Griffith Review: Ways of Seeing
For their first issue of 2011, the prestigious literary journal tackles the academy head-on. In the lead essay, John Armstrong, Philosopher-in-Residence at Melbourne Business school, presents a compelling case for radical reform in our universities’ teaching of the humanities.
In a discussion led by Peter Clarke, with Glyn Davis and Julianne Schultz, Armstrong argues the need for “artistic and academic communicators”. He asks us to consider the shape of a culture that was “serious in its ideas, and just and fair in its assessment of arguments,” that was also willing to compete for the prominence and value of these things. He also toys the prospect of “tricking people into reading Plato”.
Schultz highlights the absence of a humanities perspective — drawn from lived, human experience — in contemporary political issues (such as climate change and refugees). Observing a disparity between how we talk about the humanities and “every other major branch of knowledge”, Davis urges us to reconsider the value to our lives that the humanities can deliver, rather than assuming they hold intrinsic value.
Professor Julianne Schultz AM FAHA is the founding editor of Griffith Review. Professor Schultz is a member of the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research and sits on the editorial board of the Conversation. She is an acclaimed author of several books, including Reviving the Fourth Estate (Cambridge) and Steel City Blues (Penguin), and the librettos to the operas Black River and Going Into Shadows. She became a Member of the Order of Australia for services to journalism and the community in 2009 and an honorary fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities the following year.
Peter Clarke is a Melbourne-based writer, webcaster, educator and moderator.
John Armstrong is a scholar, writer and speaker on art and culture.
Glyn Davis is professor of political science, vice chancellor and principal of the University of Melbourne.