The Dartmouth Observer

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Thursday, October 23, 2003
Woe to the old research university, or Dartmouth for that matter

This new orientation for the research university means a shift away from the disinterested search for knowledge, what used to be called, in Germany at least, Wissenschaft, to research that will produce marketable products, products that will help make us competitive in the global economy. United States universities are no longer so much covertly part of the military-industrial complex, as they were during the Cold War. They are now overtly part of a global technology complex.

This isn't particularly timely in an immediate sense, but it is in a global sense, because it is on an important topic, the future of the university and particularly the future of literary study. J. Hillis Miller writes an excellent essay in the Fall 2001 issue of Diacritics called "Literary Study Among the Ruins." In the essay, he contends that the methods of reading we know are ending with the advent of new technology and in fact were a fairly "recent" phenomenon beginning in the 18th century. The study of literature as we know it is an even more recent phenomenon, centered around the Cold War, and is slowly metamorphizing into a new form. Cultural Studies, he asserts, is an unfortunate bi-product of the change.

Miller believes that the study of English literature will be used as a means of learning how we fit into the rest of the world; English will be studied more according to geographic region as a result -- South Asian Studies, Atlantic Studies, any general area that produces works written in some version of English. These changes must come about, he says, as the university becomes globalized.

The issue as a whole is interesting and actually readable, whatever you may think of the points made, and it is refreshing for literature students accustomed to having to parse titles such as: "Trans-American Constructions of Black Masculinity: Dany Laferrière, le Nègre, and the Late Capitalist American Racial machine-désirante" (if you're so inclined it's in the latest issue of Callaloo).