Attempt to Overcome the Crisis in Humanities From the Viewpoint of Literary Studies in the 21st Century Information Age

Srebren Dizdar


A decline of interest for studies of humanities in general has been the constant topic of interest in the last 20 years or so. A rather influential report from the Harvard University from May 2013 can be taken as the best proof for such a claim. It has also been stated that social studies and humanities had been in a crisis and retreat from the aggressive development of natural, technical and especially information sciences in the global context of 21st century. The paper will try to show certain features in a peculiar transformation of more than 300 years long period of emergence and development of humaniora as a particularly expression of the Modern Age, having been determined by the Industrial revolution and the concurrent need to establish a comprehensive educational, academic and scientific system, which played an important role in the world during 19th and 20th century. The key characteristics of such a system will be listed – from public and private universities, academic and scientific institutions, libraries, academic publications and publishing, academic and professional gatherings, as well as criteria for measuring of accomplishments, be it in any individual or the entire community of researchers. These movements will be presented for the angle of philology and, notably, literary studies that can both serve in such a segment as suitable examples of recent crisis of humanities and their disciplines. The main issue raised encompasses the need and utility of studying literature at all, as well as of defining the new kind of methodology of literary studies. Its imaginary ultimate goal can be to develop a number of interdisciplinary studies aimed at reaching the answer of determining the future rational for literary studies, which can be safely placed alongside other „hard“ sciences and their respective disciplines. The methodology of literary studies can be understood as a specialised branch of General Methodology of Humanities. Its purpose is to provide a framework for research, analyses, interpretation and evaluation of literary phenomena of our times. One does not pose a question nowadays if it can be taken as a single method or the collaboration of many diverse methods – since the belief of a unique and 'universal' method had been duly abandoned, while the opinion of accepting experiences from diversified areas of learning became more dominant. In an effort to define what 'literature' might mean today and in the future the emphasis have been shifted from the individual work(s) to a kind of imaginary and comprehensive collection(s) of ALL works deemed to be labelled as 'literature'. Either a more focused or larger criteria could be applied in order to establish what a literary artefact understood as 'text' might emerge on the surface; or a number of mixed, hybrid literary forms would eventually prevail; remains to be seen in the future. The paper will try to focus on possibilities for overcoming the critical burning issues and to offer some guidelines not only for the survival of, but also to the future development of humanities, in particular of literary studies.


crisis of humanities; needs and utility of literary studies; methodology of literary scholarship in information age;

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