Fri, 23 Feb 2007 10:30:00 -0400
The Wayne State English Department includes faculty and curricula in literary and cultural studies, film and media studies, composition studies, linguistics, and creative writing. Today, the Department Chair Richard Grusin observes, English Departments find themselves in a critical position. The failure to come to terms with what has been called the “digital revolution” poses an increasing risk to the stability and prosperity of English Studies in the university. Indeed, it will not be news to note that the place of the English Department in both the academic and non-academic world continues to be in flux. It is now almost a truism that opening up of the literary canon by cultural studies was one of the discipline’s most important accomplishments over the past two decades. Simultaneously, however, this accomplishment has opened the profession of English to criticism from both inside and outside the university, particularly for elevating political goals over more traditional academic goals such as reading critically or writing effectively. One way for English departments to respond to such criticism is to call attention to a parallel project that has been going on during the same time--the refashioning of English from its historical character as a discipline focused primarily on products of print technology into a discipline that has increasingly become the interpreter of and instructor in such diverse electronic media as film, television, video games, music videos, cyberspace, interactive fiction, and the panoply of digital media available through the World Wide Web. If English Studies hopes to reclaim its cultural authority with the American public, and its position of influence in American universities, English departments in particular (and arts and humanities more generally) must move ahead dramatically to continue this project with the increasing number of new media technologies that have accompanied the advent of the digital revolution.