WHAT ARE THE HUMANITIES?: WHAT ARE THE HUMANITIES? DISCIPLINES IN THE HUMANITIES AT SUSSEX: DISCIPLINES IN THE HUMANITIES AT SUSSEX American Studies
English (including English Language and Drama)
Media and Film Studies
Philosophy OED Definition: OED Definition Learning or literature concerned with human culture: a term including the various branches of polite scholarship, as grammar, rhetoric, poetry, and esp. the study of the ancient Latin and Greek classics. a. sing. (Still used in the Scottish Universities, in the sense of ‘the study of the Latin language and literature’.)
Humanities as Salvation? : Humanities as Salvation? “in our truest readings, as students, we searched the page for guidance, guidance in perplexity. We found it in Lawrence, or we found it in Eliot, the early Eliot. The rest of our reading, by comparison, was just a matter of mugging things up so we could pass exams.
If the humanities want to survive, surely It is those energies and that craving for guidance that they must respond to: a craving that is, in the end, a quest for salvation.’
J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello Humanities as critique?: Humanities as critique? ‘It is the humanities and the humanities alone that will allow us to steer our way through this multicultural world, precisely because the humanities are about reading and interpretation. The humanities begin in textual scholarship, and develop as a body of disciplines devoted to interpretation.’
J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello Humanities as commodity?: Humanities as commodity? ‘Faculties of Humanities remain the core of any university.’
‘The humanities the core of the university? She may be an outsider, but if she were asked to name the core of the university today, its core discipline, she would say it was moneymaking. That is how it looks from Melbourne, Victoria; and she would not be surprised if the same were the case in Johannesburg, South Africa’.
J. M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello Globalisation and the Humanities: Globalisation and the Humanities Globalisation, Violence and the End of Literature.: Globalisation, Violence and the End of Literature. Theodor Adorno, ‘Cultural Criticism and Society’, in Prisms, 1955.
“The sinister, integrated society of today no longer tolerates even those relatively independent, distinct moments to which the theory of the causal dependence of superstructure on base once referred. In the open-air prison which the world is becoming, it is no longer so important to know what depends on what, such is the extent to which all things are one. All phenomena rigidify, become insignias of the absolute rule of that which is [….] To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. And this corrodes even the knowledge of why it has become impossible to write poetry today”. Fiction, Globalisation and Terrorism: Fiction, Globalisation and Terrorism Don DeLillo, Mao II (1992)
“There’s a curious knot that binds novelists and terrorists. In the West we become famous effigies as our books lose the power to shape and influence. Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of a culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated”. mechanical reproduction and global violence: mechanical reproduction and global violence Andy Warhol, ‘Atomic bomb’ Art, commodity culture, and mechanical reproduction: Art, commodity culture, and mechanical reproduction Andy Warhol, ‘Campbells Soup’ Francis Fukyama and the ‘end of history’: Francis Fukyama and the ‘end of history’ "What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." September 11th:An end to the end of history?Questioning the inevitability of global capitalism and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy: September 11th: An end to the end of history? Questioning the inevitability of global capitalism and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy Don DeLillo: ‘In the Ruins of the Future’: Don DeLillo: ‘In the Ruins of the Future’ In the past decade the surge of capital markets has dominated discourse and shaped global consciousness. Multinational corporations have come to seem more vital and influential than governments. The dramatic climb of the Dow and the speed of the internet summoned us all to live permanently in the future, in the utopian glow of cyber-capital, because there is no memory there and this is where markets are uncontrolled and investment potential has no limit. All this changed on September 11. Don DeLillo: Don DeLillo “The sense of disarticulation we hear in the term "Us and Them" has never been so striking, at either end”.
“Two forces in the world, past and future. With the end of communism, the ideas and principles of modern democracy were seen clearly to prevail, whatever the inequalities of the system itself. This is still the case. But now there is a global theocratic state, unboundaried and floating and so obsolete it must depend on suicidal fervour to gain its aims.” George Bush: George Bush “You are either with us or against us in this war on terror” George Bush: George Bush 'The terrorists are fighting freedom with all their cunning and cruelty because freedom is their greatest fear and they should be afraid, because freedom is on the march' Tony Blair: Tony Blair This is a moment to seize.
The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again.
Before they do, let us re-order this world around us. Humanities as an engine for:counternarrative critiqueinterpretation: Humanities as an engine for: counternarrative critique interpretation Don DeLillo: Don DeLillo “Terror brings the new future into being”
“The Bush administration was feeling a nostalgia for the cold war. This is over now. Many things are over. The narrative ends in the rubble and it is left to us to create the counternarrative.” 9/11 Fiction: 9/11 Fiction Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
John Updike, Terrorist
Don DeLillo, Falling Man
Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Ian McEwan, Saturday
Orhan Pamuck, Snow
Julia Glass, The Whole World Over
Ken Kalfus, A Disorder Peculiar to Our Country
Claire Messud, The Emperor’s Children
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
Martin Amis, ‘The Last Hours of Mohhamad Atta’
Some implications for the study and practice of humanities: Some implications for the study and practice of humanities
‘with us or against us’
what it is
what it might mean
‘Open’ reading 9/11 - the closing-off of dialogue?: 9/11 - the closing-off of dialogue?
The parable of Pierre Boulez, the problem of opera, and international anti-terrorist laws!
....a woeful tale of ‘closed reading’ in the hegemonic climate of anti-terror paranoia... ‘Swiss Terror Swoop Discomposes Boulez, 75’ (The Guardian 05/12/01): ‘Swiss Terror Swoop Discomposes Boulez, 75’ (The Guardian 05/12/01) ‘At dawn on 2 November 2001, less than two months after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Pierre Boulez was arrested in his Basle hotel bedroom on suspicion of international terrorism. Ignorant of musicological protocol, the Swiss police had mistaken his infamous suggestion of the late 1960s that “the most elegant solution to the problem of opera is to blow-up the opera houses”1 for a literal call to arms and targeted him as a threat to world security.’
(Ben Parsons, ‘Arresting Boulez: Post-war modernism in context’ JRMA 129 no. 1 161–176, p. 161)
1 Pierre Boulez, ‘Jan Buzga: Interview mit Pierre Boulez in Prag’, Melos, 34 (1967), 162–4; English trans. in Opera, 19 (1968), 440–50.
Discomposed Boulez cont.: Discomposed Boulez cont. ‘The Swiss police’s faux pas is coloured by a somewhat uncomfortable irony. In the context of a historical process in which Boulez has been iconicized as a defender and legitimator of abstract organizational principles, we are not used to having to make the connection between him and the problems and politics of a real world that lies outside the boundaries of the narrowly defined serial aesthetic.’ (ibid.)
Discomposed Boulez cont.: Discomposed Boulez cont. ‘we tend not to mix post-war serial music with what might be called the extra-musical. Indeed, it is this very understanding of early serialism that has marked out what Richard Taruskin has characterized as a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around ‘the Music Itself ’ – ‘a decontaminated space within which music can be composed, performed and listened to in a cultural and historical vacuum, that is, in perfect sterility’1 (Parsons, ibid.)
1 Richard Taruskin, ‘Stravinsky and the Subhuman, a Myth of the Twentieth Century: The Rite of Spring,
the Tradition of the New, and “the Music Itself ” ’, Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical
Essays (Princeton, 1997; repr. 2000), 360–88 (p. 368).
Problems of the parable of Boulez: Problems of the parable of Boulez Absurd confusion of a subtle intellectual critique, set in the context of 1960s modern opera, for an absolute, decontextualised, literal (mis)reading of a terrorist threat.
Failure to stop and think!
Failure to ‘be still and know’!
Questions whether art/critique is itself a political act or whether it sometimes needs a decontaminated space in which to speculate Is music/art engaged with the real world?: Is music/art engaged with the real world? 2 Examples of highly repetitive structures (à la Warhol)
Pierre Boulez’s Ritual (1974) Perfect sterility?
Organised Delirium - exists in a cordon-sanitaire
Can we merely explain how it is structured/made?
John Adams’ Death of Klinghoffer (1991) Politically engaged?
Coincidence: recorded on 9/11 - appropriates new context
Immediately censored => an opera about terrorism!
Klinghoffer and Terrorism: Klinghoffer and Terrorism ‘It happened that the world premiere of John Adam’s The Death of Klinghoffer...took place in...1991, during the First Gulf War. The subject of the opera is the hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists in 1985. Pickets from the Jewish Information League staged demonstrations outside the theatre in San Francisco. The problem was that Adams had dared to give an equal voice to both sides, making no judgment as to who is right and who is wrong. (Oh that politicians would do the same.)....The demonstrators presumably saw in this work insufficient condemnation of the terrorists... ’ (Stephen Pettitt ‘The Death of Klinghoffer, Decca DVD inlay card.)
Klinghoffer and Terrorism: Klinghoffer and Terrorism ‘Disgracefully, the work has not been staged in America since that run. Moreover, a performance of choruses from the opera scheduled in Boston late in 2001 was also cancelled because of sensitivities arising from the events of 11 September, a decision with which the composer angrily disagreed, “not only because it presumes the...audiences only want comfort and familiarity during these difficult times, but also because it sets a precedent that there is poetry and music that should not be performed at a given moment because of its content”. Klinghoffer has effectively suffered censorship, and that in a state that consistently asserts its love of freedom.’ ( ibid.)
9/11 ‘shook the kaleidoscope’: 9/11 ‘shook the kaleidoscope’ 9/11, like Auschwitz before it, ‘shook the kaleidoscope’ (to paraphrase Tony Blair) of art.
A number of reactions ensued before the kaleidoscope settled:
In its wake, as Adorno felt half a century earlier, it was natural to question whether we could continue to make art or write about it.
Was ‘art’ now rendered a distasteful indulgence protected from harsh reality by its various cordon sanitaires: museums; galleries; concert halls; opera houses; literary texts; digital media; linguistic games; historical archives?
Or were such ‘decontaminated, apolitical spaces vital for art and critique to survive and paradoxically become political?
9/11 ‘shook the kaleidoscope’ cont.: 9/11 ‘shook the kaleidoscope’ cont. But art also offered consolation:
on the night of 9/11, the BBC Proms programme changed to a programme of ‘respectful’, ‘comforting’ American Nationalism (e.g. Barber’s Adagio)
But the most distasteful paradox of all.....
some tried to regard 9/11 itself as a work of art - the greatest ever!
E.g. 1 Stockhausen on 9/11: E.g. 1 Stockhausen on 9/11 Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen was forced to apologise for describing the terrorists' attack on the World Trade Centre as "the greatest work of art one can imagine".
(See Kate Connolly, ‘Twin Towers Symbolised Arrogance, says Top Designer’, The Guardian 16/10/2001.)
[He actually referred to it as "the greatest work of art by Lucifer”. In his apology he said that his comments had been misconstrued and he had been horrified by the atrocity.]
Beware the dangers of selective quotation!
E.g. 2 Damien Hirst on 9/11...: E.g. 2 Damien Hirst on 9/11... ‘The artist Damien Hirst said...he believed the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks "need congratulating" because they achieved "something which nobody would ever have thought possible" on an artistic level. Hirst, who is no stranger to controversy, said many people would "shy away" from looking at the event as art but he believed the World Trade Centre attack was "kind of like an artwork in its own right"’.
(See Rebecca Allison, ‘9/11 wicked but a work of art, says Damien Hirst’, The Guardian 11/9/2002.)
Damien Hirst cont....: Damien Hirst cont.... ‘"The thing about 9/11 is that...it was wicked, but it was devised in this way for this kind of impact. It was devised visually." Describing the image of the hijacked planes crashing into the twin towers as "visually stunning", he added: "You've got to hand it to them on some level because they've achieved something which nobody would have ever have thought possible. ’ (ibid.)
Damien Hirst cont....: Damien Hirst cont.... ‘Referring to how the event changed perceptions, he added: "I think our visual language has been changed by what happened on September 11: an aeroplane becomes a weapon - and if they fly close to buildings people start panicking. Our visual language is constantly changing in this way and I think as an artist you're constantly on the lookout for things like that."’ (ibid.)
Dangers of dehumanised structuralist analysis: Dangers of dehumanised structuralist analysis 9/11 becomes ‘objectified’, even ‘commodified’:
described dispassionately as a series of structural visual elements utterly removed from the context of those ‘visual elements’!
9/11 is made into a text
Paradox of art decontextualising terrorism and appropriating it for itself:
Inverse of Nazi/Fascist propaganda in which ‘terrorism’ appropriated art for its own ends.
Humanities and ethics:An ethics derived from the suspension of ethical engagementAn ethics derived from balancing thought in both political and depolitical spacesAn ethics derived from ‘being still and knowing’: Humanities and ethics: An ethics derived from the suspension of ethical engagement An ethics derived from balancing thought in both political and depolitical spaces An ethics derived from ‘being still and knowing’