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The Humanities and the Dream of America$
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Geoffrey Galt Harpham

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226316970

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226317014.001.0001

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Beneath and Beyond the “crisis in the Humanities”

Beneath and Beyond the “crisis in the Humanities”

(p.21) 1 Beneath and Beyond the “crisis in the Humanities”
The Humanities and the Dream of America

Geoffrey Galt Harpham

University of Chicago Press

The category of the humanities seems even to humanists themselves a mere administrative convenience, a kind of phantom entity rather than a real principle of identity; and like all things administrative, it is resisted with indifference. Crisis has become simply incorporated into the most accustomed ways in which humanistic scholars understand themselves and their work. The crisis is the rationale in that some scholars seem less interested in exposing students to the wisdom of the ages, the magic of art, and the rigors of history than they are in being observed in a dramatic, and sometimes entertaining, state of self-doubt. A clearly articulated rationale for humanistic inquiry would, however, help displace the attention from the professor to the profession, and also to focus the profession's attention on the community whose support it seeks and whose long-term interests it aspires to serve. The underlying aim of humanistic study is always to construct, through the materials provided by the text, an understanding of a human intention, an account of how and why this particular text came to be the way it is, and the conditions under which the text emerged.

Keywords:   humanities, crisis, scholars, community, self-doubt

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