the digital humanities

System Reboot by  Justin Evans

From the Seventies to the present, English departments have been fascinated by theory after theory, including varieties of structuralism (Lacanian, Althusserian, Foucauldian, post-) and identity-political criticism (beginning with feminist critiques, then critical race theories, queer theories, and culminating, for now, in disability studies). Each of these theories is worthwhile on its own terms, but cumulatively they raise questions about the task of the English department: Should it really just be the analysis of texts through theoretical frameworks borrowed from philosophy, linguistics, political theory, history and so on?

There are approaches to literature that don’t fit this theoretical-framework pattern, but they’ve been marginalized in the PPH English department, often on political grounds. We can see this in Allington et al.’s description of textual scholarship as reactionary. This rejection might make sense to scholars who work entirely with contemporary texts (or, indeed, no texts at all), but textual scholarship has always been crucial for any form of literary history. The first thing you learn about medieval literature, for instance, is that it was not produced for, or read in, a black Penguin Classic edition. We can buy those paperbacks—often with broadly progressive introductions and annotations—thanks to centuries of textual scholarship. Pace Allington et al., there’s no reason to think of textual scholarship as politically conservative: it is a tool; any political slant comes from the nature of the text being studied. The real problem with textual scholarship in relation to the contemporary English department is that it doesn’t fit any of the theoretical models that have become synonymous with the politically progressive humanities.


Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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