Synopses & Reviews
In the span of less than a generation, university humanities departments have experienced an almost unbelievable reversal of attitudes, now attacking and undermining what had previously been considered best and most worthy in the Western tradition. John M. Ellis here scrutinizes the new regime in humanistic studies. He offers a careful, intelligent analysis that exposes the weaknesses of notions that are fashionable in humanities today. In a clear voice, with forceful logic, he speaks out against the orthodoxy that has installed race, gender, and class perspectives at the center of college humanities curricula.
Ellis begins by showing that political correctness is a recurring impulse of Western society and one that has a discouraging history. He reveals the contradictions and misconceptions that surround the new orthodoxy and demonstrates how it is most deficient just where it imagines itself to be superior. Ellis contends that humanistic education today, far from being historically aware, relies on anachronistic thinking; far from being skeptical of Western values, represents a ruthless and unskeptical Western extremism; far from being valuable in bringing political perspectives to bear, presents politics that are crude and unreal; far from being sophisticated in matters of "theory", is largely ignorant of the range and history of critical theory; far from valuing diversity, is unable to respond to the great sweep of literature. In a concluding chapter, Ellis surveys the damage that has been done to higher education and examines the prospects for change.
"Ellis's book is a powerful and extremely lucid analysis of what has been going on -- and what has been wrong with what is goingon -- in the study of the humanities in universities over the past decade and a half. His argument is always logical, his writing refreshingly direct and free of jargon". -- John Hollander, Yale University
In Literature Lost, John Ellis subjects the fashionable notions that now dominate college curricula in the humanities to a careful historical and logical analysis. The result is a devastating critique and a comprehensive rebuttal of the claims made for the reigning orthodoxy. " Ellis is] not the first . . . to express dismay at the extraordinary changes that have come over the teaching of the humanities in American universities]; what distinguishes him is the clarity of his perceptions, and his willingness not merely to deplore the new trends but-faithful to an academic tradition he believes to be in serious danger-to subject them to disinterested inquiry."-Frank Kermode, Atlantic Monthly "An eloquent, passionate plea for the 'wider world' to engage itself with academia and bring it to its senses, lest literature and the arts be trampled beyond recognition by the armies of the alienated professoriat."-Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World "A thorough and masterfully rational study of the issues behind the conflict."-John W. Aldridge, Wall Street Journal " An] exceptionally persuasive book . . . which ought to be required reading for any student about to enroll in a literature course."-Merle Rubin, Baltimore Sun