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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This month's "Theory killed English" article is stranger than most, as it begins with a recognition that drops in English departments are commensurate with drops in foreign languages, history, and "philosophy and religious studies" (which I had no idea was a single discipline). It therefore concludes that these disciplines must all be part of something called "the literary humanities," whose decline can still be pinned (of course) on politicized disputes within English itself. Now, it's true that I have long thought History was ripe for academic colonization, but I think my friends in that department might resist the idea that their discipline is a mere appendix to mine.

English: from 7.6 percent of the majors to 3.9 percent
Foreign languages and literatures: from 2.5 percent to 1.3 percent
Philosophy and religious studies: from 0.9 percent to 0.7 percent
History: from 18.5 percent to 10.7 percent
Business: from 13.7 percent to 21.9 percent
It takes real work to look at numbers showing a roughly 50% decline across the board in the humanities since 1970/1971 and conclude that intra-English shifts must be the primary culprit. I look at these same numbers, note the nearly identical drops in History and elsewhere, and conclude the decline must have been caused by external pressures, having nothing to do with theory or the canon at all.