Rethinking the university

Leverage and deconstruction

Author: Simon Wortham

This book explores key critical debates in the humanities in recent times in the context of the legitimation crisis widely felt to be facing academic institutions, using Derrida's idea of leverage in the university. In particular, it concerns an account for the malaise in the university by linking critical developments, discourses and debates in the modern humanities to a problem of the institution itself. The book finds within these discourses and debates the very dimensions of the institution's predicament: economic, political, ideological, but also, inseparably, intellectual. It looks at some of the recurring themes arising in the early key texts of new historicism and cultural materialism. The book also argues that these approaches in a number of ways orient their critical strategies according to certain kinds of logics and structures of reflection. It instances disorientation and leverage in the university by exploring the problematic doubleness of economics as indeterminately both inside and outside contemporary cultural theory. The book also argues that the interdisciplinary approach of cultural analysis has a certain amount of difficulty positioning economics as either simply an outside or an inside. The orientation and leverage within the university apparently offered by the development of cultural studies and by certain forms of interdisciplinarity comes at the cost of an irresolvable disorientation between the object and the activity of criticism.

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