Kurt Spellmeyer's Arts of Living: Reinventing the Humanities for the PDF

By Kurt Spellmeyer

Argues that better schooling must abandon the "culture wars" if it hopes to handle the foremost crises of the century.

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Additional info for Arts of Living: Reinventing the Humanities for the Twenty-First Century

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At the same time that scientific learning advanced, innovations of technique and technology—the bill of exchange in banking, the Archimedean screw in hydraulics, the threshing machine in agriculture—transformed Mediterranean economic life. 8 When they voted to send troops into Sicily, for example, only a handful of citizens could have known much about the location, size, or population of the island. A petty scribe in Alexandria, a major city of the empire, may have known more about many subjects than a renowned lecturer two centuries earlier, yet the Hellenistic cultural renaissance can hardly be described as anything except a period of precipitous social, political, and moral decline.

47 Yet at the same time as the coming of modernity allowed a certain spaciousness of experience, it closed off other avenues. Enrolled at the State Normal School in 1885, Austin suffered some kind of a nervous collapse, ostensibly caused by overwork. ”48 On the one hand, modernization had loosened the hold of old assumptions, as honored as they were unexamined; on the other hand, it replaced the loose, pliant bonds of custom with the iron cage of regimentation. In a rather different way, Garland learned the same lesson.

There were also “regionalists” like Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Hamlin Garland; African-American writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston; leftist “radicals” like Jack London; and Native Americans like Charles Eastman and Gertrude Bonnin. Although many of the writers engaged in the attempt to reconstruct democracy are now commonly remembered as “regionalists” or “ethnic” writers, these rubrics carry with them the disparaging connotations of provincialism and nostalgia. Instead, we might understand them all as social thinkers who astutely recognized that the best communities draw their strength from differences as well as agreements.

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