http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/magazine/graphics/logo.pngRobert Eaglestone and Simon Kövesi ponder the problems that could sink the subject. English, the biggest discipline in the arts and humanities, is beset by some of the roughest storms in its history – and, unlike some other subjects, it is almost totally unprepared. The ship is holed, the sails are ripped and yet the sailors – usually known for their loud dispute, critique and dialogue – are inert and silent.
English has always been intellectually dis-united. It has no common methodology, no shared aims. While from the outside people assume they know what English is (reading, thinking and writing about literature), those of us within the subject spend ages agonising about what and who we are. We’ve had theory wars and culture wars; we’ve fought over the canon, gender, race, genre, language, history and class; we’ve had Oedipal spats with drama academics (they left, mostly) and creative writers (they’re staying, mostly). And the truth is, literary critics like intellectual crises. We live for them, in fact. More...