I chose the humanities because this space made sense for me. This academic life that feels as though it is constantly shifting where there always new knowledge to be gained, and a general buzzing excitement for lofty ideas taking shape in our minds. These are my people. As I gathered more knowledge, and began to apply it to my writing, I began to excitedly accept the closing of my audience base. I would say things like, “All I really want out of life is to write things that, like, twelve people understand and want to respond to.” This must mean that I have found my niche. This means I have achieved something, unlocked a new life level, and am ready for the steady ascent up in the world of academia. But it sure feels awfully isolated, pretentious, and lonely.
Recently, humanities scholars have noticed that this way of situating the academic voice is, in fact, problematic. As humanists, we should be the most human in the academic world. That is to say, the people most concerned with what it means to be human. Maybe we are, or we think we are, but in practice we have all become isolated, pretentious, and lonely; as Ian Bogost puts it, “Humanism does not deserve to carry the standard for humans, for frankly it despises them.”
Bogost continues, stating that “We don’t make reform our mission because we secretly hate the idea of partaking of and in the greater world, even as we purport to give it voice, to speak of its ills through critical esoterics no public ear could ever grasp.” That is to say, the very disciplines with which we align ourselves keeps us out of a constructive dialogue with the world around us. While I do not purport that academics and activism go hand in hand, it seems that what Bogost is pushing toward which is a position with which I tend to agree, it seems that there is a dividing wall placed between academics and the rest of the world that needs to break down. If all the knowledge that we have and produce as humanities scholars has been made largely incomprehensible to humanity, what then are we actually doing?