The authors argue that contemporary discussions of crisis in the humanities are best understood as part of a longer genealogy of crises extending through the mid-twentieth century to the late nineteenth-century beginnings of the modern American research university. In contrast to approaches that equate the humanities with the institutional security of particular departments and disciplines (especially English), this article contends that we might better understand the humanities as an array of experimental practices that cross disciplinary and institutional borders. In contrast to critics who either worry that the humanities are newly threatened or hope they will be radically renewed by digital technology, the authors maintain that humanities research and teaching have long shared a mission with mass culture: namely, that of managing populations by controlling the media they consume.

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