Save the Humanities

For a long time, literature was part of what made up the highbrow culture where for instance poetry and opera used to evoke an image of intellectuality and an appreciation of the world.  Nowadays, things seem to have changed where literature conjures up an image of boredom for the student, irrationality for the non-literary world and a blurry vision for the worldly visionary.  According to the American Scholar (2009), many public institutions in the US still champion the teaching of engineering, research science and other applied disciplines over the humanities.  The scene of the dwindling appeal of literature where less and less students are embracing the humanities is not only witnessed in other countries.  More and more students are seen shying away from the field in Mauritius as well.  Why is it so? While other fields are preferred for their rationality and the concrete knowledge that they offer, it is indeed the lucrative aspect of knowledge that seems to attract learners.  It is not an unknown fact that much of what makes up the contemporary world is the commodity culture and it can be extended to the world of knowledge.  Students are no different from consumers, hungry to get the “best” product.  Knowledge ceases to be consumed for knowledge’s sake and gives way to consumerism.  In so doing, the humanities are foreshadowed by the many promising and attractive “products” on the market.  This explains why literature is seen as a product which is not to the taste of the customer who seeks monetary profit.  Science and engineering therefore end up becoming those tempting products that the student/consumer wants to grab! Do the humanities not have a voice of their own then? Should they accept defeat? It is high time for the literary world to react to what can be termed as the “consumerist contamination” of knowledge! No more should literature be synonymous with boredom.  Now is the time to do away with what I would like to call the “sleeping pills” teaching strategies.  Learners do not see the need to go beyond the mundane, embrace the complexity of human nature and to get a fine understanding of the world.  A fact that seems to slip away is that literature is not estranged from the mundane; it is in fact the closest one to it where life is a “stage where every man must play a part”.   


You are absolutely right, Suhaylah. This distortion of knowledge and its simplification to a limited opportunitic field of lucrative subjects has been a bane for societies everywhere. Time we put literature in its right place, on a pedestal!