Why the Humanities Matter
A Commonsense Approach
Is there life after postmodernism? Many claim that it sounded the death knell for history, art, ideology, science, possibly all of Western philosophy, and certainly for the concept of reality itself. Responding to essential questions regarding whether the humanities can remain politically and academically relevant amid this twenty-first-century uncertainty, Why the Humanities Matter offers a guided tour of the modern condition, calling upon thinkers in a variety of disciplines to affirm essential concepts such as truth, goodness, and beauty.
Offering a lens of "new humanism," Frederick Aldama also provides a liberating examination of the current cultural repercussions of assertions by such revolutionary theorists as Said, Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida, as well as Latin Americanists such as Sommer and Mignolo. Emphasizing pedagogy and popular culture with equal verve, and writing in colloquial yet multifaceted prose, Aldama presents an enlightening way to explore what "culture" actually does—who generates it and how it shapes our identities—and the role of academia in sustaining it.
This is one of the most versatile, colloquially written, and philosophically astute
readings of the American politics of race and the university that one can find anywhere. In
the name of a 'new humanism' based on struggle, Aldama draws (at times humorously) on his
experiences as a teacher to give a persuasive account of the self based (of all things) on
neuroscience and evolutionary biology. An exciting book.
In his wide-ranging new study, Frederick Aldama is ahead of the curve, ratcheting up
the kind of synthetic, interdisciplinary work one finds in writers like Frans de Waal,
Patrick Colm Hogan, Andy Clark, and Susan Oyama to a vision of the humanities itself as a
field permeated everywhere by scientific insight. In this, Aldama energetically pursues what
E. O. Wilson called 'consilience,' but at its broadest level and with a respect both for
scientific reductionism and for its limitations at this level of complexity.
- Introduction. A New Humanism
- Chapter One. Self, Identity, and Ideas
- Chapter Two. Revisiting Derrida, Lacan, and Foucault
- Chapter Three. Derrida Gets Medieval
- Chapter Four. Imaginary Empires, Real Nations
- Chapter Five. Edward Said Spaced Out
- Chapter Six. Modernity, What?
- Chapter Seven. Teachers, Scholars, and the Humanities Today
- Chapter Eight. Translation Matters
- Chapter Nine. Can Music Resist?
- Chapter Ten. The "Cultural Studies Turn" in Brown Studies
- Chapter Eleven. Pulling up Stakes in Latin/o American Theoretical Claims
- Chapter Twelve. Fugitive Thoughts on Justice and Happiness
- Chapter Thirteen. Why Literature Matters
- Chapter Fourteen. Interpretation, Interdisciplinarity, and the People
- Works Cited
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