Chapter

Introduction: The Humanities as a Foreign Language

Geoffrey Galt Harpham

in The Humanities and the Dream of America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780226316970
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226317014 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226317014.003.0001
Introduction: The Humanities as a Foreign Language

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The often idealizing and universalizing discourse of the humanities obscures the drama of their appearance in the tumultuous interwar period and their consolidation as a discourse of crisis in the immediate aftermath of World War II. The humanities do not own the project of human self understanding; by long-standing convention, they merely supervise it. Human self-understanding can pursue many paths. Advances in computer science, genetic engineering, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience have contributed immensely to the understanding of fundamental human capabilities and faculties, and this rumbling avalanche of facts and theories is not just adding to the sum of knowledge but changing the nature of the disciplines, and the relationship of discipline to discipline. Humanists now face the disconcerting but exciting prospect of watching their subject mutate before their eyes.

Keywords: humanities; self-understanding; humanists; disciplines; knowledge

Chapter.  6867 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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