What is the fate of literary pedagogy in an era of budget reductions, dwindling enrolments, program closures, workforce casualization, and the administrative valorization of interdisciplinarity? My forthcoming book, Post-Discipline, argues that, while literature departments are in material decline, the study of literature has flourished in institutions of professional education: business schools, medical schools, and law schools, and, by extension, their work and media spaces, from corporate book clubs to the wellness pages of the New York Times. This deterritorialization of literary pedagogy testifies to a growing interest in reading narrative fiction among the corporate workers, physicians, and lawyers that Immanuel Kant grouped as »the technicians of learning« and distinguished from the »scholars proper.« Increasingly, the technicians of learning are working as what Kant called »innovators,« claiming knowledge of literature and methods of knowing about literature that conflict with, and sometimes displace the methods of the scholars proper. Beyond interdisciplinarity, which synthesizes the methods and objects of different and equal disciplines, what the innovators champion is the rise of the post-discipline: a time when the value of literature is more accurately recognized and strategically defended by people and institutions untainted by the specialized techniques, expert discourses, and career credentials of literary scholars. Using the example of reading literature to learn moral leadership in business schools, this talk asks how (and if) literary scholars should think with and against the innovators of the professional-managerial classes and their deterritorialization of literary pedagogy.
Merve Emre is Associate Professor of English at the University of Oxford and a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. She is the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America (2017), The Personality Brokers (selected as one of the New York Times’ book critics Best Books of 2018 and adapted in 2021 as the HBO documentary Persona), The Ferrante Letters (winner of the CHOICE Award for 2020), as well as the editor of Once and Future Feminist (2018) and The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway (2021). She is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.