Gate House, Victoria College, Frye’s undergrad residence
Here’s an article on the current state of the humanities in today’s Mail & Guardian.
Public funding of universities, especially national research strategies, now emphasise the idea of innovation, which has become a code word for quality. As a result, in both Canada and South Africa, solid academic fields in the humanities — comparative literature is a good example — are either threatened or have already fallen away. Given this thinking, it is not surprising that students and their parents came to consider higher education as a form of private investment rather than, as it once was judged, a public good.
But the old saw remains: making things happen in a university (or elsewhere, for that matter) doesn’t mean that thinking happens. The challenge for the humanities remains not to return to some “golden age” but rather to inspire students — and, quite simply, this can happen only by encouraging them to think.
Frye in conversation with David Cayley:
The university is the source of authority in society. It’s the only one there is that I can see. But, of course, by authority I mean spiritual authority, the kind that doesn’t give orders. . . The university is where you go to learn about an authority that is not externally applied. It doesn’t tell you to do this or that. (CW 24, 989)