Adam Gopnik, in the New Yorker, has written a column entitled “Why Study English?” But, in today’s On the Square, Micah Mattix points out that the question he is really concerned with is “why read literature?” Studying English is a very different beast:
One of the problems with English studies today, brought about in part by English professors themselves and in part by the modern research university, is the separation between “specialists” and the public. The sciences have a specialized vocabulary and knowledge that have developed organically, as it were, from its methods, and, because of this, scientists regularly must “translate” their discoveries for the public so that the their value can be understood. But the constraints of “discovery” and “original research,” which are part of the scientific disciplines but not the humanities, were applied (or adopted) by English studies, pushing English professors to abandon reviews and criticism and pursue increasingly esoteric “research agendas.” And because the jargon of English studies is often unnatural, any effort to “translate” it sounds absurd.
Read the rest here.