Robert Scholes (1929–) from “A Flock of Cultures: A Trivial Proposal,” The Rise and Fall of English (1998)

  • Lee Morrissey


Our problem as I see it—that is, the problem of college instruction in general and any humanistic core for such studies in particular—can be put in the form of two questions. It is my hope that those concerned about education, whether they are on the “right” or the “left,” might agree that it is reasonable to see our problems in this manner. One question is how we can put students in touch with a usable cultural past. The other is how we can help students attain an active relationship with their cultural present. These two questions are intimately related, of course. We cannot answer one without taking a position on the other. Therefore, I shall try to consider them both, though my proposal is concerned mainly with the second. To approach the matter of a usable cultural past, I shall have to begin with questions of canonicity. This may at first seem like just another assault on Western Civ and the Great Books, but I ask for your patience. This is a different kind of critique, I believe, and it will have a different outcome than is usual. To begin with, however, we will need to have a clear understanding of the cultural role of canons. Let us begin at the beginning.


Sacred Text Great Book Modern Term Cultural Past Canonical Text 
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© Lee Morrissey 2005

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  • Lee Morrissey

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