Irrelevant?

Are English departments becoming irrelevant?

A colleague sent a link to Pulling the Plug on English Departments in The Daily Beast.

“Within a few decades, contemporary literature departments will be largely extinct,” Pulizzi submits before predicting that “communications, composition, and media studies will take English’s place.”

Rather than expressing anxiety, or at least, worry over the impending destruction of one of the only mechanisms for introducing young Americans to a pillar of art, human history, and the Western tradition, Pulizzi credulously asks, “Why should college students read narrative prose when they get their fill of stories from television, cinema, and interactive video games?”

…the future of a text-free college education does not seem outlandish.

The author is opposed to this, as I am, though our freshman offerings (and those at the rest of the state) has dropped “literature” as traditional literary readings.

Studies and experiments also demonstrate that reading comprehension and retention rates are superior among people who read from a printed page as opposed to those who get their information from an electronic screen.

I wonder if these studies (which I have not read and which are not linked) are referencing simple electronic screens or if they are talking about the typical chunked and short internet readings available. Is the author saying that because I read my novels on my iPad via the Kindle application that I no longer have long-term focus or that I’m letting my reading muscles get flabby? If he’s saying that–and he isn’t clearly NOT saying that–then I want some citations.

While far from a cure all for social ills, literature, more than any other medium, increases and enhances the ability to empathize.

Yes, yes, it does. It’s why “Teaching the Taboo: Reading Mental Health and Mental Illness in American Literature” was important enough to me that I wrote and published and article on it.

I particularly appreciated my colleague’s call to arms, in response to the article and the physical re-location of our offices:

“[I]t might be good to contemplate what we do and come roaring out of the box, no apologies made for trying to challenge our students to rise above the general intellectual sloth that surrounds us.”

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