Study the Humanities and Save America

I came across the above tweet last week and it made me smile. Jack Bauer, the main character in the FOX television show 24, earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA. On one level, it became an interesting answer to, “what can you do with a humanities degree?” You can save the free world, that’s what. Continue reading

The Challenge of the Humanities


512px-Things_Fall_Apart_books_02

An article in the Wall Street Journal last week decrying the shift in English departments away from the classics reflects the challenge that the Humanities faces because Humanities research often creates discomfort. The article specifically used UCLA’s 2011 curriculum change, which no longer requires semester-long courses on Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer, favoring courses that focus on issues of gender, class, race, etc., as a symbol of a focus in critical theory on everyone being victims. Her characterization of these courses illustrates part of the privilege that changes like UCLA’s challenge. She assumes that those doing feminist theory or Chicana literature focus on victimization because, it seems, she cannot imagine anyone celebrating the variety of voices, eloquent voices even, in the world. Critical theory and new ideas in any field can make people uncomfortable and may challenge assumed privileges. This discomfort is a factor in the challenges to the Humanities, including attempts to defund programs. Continue reading

Who Needs the Business School!

 Ben Simmons, an REL major, graduated in 2009. Since then, he has started his own online business. This originally appeared as an article in the Department’s 2011-12 Newsletter. View the Newsletter here (PDF).

bensimmonsI came to the University of Alabama in the fall of 2007 with an eye toward a degree in History because I enjoyed it, without considering how useful that degree would be out in the “real world.”  So, I signed up for other classes that I thought would be “easy A’s”. One of these classes was Introduction to Religious Studies taught by Professor Russell McCutcheon, and if you know anything about that man, then you will know that he saw right through me from day one. Raised the son of an evangelical pastor in Southern Alabama, I figured I would do well with minimal effort. That is the way my religious classes had always been. In the end, I did do well, but not without being challenged by the academic study of religions. Continue reading

It’s Complicated

In an earlier post I wondered aloud what the Humanities were, doing so by too briefly surveying some of the standard arguments that we often hear when this topic comes up. I concluded by asking readers what they thought the Humanities were, and left it at that.

To be fair, I ought to answer my own question. And so… Continue reading