Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Department of Philosophy and Poetry

Googling the phrase "department of poetry" does not come up completely empty, but it doesn't give us anything like the institutional support for "department of philosophy". This is an interesting grammatical asymmetry between "poetry" and "philosophy" (i.e., a difference in the way we use these words). Studies of poetry are normally hidden in departments that deal with particular languages or groups of languages. Philosophy departments, of course, have their various regional biases, but they don't generally explicate them in terms of national literatures.

I'm not sure what the right way to go is. (I don't think anything very substantial will be achieved by carving up academic fields of study differently.) Sometimes I think we should see works of philosophy simply as contributions to broader (and even national) literary traditions. Sometimes I think the study of literature would benefit greatly from being dissociated from its often less than implicit nationalism and even patriotism.

I think a Department of Philosophy and Poetry would be an excellent idea. Like many much needed excellent ideas it has zero hits.

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