Tag Archives: English

Two faculty manifestos

Two distinguished professors, formerly of the ILA (and currently in English, Comparative Literature, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies), have published their thoughts on the meaning and value of interdisciplinary work in the liberal arts in a time of combined austerity and administrative bloat.

First, Walter Reed, laying down some Luther- or Spinoza-inspired “Theses on the Liberal Arts” for Durham University’s Centre for Humanities Innovation:

3.1 Teaching is the transmission of information, knowledge and (ideally) wisdom, either as ends in themselves or as the means to other ends. The traffic moves in both directions on this highway as well—from the masters to the disciples and from the certified professionals to those in training for certification, but also from the disciples back to the masters, from those in training back to the professionals. The balance between teaching and learning is dynamic and inherently unstable….

3.1.3 This dynamism and instability carry over to the relationship between emerging disciplinary specializations (new sub-fields within a discipline) and the disciplines as already established. New specializations both instruct and depend on older ones, though a balanced appreciation of the new and the old is difficult to maintain for those most closely involved. A similar dynamic instability informs interdisciplinary initiatives setting up shop between established disciplines. (Interdisciplinary inquiry is not the same as undisciplined study.)

And Michael Moon comments on “English Departments at a Crossroads”:

What some administrators currently mean by an “English department” seems to me in the main not to be a place or a project that serves the intellectual and professional needs of my students or myself very well. English departments turned out to serve the needs of faculty and students in queer studies for the first twenty years or so of my career in large part because many of them had – often through a process of prolonged conflict and division – turned themselves into major seedbeds of interdisciplinary growth during the 1970s and ‘80s, so that many fields which have since developed in varying degrees into autonomous disciplines, departments, and programs (critical theory, gender studies, lesbian and gay studies, queer theory, film and media studies, the whole spectrum of ethnic studies, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, etc.) spent their first decade or so as emergent academic fields as flourishing sub-projects of this or that English department.

So one feature of the current academic landscape that disturbs me is the relentless shutting-down of anglophone literary studies as the kind of expansive set of interdisciplinary intellectual spaces which they’ve provided at many universities for the past several decades….

Professor Moon’s piece comes courtesy of U to the Rescue, a blog curated by scholar-activist Christopher Newfield.

 

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Profs in cut departments file formal grievance

18 faculty members, all from departments that are being eliminated or downsized as a result of Dean Forman’s cuts last fall, have filed a formal grievance with Emory College. The complaint, which alleges numerous violations in CFAC’s handling of the cuts, was written in consultation with a prominent Atlanta lawyer. (One professor who signed the document told us that any administrator who glances at it will know that the signatories mean business.) It demands that Emory annul the cuts and “affirm the primacy of the [Emory] Bylaws” and the official principles governing faculty regulations.

You can view the original document here [PDF], courtesy of the Wheel.

The 18 signatories are David Armstrong and Sheila Tefft (journalism); Walter Reed, Angelika Bammer, Kevin Corrigan, Sander Gilman, Anna Grimshaw, Sean Meighoo, Catherine Nickerson and Kimberly Wallace-Sanders (ILA); Juliette Apkarian, Vera Proskurina and Elena Glazov-Corrigan (Russian/REALC); Samiran (Shomu) Banerjee (economics); Jason Francisco and Julia Kjelgaard (visual arts); and Robert Jensen and Carole Hahn (Division of Educational Studies).

Needless to say, the Grievance Committee has denied the signatories’ requests to repeal the cuts and affirm the university’s commitment to uphold its own bylaws. (The only request it did grant was to respond to the grievance during this semester.) English professor Sheila Cavanagh, writing on behalf of the ten-person committee, reportedly “finds no cause to pursue this matter further.”

Faculty members, including AAUP representatives, insist that the battle isn’t over.

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Open letter from the English Dept.

Twenty-four tenured and senior professors in the English department have released a letter condemning President Wagner’s racist editorial in the Emory Magazine. They condemn Wagner’s words as “indefensible” and call on the Board of Trustees to respond

3.6.13.English Dept Open Letter 3.6.13.English Dept Open Letter-signatures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also duly noted:

In the short term, we anticipate adverse consequences for the recruitment of faculty members and top-tier students. Serious academics will no doubt pause to question whether Emory is a suitable environment in which to pursue liberal arts training that promotes respect based on informed critical reasoning.
During this graduate admissions season, we have had to write to our admitted students to reassure them that President Wagner’s article in no way reflects our values, nor should it affect their training. Indeed, we have heard back from many of them that the article has been on their minds as they deliberate about whether to come to Emory rather than to accept other, highly competitive offers.

We thank you for your way with words and your integrity in exercising the “responsibilities” that come with tenure. We also express shame at the culture–one not unique to Emory–where junior faculty are led to believe speaking out may put their jobs on the line.

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