10.0868 independence, interference, purpose

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Sat, 19 Apr 1997 22:07:56 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 868.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (28)
Subject: Samson Academicus?

The following from the autobiography of the inventor of the birth-control
pill, Carl Djerassi, <cite>The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse</cite>
(1992, p. 136):

"My aspiration for an academic career, I am now certain as I cast my mind
back to the late twenties, was predicated largely on my yen to conduct
research on my personal intellectual turf without apparent outside
interference or control. Such a view of life in academe, especially
nowadays, is naive, because the search for monetary support for one's
research is so tough, time-consuming, and even demeaning that it constitutes
a form of control frequently more oppressive than that always assumed to
exist in industry...."

Of course "industry" doesn't exist for us in quite the same way as for a
biochemist or pharmacologist, say, but Djerassi's observation does raise
some questions relevant to humanities computing. One set of them arise when
(as I think at least prudent) we try to equip our students for non-academic
life, or ourselves face or continue to live a life outside the academy.
Another gets harder and harder to avoid as the walls of academe are
undermined by the control Djerassi speaks of, hooked to the funding of big
or even medium-sized projects. The walls suffer also, however, from neglect
or mismanagement because they seem to many no longer to serve a tolerable
purpose. We still raise the banner of "academic freedom", but do we have any
idea of what this freedom is for, as well as from?


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Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk