etc.

Jascha Kessler

On Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 1:33 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 710.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>  (41)
>        Subject: loss of fire
>
>  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>  (21)
>        Subject: a heads-up to the present or to the past?
>
>
>
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2011 13:35:47 +0000
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: loss of fire
>
>
> In what I take to be one of the founding documents of cultural studies
> in N America, Henry Giroux, David Shumway, Paul Smith and James
> Sosnoski, "The Need for Cultural Studies: Resisting Intellectuals and
> Oppositional Public Spheres", Dalhousie Review 64 (1984): 472-86, the
> authors address the reasons for the failures of interdisciplinary
> movements as follows:
>
> > Interdisciplinary movements ... have often developed out of the sense
> > that the most important issues were being lost in the cracks between
> > the rigid boundaries of the disciplines.... The problem is that no
> > solid alternatives to disciplinary structure have evolved within the
> > academy and, as a result, movements [to establish interdisciplines]
> > paradoxically must strive to become disciplines. Thus, while these
> > movements often begin with a critical perspective, they retreat from
> > radical critique as they become more successful. To the extent that
> > such movements resist disciplines, their seriousness is questioned.
> > Practitioners are regarded as dilettantes rather than real scholars,
> > and their enterprises are written off as mere fads....
> >
> > It would be a mistake to regard the failure of interdisciplinary
> > movements to remain critical enterprises as the result of the
> > suppression of political ideas. Because an intellectual's political
> > views are posited as irrelevant to the work of disciplines
> > themselves, speaking and thinking about political and social
> > questions are construed as merely eccentric to the [discipline]. This
> > failure to engage historical contexts and social particularities can
> > be seen most clearly in the type of pedagogy that traditional
> > disciplines institute.
>
> In other words, beause a form of life defined in terms of disciplines
> excludes questioning their contingent boundaries, any movement that sets
> out to challenge these boundaries is doomed either to perish or to
> become part of the problem.
>
> Is this so? Is it so for us? If it seems like it might be, how is it to be
> avoided?
>
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
> King's College London, www.mccarty.org.uk;
> Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney,
> www.uws.edu.au/centre_for_cultural_research/ccr/people/researchers;
> Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.
>
>
>
>
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2011 09:27:18 +0000
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: a heads-up to the present or to the past?
>
> "When a new freedom comes into being, the kind of thing it leads to
> depends largely on the characters of the people who first enjoy it. And,
> character being a less rigid thing than an already fixed and limiting
> set of traditions, the element of chance in the determining of events
> becomes unusually large.... Thus it follows that any fitting account,
> or, to put it more solemnly, any adequate history [of how this new
> freedom was used] must deal largely with persons and their characters.
> It cannot avoid regulations and other academic events but it would be
> superficial and misleading if it confined itself to them. It must have
> as its topic certain people: by what accidents they became involved...
> what ideas they had, and how they translated them into action."
>
> E. M. W. Tillyard, The Muse Unchained: An intimate account of the
> revolution in English studies at Cambridge (London: Bowes & Bowes,
> 1958), pp. 11-12.
>
> --
> Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
> King's College London, www.mccarty.org.uk;
> Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney,
> www.uws.edu.au/centre_for_cultural_research/ccr/people/researchers;
> Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.
>
>
>
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-- 
Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: 310.393.4648
www.jfkessler.com
www.xlibris.com





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