Professor Stanley Fish, in a blog entry
, seems to feel that the humanities have no use and are therefore unworthy of any government funding. But like many arguing this direction, he hangs his entire case on the perniciousness of the academy rather than on the sheer value of art, seeming to believe (as an academic himself) that the quote-unquote Humanities only exist within the schools, and as many of those people are bloated or frustrated or just plain non-progressive--as their latest monographs do not serve, as it were, to a mirror up to truth--then they are, ipso facto, not really helping much. Therefore, he postulates, the humanities overall aren't helping much.
But consider the vast list of great artists who never had an affiliation with a single University Department. Perhaps, according to Mr. Fish, those artists, due to their non-presence in his
idea of the great dialogue, aren't much worthy of consideration.
This, to me, represents two kinds of narrow thinking: the utilitarian (if you can't sell it, chum it, mulch it, eat it, wear it, or re-sell it, it does not exist); the second, creepier, the whole entrenched notion that capitalism is the only mode of thinking. If we are to only, as a people, to value things that have a "use," then the person who invented the squeegee is more important to our world than Shakespeare. Of course, I am taking this argument to an absurd conclusion, but the idea that things have value only if they can be of use is, alas, a distinctly American one. By this rationale, funding should go to the making of pornographic movies above much else because they serve a purpose.
Granted, poets, en masse, do not invent vaccines, and in this day and age, with so much horror in our own world--and so much true-to-life information available about same--perhaps it does seem a little ludicrous to discuss poetic feet with fervent passion. But to me this represents a culture in which the capitalist ideal--where things only have value if you can put a price on them--is the only ideal. It has become so entrenched that to even look at things another way seems not heretical or anti-establishment, but just plain impossible.