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Tutor profile: Anna B.

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Anna B.
Columbia graduate, lover of literature
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Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

“Liberal​ ​Arts​ ​Education​ ​Is​ ​Not​ ​(Necessarily)​ ​A​ ​Waste​ ​of​ ​Time," “Don’t​ ​Panic,​ ​Liberal​ ​Arts​ ​Majors.​ ​The​ ​Tech​ ​World​ ​Wants​ ​You,” “Liberal​ ​Arts​ ​Majors​ ​Are​ ​the​ ​Future​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Tech​ ​Industry": what explains the preponderance​ ​of​ ​articles​ ​and​ ​books​ ​assuring​ ​students​ ​of​ ​the​ ​liberal​ ​arts​ ​that​ ​the​ tech world wants ​them​ ​(​in​ ​other​ ​words,​ ​that​ ​they​ ​haven’t​ ​wasted​ ​their​ ​time​ ​on​ ​a​ ​self-indulgent​ ​degree​)?

Inactive
Anna B.
Answer:

The​ ​liberal​ ​arts​ ​degree​ ​is​ ​thought​ ​to​ ​be​ ​impractical​ ​and​ ​silly,​ ​home​ ​to​ ​unemployable​ ​navel-gazers, not​ ​serious,​ ​ambitious​ ​adults.​ ​Against​ ​this​ ​cultural​ ​backdrop,​ ​guarantees​ ​about​ ​the​ ​value​ ​of​ ​the​ ​degree may​ ​strike​ ​potential​ ​English​ ​majors,​ ​for​ ​example,​ ​or​ ​their​ ​parents,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​novel​ ​way​ ​of​ ​thinking,​ ​refreshing and​ ​ultimately​ ​comforting. And​ ​yet​ ​the​ ​underlying​ ​assumptions​ ​of​ ​articles​ ​like​ ​“Don’t​ ​Panic,​ ​Liberal​ ​Arts​ ​Majors.​ ​The​ ​Tech World​ ​Wants​ ​You”​ ​(​New​ ​York​ ​Times​)​ ​may​ ​not​ ​be​ ​so​ ​divergent​ ​after​ ​all.​ ​Ultimately,​ ​these​ ​articles​ ​share the​ ​implicit​ ​belief​ ​that​ ​the​ ​value​ ​of​ ​a​ ​degree​ ​necessarily​ ​lies​ ​in​ ​its​ ​practical​ ​application;​ ​they​ ​just​ ​disagree on​ ​whether​ ​the​ ​degree​ ​in​ ​question​ ​possesses​ ​the​ ​potential​ ​for​ ​this​ ​practical​ ​application.​ Though​ ​we’d​ ​expect,​ ​and​ ​historically​ ​it​ ​has​ ​been​ ​argued,​ ​that​ ​the​ ​value​ ​of​ ​the​ ​liberal​ ​arts​ ​degree lies​ ​in​ ​its​ ​unquantifiable​ ​nature​ ​--​ ​in​ ​the​ ​intellectual​ ​process​ ​itself,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​cultivation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​individual capable​ ​of​ ​critical​ ​thought​ ​--​ ​we​ ​are​ ​now​ ​being​ ​told​ ​that​ ​its​ ​value​ ​lies​ ​precisely​ ​in​ ​its​ ​quantifiability,​ ​in​ ​its money-making​ ​potential​ ​and​ ​capacity​ ​to​ ​translate​ ​into​ ​career​ ​success.​ The​ ​gradual​ ​abandonment​ ​of​ ​liberal​ ​arts​ ​for​ ​liberal​ ​arts’​ ​sake,​ ​in​ ​academia​ ​and​ ​in​ ​public consciousness,​ ​must​ ​have​ ​a​ ​more​ ​fundamental​ ​historical​ ​origin,​ ​and​ ​economic​ ​troubles​ ​alone​ ​may not be​ ​to blame.​ ​Students​ ​aren’t​ ​simply​ ​embracing​ ​pre-professional​ ​degrees:​ ​for​ ​decades​ ​now,​ ​they’ve​ ​been reassured​ ​that​ ​liberal​ ​arts​ ​degrees​ ​​are​​ ​pre-professional​ ​degrees,​ ​that​ ​studying,​ ​say,​ ​English,​ ​will​ ​allow them​ ​to​ ​compete​ ​just​ ​as​ ​well​ ​professionally.​ ​This​ ​phenomenon​ ​indicates​ ​a​ ​philosophical​ ​shift​ ​in​ ​approach towards​ ​the​ ​humanities,​ ​not​ ​merely​ ​a​ ​worsening​ ​of​ ​the​ ​job​ ​market. The​ ​rise​ ​of​ ​neoliberalism​ ​in​ ​the​ ​1980s​ ​--​ ​according​ ​to​ ​Dereciewiz,​ ​of​ ​“Reaganism,​ ​Thatcherism, economism,​ ​or​ ​market​ ​fundamentalism,”​ ​all​ ​denoting​ ​philosophies​ ​in​ ​which​ ​“the​ ​worth​ ​of​ ​a​ ​thing​ ​is​ ​the price​ ​of​ ​the​ ​thing”​ ​(​Harper’s​)​ ​--​ ​may​ ​be​ ​responsible​ ​for​ ​this​ ​shift.​ ​In the neoliberal context, ​the​ ​utility-based​ ​argument​ ​for​ ​the​ ​liberal​ ​arts is​ ​nothing​ ​new,​ ​just​ ​an​ ​expansion​ ​of​ ​the​ ​logic​ ​equating​ ​value​ ​with​ ​money.​ ​The​ ​resurgence​ ​of​ ​interest​ ​in the​ ​humanities, veiled with tech-y language,​ ​merely​ ​indicates​ ​how​ ​much​ ​we’ve​ ​internalized​ ​this​ ​logic:​ ​‘real​ ​life’​ ​--​ ​equated​ ​with​ ​the forces​ ​of​ ​production​ ​and​ ​consumption​ ​that​ ​dictate​ ​our​ ​economy​ ​--​ ​has​ ​seeped​ ​into​ ​what​ ​was​ ​once​ ​thought to​ ​be​ ​a heterotopia,​ ​a​ ​space​ ​in​ ​which​ ​to​ ​imagine​ ​a​ ​different​ ​world.​ For when​ ​we​ ​say​ ​English​ ​degrees​ ​are​ ​valuable​ ​after all,​ ​but​ ​only​ ​because​ ​they​ ​lend​ ​themselves​ ​to​ ​moneyed​ ​careers​ ​in​ ​Silicon​ ​Valley,​ ​we’ve​ ​implicitly accepted​ ​the​ ​market​ ​as​ ​our​ ​metric​ ​of​ ​worth.​

Subject: Literature

TutorMe
Question:

Why must Rochester go blind at the end of Jane Eyre?

Inactive
Anna B.
Answer:

On one level Rochester's blindness appears to enable Jane's preferred physical orientation and locus of perception, to give final expression to her tendency to seek out positions of lucid invisibility: before she reunites with him, for instance, she "stood to watch him - to examine him, myself unseen" (497). Romantic union with a blind man would seem to indefinitely extend the existential and perhaps erotic condition of "to examine... myself unseen." More to the point, Rochester's blindness is a sort of castration or diminution required for his ostensible spiritual reformation, an unsexing that allows him to turn his former "I'll try violence" (349) into the retrospective observation, filtered through Jane, that "violent as he had seemed in his despair, he, in truth, loved me far too well and too tenderly to constitute himself my tyrant" (507). Indeed, Jane and Rochester carefully negotiate this question of tyranny throughout their relationship. Though Rochester is older, richer, more powerful (and her employer!), their first encounter dramatizes his physical dependence on her: they meet when he's fallen off his horse and Jane must aid him, limping, to Thornfield house. This dynamic is repeatedly replicated throughout the novel and Jane, to be sure, saves his life on multiple occasions. Viewed in this light, his ultimate blindness is only the final entry in a series of plot machinations designed to ensure that Rochester not overpower Jane, that he will not disrupt a carefully calibrated balance of power, one that relies on the continuous curbing of his capacity for brutality. This state of affairs may be Jane's answer to the question of how to love without submission.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

Why must Rochester go blind at the end of Jane Eyre?

Inactive
Anna B.
Answer:

On one level Rochester's blindness appears to enable Jane's preferred physical orientation and locus of perception, to give final expression to her tendency to seek out positions of lucid invisibility: before she reunites with him, for instance, she "stood to watch him - to examine him, myself unseen" (497). Romantic union with a blind man would seem to indefinitely extend the existential and perhaps erotic condition of "to examine... myself unseen." More to the point, Rochester's blindness is a sort of castration or diminution required for his ostensible spiritual reformation, an unsexing that allows him to turn his former "I'll try violence" (349) into the retrospective observation, filtered through Jane, that "violent as he had seemed in his despair, he, in truth, loved me far too well and too tenderly to constitute himself my tyrant" (507). Indeed, Jane and Rochester carefully negotiate this question of tyranny throughout their relationship. Though Rochester is older, richer, more powerful (and her employer!), their first encounter dramatizes his physical dependence on her: they meet when he's fallen off his horse and Jane must aid him, limping, to Thornfield house. This dynamic is repeatedly replicated throughout the novel and Jane, to be sure, saves his life on multiple occasions. Viewed in this light, his ultimate blindness is only the final entry in a series of plot machinations designed to ensure that Rochester not overpower Jane, that he will not disrupt a carefully calibrated balance of power, one that relies on the continuous curbing of his capacity for brutality. This state of affairs may be Jane's answer to the question of how to love without submission.

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