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Elsa Kugelberg: The University of the Fun is Dangerously Live

Elsa Kugelberg: The University of the Fun is Dangerously Live

Who cares about the humanities crisis? Surprisingly, “The Chair” (Netflix), which traces the tumultuous time of literary critic Ji-Yoon Kim (Sandra Oh) as head of the English department at an American university, became Netflix’s second most-watched series last week.

When the university’s teachers finally got some time in the spotlight, there were quick notes that workrooms aren’t actually that big, and that administrative meetings are rarely that short. (Personally, I can only compare with my university: here in Oxford there are some impressive halls—one PhD fellow once witnessed a three-hour discussion about where the most ethical place to bowl a cookie.)

Even the fiercest critics agreed that, relatively realistically, creators Amanda Peet and Annie Julia Wyman succeed in portraying the difficulties of navigating today’s academy as second-generation immigrants and mothers. As the story progresses, Kim is drawn between college austerity orders, students’ demands for better conditions for minority teachers and the vanity of potential seniors.

here for sure The kinship with another comedy on Netflix, Lisa Langseth’s “Love and Anarchy,” whose second season comes in 2022. The humor in “The Chair” is plump, less subtle than Langseth’s feel-good book publication. But both manage to warmly express the activities that unite in their love for big stories, which also have fatal problems. Both universities and publishers have been affected by the structural changes the economy has undergone in recent times, although it is possible to debate whether interest in literature is rising or falling.

When women are now getting higher positions, Kim easily wonders if it’s because the party is already over

In “Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disillusioned Age,” Paul Ritter and Chad Wilmon argue that undergraduate subjects in the humanities have been in crisis for too long. In secular modernity, the humanities, whose goal and results cannot be directly measured, are in fact an anomaly. An activity that “often has an unclear benefit,” organizational researcher Mats Alvesson wrote recently in DN (17/8). They have served and function as meaning-making arcs in an enchanted world, a place of good and evil separated from the rest of society. Where critical and in-depth questions can be asked without threatening the existing system.

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However, it is clear that the conditions for the young researchers are different from those of the founding fellows they encountered previously. When women are now taking on senior positions, it’s easy for Kim to wonder if it’s because the party is already over. Since I came to the UK in 2017, the Union of Universities has announced a number of strikes to combat cutbacks and hard-to-live conditions for teachers. Amanda Svenson asked herself recently In a review of Lynne Sprouse’s novel (Expressen 27/8) about an academic defector, why would someone want to work at a university? Thinking can be demonstrated abroad.

I think the philosopher Agnes Callard was something on the road when she was at The Point introduce the concept heterodidakt A person who, unlike self-taught, learns best with others. Before the pandemic, the peak of my students’ semester were the evenings when they gathered in the glow of candles to read Plato’s dialogues. But she was also the highlight of the young masters they invited.

In modern society, the heterosexual seeks the academy because the college seminar (and hum afterwards) is by nature open, playful and popular. Perhaps that’s what Callard thinks, because many people view their school years, the time between 19 and 23, as the best in life.

Now the desire to learn together is not necessarily the same as the desire to compromise. The stubbornness of “chairs” idealists of different ages ultimately threatens the whole business. But in a world where no one can be a teacher, everyone is a loser.

Read more Records by Elsa Kojelberg

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