This past week, two sections of Hofstra University’s Honors College course, “Culture and Expression” — taught by my dear friend and colleague, Eduardo Duarte (who was also the author of the meditations in the liner notes) — listened to my Augustinian soul album, Late to Love, as a companion text to their study of Augustine’s Confessions. The two classes sent me a number of questions about the album, its composition and content, and its relation to Augustine. I was asked to reply in the form of a YouTube video, posted above.
There is a lot of talk about the relationship between the arts and the humanities, about the need to integrate forms of new media with the present digital generation of students. There is more and more interest in what “Catholic Studies” might be in the religious and post-secular Academy. All of this gets mixed together with any number of allusions to inter/trans/multi-disciplinarity.
I am skeptical of all of it. I have no intentions of fitting into those conversations and I see the arts and humanities damaged by forcing them into an arranged marriage with each other or with issues-based politics and identities. Plus, these arrangements often assume that the arts and humanities are fragmented parts, instead of a single whole. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that, if this is what these conversations in higher education are really about, then, I am not sure how this is not doing that.
Maybe I am backing my way into fashion or farce or both?
I was deeply moved by the generous spirit of the students in relation to this work and the invitation from Eduardo Duarte.
Those who despair about the death of intellectual culture and the weight of real things like student debt and grade inflation might pause to recognize that there are thousands of students who don’t have the reality-based cynicism of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Nor should they.
The good news is that there has never been any good news.
Courses are tapering to an end in my first semester of teaching at UBC and I must say, without an ounce of irony, that it has been the most renewing and refreshing semester of teaching in my young career. This video, its invitation and response, is an extension of that grace.
There is a sacred and special thing about the classroom: it can become a refuge, a shelter, a temporary home, a radical studio for the music of thought.
While the relationship between teaching and scholarship is neither as harmonious nor as acrimonious as it often gets made out to be, I can say that things are good and I am blest. Perhaps that will soon change much of what I wrote about here, at Patheos, and elsewhere? Who knows, but thanks for listening.