Senior Seminar for Spring 2011: The Humanities and Public Life

The description of this spring Distance Learning senior seminar seems to have been missing from our earlier post.  Please contact Dr. Melissa Mowry ( for more information or if you have questions.

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Senior Seminar—The Humanities and Public Life—Everyone, from students, to faculty, to university and college administrators, to the general public knows that US institutions of higher education are under extraordinary stress.  Costs are escalating, funding is declining, and this deadly combination is pushing all but the most elite institutions further and further down in worldwide rankings.  At the center of this disheartening turn of events is an abandonment of what some scholars have described as the “social contract” between higher education and the students/citizens we serve, a loss of what it means to imagine the “common good.”  For many of us this loss of vision correlates with a dramatic defunding of the humanities over the last forty years.  In this class, we are going to read widely across a variety of disciplines, religion, literature, philosophy, history, and politics to examine the ways in which the relationship between the humanities and higher education was conceived and then reconceived over a hundred and more years of tumultuous social change.  We will also examine the ways technology has rewritten the possibilities of that interface through a variety of programs like “Storycorps” and others.  By the end of the semester, students will have develop a proposal and rational for reenergizing the social contract between higher education and the citizens with whom we collaborate.
About Steve Mentz 710 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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