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Contemporary debates

A Good Time for the Humanities?

I’ve been meaning to share this for a while, but never got around to doing it. As part of my work on redesigning the assessment plan for the German Studies program and also rethinking the undergraduate research education for our undergraduate students, I have been reading a lot about the role of the liberal arts and the humanities, usually in the context of “crisis”. While doing this I came across Cathy N. Davidson’s article in the AAUP magazine Academe, titled “Strangers on a Train.

Davidson keenly observes how the humanities are not innocent in their current difficult situation. But she also boldly claims that there hasn’t been a better time than the one we’re living in to reclaim the relevance of humanities disciplines:

We now live in an age that requires synthesis and reconnection across isolated and overly specialized fields throughout the university (by no means just in the humanities). If the university is in intellectual crisis (in addition to economic crisis), it is the consequence of a mismatch between the educational needs of our era and the antiquated design of our educational systems. In short, we need a wholesale reconceptualization and transformation of the industrial-age university for a global, interactive, interdisciplinary digital age. The humanities have the skills to put the present university in historical perspective and to lead its reformation, to turn a crisis into an opportunity. First we must acknowledge our complicity in the current crisis. Until we acknowledge our complicity, we will change nothing—but others will change us, whether we like it or not. There seems to be no third alternative in this version of the “crisis in the humanities.

Go and read the article, it’s worth it!


About GG

Gundolf Graml is Associate Prof. and Dir. of German Studies at Agnes Scott College. He has a Ph.D. in German Studies from the University of Minnesota and has published articles on German and Austrian film and tourism. He is currently writing a book about tourism and Austrian national identity after 1945. Other research projects include critical whiteness studies and, most recently, investigations into the connection between memory and nature. At ASC, Gundolf Graml teaches courses on a broad range of topics, from German 101 to German and Austrian Cinema and Afro-German History and Culture.


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