The Global Future of English Studies
This is not a prescriptive manifesto on method, calling for a new approach to research, a new theorization of the literary object, or a new form of pedagogical practice. There are always plenty of books in circulation announcing new programs of research and teaching; such books are indeed one of the great constants of our discipline, one of the products it most reliably produces – one of the signs, indeed, of its stability and vigor. Yet when we step back to take a long view of literary studies, even the most contentious debates over specific disciplinary assumptions and practices tend to appear as minor eruptions on a placid surface, affecting a relatively small number of faculty and graduate students who are housed in a few exceptional institutions. As Barbara Herrnstein Smith observed in the midst of the fierce conflicts of the early 1990s, when English faculty were accused of pursuing a wholesale assault on the discipline’s traditional texts and values, “nothing in higher education has been more stable over the past 40 years than the curriculum of departments of English.”
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