Having read The American Scholar for probably over thirty years, I could only feel the most seething contempt for the Autumn 2009 article by William M. Chace, “The Decline of the English Department: How it happened and what could be done to reverse it.”
I found myself repeatedly thinking while reading it, is this all you can come up with? What do you expect? The American English department is thoroughly sunk in doctrinaire nihilism and cynicism, as are all of the humanities, indeed, modern culture. We don’t believe there’s any value, meaning, or purpose to life. Who in their right mind would want to spend their lives studying the idiocies that the humanities have given themselves to over the last decades? I didn’t in the 1980s when I found myself subjected to bumbling fools prating about Derrida and the End of Everything, while composition “specialists” were busy draining off, in their own way, anything worthwhile to write about. Clearly fewer and fewer young people are interested. Good for them. There’s hope after all. Unfortunately, that leaves most of them grossly illiterate and nescient about human civilization. But that’s what you ultimately get when you have coercion of conscience by tutors, clerks….
Now available in
The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays
Forthcoming, September, 2014.
On the American English department, also see my post For All Humanity.