Thursday, March 2, 2006

Camille Paglia on academia

The humanities have destroyed themselves over the past thirty years. They were at a height of prestige, along with poetry, when I was in college in the 1960s and in graduate school at Yale from the late 60s to the early 70s. And step by step, through this intoxication with European jargon and a shallow politicization of discourse, the humanities have imploded. You have downsizing of humanities departments and classics departments nationwide. There's hardly a campus you can name where the most exciting things that are happening on campus are coming from the humanities departments. It really is a disaster. . . . What happens when you have the humanities overrun by a certain kind of careerist who really doesn't espouse anything, stands for nothing but a kind of chic nihilism and a certain kind of pretentious discourse. I think that the entire profession is indeed in withdrawal at the present moment.
» Camille Paglia Takes on Academia
(radio interview, 5.7MB MP3, from Open Source)

comments: 2

poet CAConrad said...

How do you feel about the rise though in creative writing programs? There was a time when I was set against them, but now I have friends in programs, or who have been through these programs, and I feel the sense of that community branching out through the arts in general in a positive way.

Nothing of course is close to being like Black Mountain, especially when you hear such poets as Jonathan Williams talk about his days down there.


Michael Leddy said...

I don't have first-hand experience of a creative writing program. I know that Marjorie Perloff sees such programs as helping to keep the possibilities of poetry alive. But I know too (as she does) that they can also promulgate the worst sort of careerist attitudes and hackneyed writing. I suppose it depends -- whose program?

What I'd really like though would be for poetry to be central in literary studies again (not reserved largely for people who themselves want to write it). There's a huge need for teachers (i.e., people doing teacher-cert, not cw majors) who can make poetry (and lit generally) available to their students with genuine complexity and excitement. Yet so many English majors are intimidated by poetry, by any text not reducible to moral truths (about the choices characters make, the challenges they overcome). I fear a future in which kids grow up reading nothing but short stories and "problem novels" because their teachers are ill-equipped to teach much else.