Where English is going

With some notable exceptions, the willingness of English Departments to seriously engage with current communication technology has advanced “one funeral at a time,” to quote one voice in the wilderness. Denial, nostalgia, tenure pressure: all part of the tweedy sluggishness. Meantime the hungry sheep look up and are not fed.

But I’ve found a video that stirs hope — at least for the Rutgers English Department. In it Richard Miller, its chair, posits that training students to express themselves in the communication channels they actually inhabit should be a core concern of English Departments.

Because we live in a read-write world, it is essential that the English Department provide training to our students about how to live in this world. This is a world which has radically defined what authority means, what expertise means, and how you define labor.

Exactly, and how refreshing to hear an authoritative voice engaging with a Board of Governors in this clear, simple, true way.

Miller’s video pitch defensively emphasizes the traditional publication prowess of Rutgers faculty, and it announces the advent of Web 2.0 as if to Rip Van Winkel. But then the video warms up to its convictions–or at least mine….

When professors of English start thinking like this, can Spring be far behind?

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