Bioculture critiques Cultural Critique

Brian Boyd in The American Scholar:

BoydWe love stories, and we will continue to love them. But for more than 30 years, as Theory has established itself as “the new hegemony in literary studies” (to echo the title of Tony Hilfer’s cogent critique), university literature departments in the English-speaking world have often done their best to stifle this thoroughly human emotion.

Every year, heavy hitters in the academic literary world sum up the state of the discipline in the Modern Language Association of America’s annual, Profession. In Profession 2005, Louis Menand, Harvard English professor, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and New Yorker essayist, writes that university literature departments “could use some younger people who think that the grownups got it all wrong.” He has no hunch about what they should say his generation got wrong, but he deplores the absence of a challenge to the reigning ideas in the discipline. He laments the “culture of conformity” in professors and graduate students alike. He notes with regret that the profession “is not reproducing itself so much as cloning itself.”

But then, curiously, he insists that what humanities departments should definitely not seek is “consilience, which is a bargain with the devil.” Consilience, in biologist E. O. Wilson’s book of that name, is the idea that the sciences, the humanities, and the arts should be connected with each other, so that science (most immediately, the life sciences) can inform the humanities and the arts, and vice versa.

More here.