by Olivia Drake •
Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth is the author of the book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, published by Yale University Press in May 2014.
From Yale University University Press:
“Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, believed that nurturing a student’s capacity for lifelong learning was useful for science and commerce while also being essential for democracy. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.
Conflicting streams of thought flow through American intellectual history: W. E. B. DuBois’s humanistic principles of pedagogy for newly emancipated slaves developed in opposition to Booker T. Washington’s educational utilitarianism, for example. Jane Addams’s emphasis on the cultivation of empathy and John Dewey’s calls for education as civic engagement were rejected as impractical by those who aimed to train students for particular economic tasks. Roth explores these arguments (and more), considers the state of higher education today, and concludes with a stirring plea for the kind of education that has, since the founding of the nation, cultivated individual freedom, promulgated civic virtue, and instilled hope for the future.”
Read more about Beyond the University in this Wesleyan Connection article.
by Olivia Drake •
Matthew Garrett, assistant professor of English, is the author of Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution, published by Oxford University Press in April 2014.
In Episodic Poetics, Garrett merges narrative theory with social and political history to explain the early American fascination with the episodic, piecemeal plot.
Since Aristotle’s Poetics, the episode has been a vexed category of literary analysis, troubling any easy view of the subsumption of unwieldy narrative parts into well-plotted wholes. Episodic Poeticsproposes a new method of reading and a new way of conceiving of literary history. The book combines theoretical reflection and historical rigor with careful readings of texts from the early American canon such as The Federalist, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, along with hitherto understudied texts and ephemera such as Washington Irving’s Salmagundi, Susanna Rowson’s Trials of the Human Heart and the memoirs of the metalworker and failed entrepreneur John Fitch. Garrett recounts literary history not as the easy victory of grand nationalist ambitions, but rather as a series of social struggles expressed through writers’ recurring engagement with incompletely integrated forms.
Read more about Garrett in this past Wesleyan Connection article.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Though the recent shootings outside Jewish community centers in Kansas, which killed three people, may seem “at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present,” they are in fact part of an American legacy of religious intolerance as old as the nation itself, writes Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk in The Los Angeles Times. In fact, he writes, the KKK–and religiously motivated violence, in general–remains alive and well in this country, and Jews are the group most likely to report being the victim of hate crimes. Gottschalk walks readers through a brief history of religious intolerance in America, including the various forms the KKK has taken.