Postmodernism—which was smart, stimulating, ridiculous, and objectionable by turn—has left us in the lurch. Having discredited the centrality of the humanistic enterprise, the postmodern ethos of inversion has forced us to acknowledge that culture and all that culture once meant is not a thing apart but simply the semiotic expression of society’s need to sustain those in power. So hierarchies had to be dismantled; and onto the leveled playing field came poets who couldn’t tell an iamb from an apple, painters who couldn’t draw an apple, and conceptual “artists” like Damien Hirst who openly and cynically promote and sell non-art. Sheer frippery for the gullible.
—Arthur Krystal, “The Shrinking World of Ideas,” Chronicle of Higher Education (21 November 2014).
In bold are the consequences of this trend on art, my emphasis.
As Emerson might have written: of what use are the academic humanities, “if the organ is too convex or too concave and cannot find a focal distance within the actual horizon of human life?”
The phrase “Exit the humanities” is no longer to be read as an elegiac stage direction written over bookish op-eds in which academics and intellectuals ironically or hysterically wring their hands about the current crisis. Read it as an economic imperative: get out.