…or on the humanities and linguistic nostalgia

As I was looking up information on the topic of luxury marketing, I happened to stumble across an article published today in the New York Times about changes in the humanities in US universities. Ranked only fourth in the side box ‘most popular’ somewhere mid-screen on the right of the page I had read on new branding and marketing techniques in the Swiss watch industry, I found ‘College, Poetry and Purpose’ sufficiently attractive a title to prompt me to move my mouse, click on the link and then read this other article in full.

After having written about a ‘transformative educational experience’ in a previous column, the author, Frank Bruni, felt compelled to go and visit many, many years later the teacher responsible for this very highlight of his college days, which, unsurprisingly, had to do with Shakespeare:

And I remembered that smile from 30 years earlier, when she would expound on Othello’s corrosive jealousy, present Lady Macbeth as the dark ambassador of guilt’s insidious stamina and show those of us in her class that with careful examination and unhurried reflection, we could find in Shakespeare just about all of human life and human wisdom: every warning we needed to hear, every joy we needed to cultivate.

The article then proceeds to describe his former teacher’s feelings about the changes she sees as having happened since then in terms of the curriculum (which has become less text-centred and more politicised, less canonical and thus inclusive of non-literary genres), the students (be it their expectations, values, sense of self-entitlement, etc.) or the institution itself.

Complaints directed against the younger generation seem to have been made as far back as the Ancient Greek philosophers (Hesiod, Aristotle, Socrates), so the university teacher and Frank Bruni are in good company and I do not think that I can add much. However, I must admit that the following comment from the author of this article drew a smile of acquiescence from me as I really find this habit that some younger people have of almost peppering one out of every three sentences with a ‘like’ extremely annoying:

without letting the word “like” drop needlessly into their speech_College, Poetry and Purpose_Frank Bruni_NYT_18 Feb 2015

I suppose this is because I am no longer young. 😉