July 30, 2008

The Burden of the Humanities
by Wilfred M. McClay

The Wilson Quarterly

. . .What does it mean to speak of the "burden" of the humanities? The phrase can be taken several ways. First, it can refer to the weight the humanities themselves have to bear, the things that they are supposed to accomplish on behalf of us, our nation, or our civilization. But it can also refer to the ­near ­opposite: the ways in which the humanities are a source of responsibility for us, and their recovery and cultivation and preservation our job, even our ­duty.

Both of these senses of ­burden—­the humanities as preceptor, and the humanities as ­task—­need to be included in our sense of the problem. The humanities, rightly pursued and rightly ordered, can do things, and teach things, and preserve things, and illuminate things, which can be accomplished in no other way. It is the humanities that instruct us in the range and depth of human possibility, including our immense capacity for both goodness and depravity. It is the humanities that nourish and sustain our shared memories, and connect us with our civilization's past and with those who have come before us. It is the humanities that teach us how to ask what the good life is for us humans, and guide us in the search for civic ideals and institutions that will make the good life ­possible.

July 29, 2008

Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again

"In 2004, Roger Martin, former Harvard dean and then President of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, enrolled as a college freshman at St. John's College in Annapolis Maryland. When this undertaking captured the headlines of the national media, Dr. Martin appeared on NBC's Today Show and was interviewed by NPR's Scott Simon. His book, Racing Odysseus: A College President becomes a Freshman Again (UC Press, July 2008) now tells the whole story in a way that will be enjoyed by young and old alike."

July 02, 2008

English Faculty Take Great Books, Learning to Three Prisons

"Thanks to a recent partnership between Middle Tennessee State University, the Tennessee Department of Correction and the Great Books Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization, prisoners at three Nashville-area prisons recently had a chance to explore [what Longfellow called] 'the sweet serenity of books' by participating in a nine-week program titled Great Books in Middle Tennessee Prisons."