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Wait, What Do We Do? – Staci Stutsman (29 Aug 2014)

I’ve spent a lot of the summer traveling around and visiting friends and family from back home. We eat, we drink, we catch up. Inevitably, these catching-up conversations wind their way back around to one of my loved ones asking, “So, wait, what do you do?”  As an English Ph.D. student just finishing up coursework, I spend a good deal of the academic year sequestered off from the real world; I am absorbed in the latest reading assignment, pushing through a seminar paper, or rushing through that week’s to-do list.  It’s quite easy to forget that there’s a real world out there, a real world filled with actual people who live actual lives that are not dictated by the academic clock.

While there are many competing ideas about how to define the Public Humanities, I believe it means that one should connect in significant ways with the public outside of academia. It means having engaged and sustained conversations about the world, the texts we consume, and our ideas. Kristen Case notes that “the most substantial contribution of the humanities to public life does not come through empowering elite students and faculty members to reach out to their communities.” Instead, it comes from “extending the most fundamental element of a real humanities education—the power to doubt and then to reimagine.”

With this in mind, the Syracuse University English graduate students wish to launch this blog.  This blog is not meant as a benevolent vehicle through which we most graciously bestow our ideas onto the public. Rather, it will be meant as a forum through which to start conversations.  We want to demonstrate exactly “what we do” by doing it with the public.  We want to let the public in on our process as we collectively doubt and then reimagine. We want to use the skills we have gained through our humanities education—the power to think critically about the world, close read, and engage with theory—to have conversations with the public outside of our small cohort, our discipline, and the university. We are interested in hearing how other graduate students are engaging in public humanities pursuits so that we can learn from each other.  We want this conversation to be made widely available, not locked behind a pay wall. And we want to hear others’ voices.

With that said, we welcome you all to this conversation.  A monthly blogger will post weekly and these posts will reflect the diversity of English studies in general and our department specifically. We hope that you read, join in if you wish, and share with others.

 


Staci Stutsman is a fourth year PhD student and teaching associate in the English department.  She will be taking her qualifying exam on film and television melodrama this fall.  She teaches introductory level film and popular culture courses and spends her free time binge watching TV, board gaming, and working out.

One comment

  1. First let me say that I love this blog and its intent–I’m very excited to read future posts! And I think the author has quite rightly articulated one of the biggest challenges humanities scholars often face–demonstrating how the skills developed in pursuit of a humanities education can be applicable and useful beyond the confines of the classroom. One particular sentence in this post stuck out to me, however, and I wish to question its implications. Staci writes at the end of her first paragraph, “It’s quite easy to forget that there’s a real world out there, a real world filled with actual people who live actual lives that are not dictated by the academic clock.” While I completely understand that the intent of this sentence is to draw attention to the disjunction that can often be seen between the highly specialized world of our own discipline and those who do not work and live in it, I also think that such statements can have the unintended and adverse effect of suggesting that the humanities and those who work in academia are somehow not “real”—living a life of privilege and separation from the “actual” people who occupy this world. While those of us able to pursue advanced degrees are privileged in many ways, we are also still “real” and “actual” people conducting labor that matters—we just don’t always get a chance to directly engage with those who aren’t registered for our classes and demonstrate the benefits of a humanities education. Let us be wary to avoid rhetoric that perpetuates this increasingly less true (*ahem* contingent labor) stereotype. Academics are ‘real’ people, too.

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