It is said we are in trouble, we humanists. “The humanities are under pressure all over the world, Rens Bod begins (xii). James Turner ends, “Without question, the humanities now face greater flux than they have routinely endured in the past century” (385). The trouble and the flux seem to take two forms. There is the usual business of intellectual disciplines forming and re-forming, of new paradigms restructuring institutions, a process that one might regard as discomforting but sometimes healthy. But there is the other business of universities being governed by anti-intellectuals, aficionados of the spreadsheet, counted beans, and the alumni dinner. These predators roam campuses, sneer at libraries, abolish departments, and plan the day when, the cost-effective triumphant, scholarship will be little more than a digital ghost. At the University of Essex, lately Marina Warner was coldly informed of this new order, defined by a “Tariff of Expectations” (seventeen targets to be met) and a “workload allocation” handed down from on high. There was an indifference to what had gone before, what creative people had once hoped for for Colchester. “That is all changing now,” the executive dean for humanities briskly explained. “That is over.” The past, that is. Fed up, Warner resigned, hearing too loudly “the tick of the deathwatch beetle” in the fabric of the house she wished to inhabit, a university that valued scholarship and the life of the mind, as it once had.
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