Literature and the Curriculum

The controversy over the humanities curricula is a struggle over definition, and what is at issue is not so much the nature or purposes of the American university as the identity of the American people. There have been many such definitional combats in the past; the greatest of them led to the War Between the States. In all such struggles, whatever the nature of the dispute, the real object is always power. No one knew this better than Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty. After defining "glory" as "a nice knock-down argument," he explains to Alice: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less." When Alice politely suggests that the question is, whether one can make words mean what you want them to, Humpty Dumpty replies rather brusquely: "The question is which is to be master that' s all." 

It is obvious, then, that in attempting to define both multiculturalism and the arts, we arc involved in a struggle for power, and the question is which is to be master in the universities, in the culture at large, and ultimately over the American future. One immediate problem in such a discussion is that both terms—multiculturalism and the arts-are more political slogans than good Old English words. 

The first term, multiculturalism, is nothing more and nothing less than the latest rallying cry for all those who object to European man's...

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