I wonder if the scholar has vanished and I do not think that is a good thing.
I do not mean scholarship, but the class of people sufficient in means and time to devote their entire life to study. In many ways, I aspire to that life, but adjunct teaching between several universities has not yielded much time that other full-time professors have. I’m lucky to have gotten done this year what I could. And the pressures of contemporary academic life push teaching on the full-time academic more so than in previous times. In addition, we teach more people of varying degree in intelligence and willingness to work. As such, there are many forces undermining the ideal of the scholar.
Perhaps, a contemporary example is in order. To publish my writings, I had to work on them in my own time, often intruding upon my marriage and other non-academic duties life throws at you. Since I do not have kids and doing philosophy on the weekends or even when I get home from commuting between two-part time positions at local universities, I have had little personal time to devote to the things of life other full-time people take for granted.
And here’s the clincher: with full-time positions disappearing and being replaced by contingent adjunct faculty, the real crisis of the humanities is not their already established irrelevance, but the fact that the very life of the scholar that would show the relevance of the humanities is a lost way of life nobody could recognize at all. The scholar is vanishing before us.
The strange irony is that we are all given a taste of scholarly satisfaction. All of us may have been excited by our dissertations, the pure intellectual satisfaction of drawing connections at a time when we may have been funded just to research it and write it. That may be the last time any of us had a taste of what it meant to be a scholar.