Lebenskünstler

Bruce Fleming – Professionalization of Literature

Posted in Uncategorized by Randall Szott on 12/26/2008

From Bruce Fleming’s “What Ails Literary Studies”:

“We’re not teaching literature, we’re teaching the professional study of literature: What we do is its own subject. Nowadays the academic study of literature has almost nothing to do with the living, breathing world outside. The further along you go in the degree ladder, and the more rarified a college you attend, the less literary studies relates to the world of the reader. The academic study of literature nowadays isn’t, by and large, about how literature can help students come to terms with love, and life, and death, and mistakes, and victories, and pettiness, and nobility of spirit, and the million other things that make us human and fill our lives. It’s, well, academic…That’s how we made a discipline, after all.”

There are some conservative overtones to his piece, but he’s right on the mark with regard to the way professionalization can stifle human experience. I found myself substituting ‘art’ for ‘literary studies,’ but pretty much any disciplinary field is applicable.

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