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[Xmca-l] Re: The history of science fiction and imagined worlds

Relevant to "imagined worlds discussion-(see underlined section at
least).Series: Why humanities?
 | Index <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/series/why-humanities>
The death of universities
Academia has become a servant of the status quo. Its malaise runs so much
deeper than tuition fees

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   - [image: Terry Eagleton]
      - Terry Eagleton <http://www.theguardian.com/profile/terryeagleton>
      - The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian>, Friday 17
      December 2010 17.00 EST
      - Jump to comments (326)

Are the humanities <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/humanities> about
to disappear from our universities? The question is absurd. It would be
like asking whether alcohol is about to disappear from pubs, or egoism from
Hollywood. Just as there cannot be a pub without alcohol, so there cannot
be a university without the humanities. If history, philosophy and so on
vanish from academic life, what they leave in their wake may be a technical
training facility or corporate research institute. But it will not be a
university in the classical sense of the term, and it would be deceptive to
call it one.

Neither, however, can there be a university in the full sense of the word
when the humanities exist in isolation from other disciplines. The quickest
way of devaluing these subjects – short of disposing of them altogether –
is to reduce them to an agreeable bonus. Real men study law and
engineering, while ideas and values are for sissies. The humanities should
constitute the core of any university worth the name. The study of history
and philosophy, accompanied by some acquaintance with art and literature,
should be for lawyers and engineers as well as for those who study in arts
faculties. If the humanities are not under such dire threat in the United
States, it is, among other things, because they are seen as being an
integral part of higher education as such.

When they first emerged in their present shape around the turn of the 18th
century, the so-called humane disciplines had a crucial social role. It was
to foster and protect the kind of values for which a philistine social
order had precious little time. The modern humanities and industrial
capitalism were more or less twinned at birth. To preserve a set of values
and ideas under siege, you needed among other things institutions known as
universities set somewhat apart from everyday social life. This remoteness
meant that humane study could be lamentably ineffectual. But it also
allowed the humanities to launch a critique of conventional wisdom.

>From time to time, as in the late 1960s and in these last few weeks in
Britain, that critique would take to the streets
confronting how we actually live with how we might live.

*What we have witnessed in our own time is the death of universities as
centres of critique. Since Margaret Thatcher, the role of academia has been
to service the status quo, not challenge it in the name of justice,
tradition, imagination, human welfare, the free play of the mind or
alternative visions of the future. We will not change this simply by
increasing state funding of the humanities as opposed to slashing it to
nothing. We will change it by insisting that a critical reflection on human
values and principles should be central to everything that goes on in
universities, not just to the study of Rembrandt or Rimbaud.*

In the end, the humanities can only be defended by stressing how
indispensable they are; and this means insisting on their vital role in the
whole business of academic learning, rather than protesting that, like some
poor relation, they don't cost much to be housed.

How can this be achieved in practice? Financially speaking, it can't be.
Governments are intent on shrinking the humanities, not expanding them.

Might not too much investment in teaching Shelley mean falling behind our
economic competitors? But there is no university without humane inquiry,
which means that universities and advanced capitalism are fundamentally
incompatible. And the political implications of that run far deeper than
the question of student fees.

On Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 12:22 AM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>

> Yes, I was impressed. But mostly I was impressed by how cramped,
> ethnocentric and also present-centric Saler's view of imaginary worlds
> is.
> The argument, as I understand it, is that the colonization of
> imaginary worlds only begins with Sherlock Holmes, because it is only
> with Sherlock Holmes that people began to deliberately "believe" in a
> fictional creation and "disbelieve" in the actual creator. That is,
> adult play only begins with people who were the peers of my
> grandparents. Hoaxes, myths, and religions may also be imaginary
> worlds that are inhabited by large numbers of people, but they do not
> signify, because the effort of believing in them in order to inhabit
> them is not differentiated from believing in them because you think
> they are true.
> Of course, the distinction between the conscious, volitional
> "suspension of disbelief" and non-conscious, non-volitional delusion
> is very much older than this. At the end of Don Quixote, the old man's
> neighbors try their very best to convince Don Quixote to go on
> inhabiting the novelistic world he has created for them, and fail;
> there is no suggestion that they do this because they believe the old
> man's world is real. There was a spate of similar novels in English in
> eighteenth century (e.g. Charlotte Lennox's "the Female Quixote"), and
> Jane Austen's first novel, Northanger Abbey, is a romance about a
> woman whose whole attraction is that she actually assumes only the
> very best motives in real people, and reserves her fascination with
> ill will for the reading of Gothic novels; when she meets with a
> genuinely nasty character (General Tilney) for the first time, she
> imputes Gothic motives to him where there are only mundane and
> mercenary ones, and the novel ends with the half disenchantment of the
> heroine and half enchantment of the General's son, both quite
> deliberately acts of metacognition.
> But as with so many things, the Chinese thought of it much earlier.
> "Journey to the West" started out as "fan fiction" of a particular
> kind of Buddhist adventure novel, and became parodistsic. "Dream of
> the Red Chamber" is about a stone left over from when the world was
> made, which is reincarnated by a sensitive young man who falls in with
> one cousin and marries another. It is also about a garden, built for a
> one day visit to her family by one of the Emperor's concubines, which
> eventually bankrupts the family. But the children of the family are
> allowed to run wild there, and they indulge a wide variety of fancies:
> at various places we are told that various parts of the novel, and
> even whole families, are simply willful fictions in the minds of
> others. Actually, in the days before mass printing, almost every
> fiction manuscript was passed around in a community (rather as Jane
> Austen's manuscripts were shared in her family) and "Dream of the Red
> Chamber" was probably finished by someone else (the last third of it
> was written well after the death of the author, but computer analysis
> has not definitively proven that it was written by someone else).
> I think that the reason we tend to make howlers like Saler's is that,
> like fish, we just can't see the water we swim in, and we keep
> thinking that our own age is somehow uniquely modern, and the
> preoccupations of our own brands of irrealist and realist thinking
> (e.g. between art and science, between rationality and wonder) are the
> last word and not merely latest one. I spend a great deal of the time
> that I spend writing half-listening to eighteenth century operas,
> which are in very obvious ways imaginary worlds which we enter only by
> voluntarily checking our linguistic assumptions in the cloakroom. In
> less obvious ways, it seems to me, these imaginary worlds are
> interested in a clash that we no longer take very seriously. It's the
> clash between a form of knowledge which is broadly humanist, because
> empirical, and one which is narrowly rationalist, because puritanical.
> The humanist agenda demands that the opera must end in an act of
> forgiveness (as the Count is forgiven in the Marriage of Figaro). The
> strictly rationalist agenda forbids this (because forgiveness by its
> very nature is a kind of diremption of justice). Don Giovanni gets
> around this problem by making repentance a precondition for
> forgiveness, and then by arguing that the truly damnable will never
> repent, not even as they are actually being damned.
> We still see traces of this clash between empiricistic humanism and
> merciless rationalism in my own field, language teaching. There is the
> humanist belief in words--empirical, temporary negotiations of meaning
> between human beings--and the rationalist belief in the inflexible,
> innate laws of grammar. But elsewhere it seems to have been subsumed
> in the general opposition between art and science that we find in
> Saler's talk. Part of the point of my book is really to try to revive
> it--in the form of a humanizing dialogic tendency in story telling
> versus a more rationalizing narrativistic one.
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> By the way...the index of the book has at last been fixed, and
> everybody and their grandchildren can download the first two chapters
> for free at....
> https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/imagination-and-praxis/the-great-globe-and-all-who-it-inherit/
> (Yes, even xmca postings sometimes carry promotions...think of it not
> as an interface between the virtual world and the real one, but only
> as yet another interface between this virtual world and the next one!)
> dk
> On 24 September 2014 12:10, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
> > Just trying to keep some minimum level of continuity in the discussions,
> > Greg. Maybe its just my problem alone, but I think one or two others
> suffer
> > from the same difficulties.
> >
> > My intention is to watch both and consider them together. If that's a
> > mistake, my loss! I do not watch TED talks as a general rule, but when
> they
> > are specifically called out by xmca members as relevant, seems like a
> > relatively painless way to figure out what other participants in the
> > discussion are trying to communicate.
> >
> > Easier than reading, for example, *Who's Asking*?  !! :-)))
> >
> > Rockin chair mike
> >
> > Thanks
> >
> > On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 7:38 PM, Greg Thompson <
> greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> >
> >> I thought the other tread was beginning to descend into "reality" more
> than
> >> I care to (or perhaps worse, spiraling downward into the abyss of an
> >> epistemologically-minded social constructionism - is there a there
> there?).
> >>
> >> Seemed like good reason to soar in the imagination (yes, Mike, I know
> that
> >> you prefer to invert that metaphor and "ascend to the concrete" - which
> >> makes me wonder what you mean by "the concrete"? Reality? Or something
> >> else? A "made real"?).
> >>
> >> But I'd agree that it is on point with a "making"-oriented social
> >> constructionism (trying to avoid using that awful word "ontological"?).
> >>
> >> Anyway, I think this is the Haidt talk that John Cummins was proposing:
> >> http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind?language=en
> >>
> >> I'm wondering if people are a bit fed up with the Ted talks since it
> can be
> >> tough to find 20 minutes to watch/listen to a Ted talk and they can be
> hit
> >> or miss.
> >> But I would again strongly recommend the Saler talk I originally sent in
> >> this email. I thought David Ke, in particular, would find it interesting
> >> (or at least point out where it is wrong). David?
> >> Others?
> >> -greg
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 6:59 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
> >>
> >> > I thought the other tread involved imagination as a central component,
> >> > Greg.
> >> > So not clear why this is a distraction. (Or am i in the wrong
> >> conversation
> >> > here?).
> >> >
> >> > Can you find the Haight TED talk that was recommended to us? Perhaps
> the
> >> > two talks will aid the discussion.
> >> > mike
> >> >
> >> > On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 7:37 AM, Greg Thompson <
> >> greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
> >> > wrote:
> >> >
> >> > > Apologies for distracting from the "real world" discussions on the
> >> other
> >> > > thread, but I came across this Ted talk and thought that others
> might
> >> be
> >> > > interested in the history and role of imagined worlds in politics:
> >> > > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUtErxgz7Mo
> >> > >
> >> > > But perhaps it is worth tracing otherworlds and "the otherwise" to
> >> works
> >> > > such as those of Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, and Rabelais.
> >> > >
> >> > > Seems like imagining other worlds has always been a deeply political
> >> act.
> >> > >
> >> > > -greg
> >> > >
> >> > > --
> >> > > Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> >> > > Assistant Professor
> >> > > Department of Anthropology
> >> > > 882 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> >> > > Brigham Young University
> >> > > Provo, UT 84602
> >> > > http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
> >> > >
> >> >
> >> >
> >> >
> >> > --
> >> >
> >> > Development and Evolution are both ... "processes of construction and
> re-
> >> > construction in which heterogeneous resources are contingently but
> more
> >> or
> >> > less reliably reassembled for each life cycle." [Oyama, Griffiths, and
> >> > Gray, 2001]
> >> >
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> --
> >> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> >> Assistant Professor
> >> Department of Anthropology
> >> 882 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> >> Brigham Young University
> >> Provo, UT 84602
> >> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
> >>
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> >
> > Development and Evolution are both ... "processes of construction and re-
> > construction in which heterogeneous resources are contingently but more
> or
> > less reliably reassembled for each life cycle." [Oyama, Griffiths, and
> > Gray, 2001]


*Robert Lake  Ed.D.*Associate Professor
Social Foundations of Education
Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University
Secretary/Treasurer-AERA- Paulo Freire Special Interest Group
P. O. Box 8144
Phone: (912) 478-0355
Fax: (912) 478-5382
Statesboro, GA  30460