Poets for the Humanities

January 17, 2011

 In the current funding crisis for the arts and humanities, poets are being enlisted to play their part. The combination of quotation and author has a strong rhetorical force, and the campaign has mustered a good range across periods; but such quotations are perhaps always best taken out of context. Dante’s address to Virgil (Inferno, 11.93) does not really further the cause of philosophic doubt. Shakespeare’s Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Twelfth Night, I.2) implausibly imagines that skills in languages might have made him a successful wooer (it is unlikely that this would rank in HEFCE’s ‘impact’ category).

Asper in Ben Jonson’s Every Man out of His Humour prefaces a performance of his play with: ‘if we fail, / We must impute it to this only chance, / Art hath an enemy call’d ignorance’: defiant, but also pessimistic. Amidst the store of humanist commonplaces, can some pithy maxims with a present relevance be found?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: