While exigent debates about the “crisis” of the humanities in our present moment proliferate, the disciplines that constitute the humanities in modern research universities are hardly unified when it comes to solutions. Although they may be housed in the same building, faculty in ostensibly unrelated departments—say, African American studies and German studies or philosophy and sociology—rarely communicate with each other, though occasionally the research of perhaps one or two faculty members may bridge this disconnect. They may be brought together in administrative meetings chaired by a dean of humanities that, far from intellectual debates, may focus on monetary issues regarding the portion of funding and tenure lines each department is to receive or which departments should be dissolved. A hierarchy reigns among the disciplines, and it differs from one university to the next on the basis of contingent circumstances.

What does unify separate departments and faculty in the humanities is...

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