Before the Humanities became all-consumed with literary ‘theory’ and then become trapped, still so today, in a cesspool of politicized postmodernism (race/class/gender), genuine issues of life and death were the focus. In “Let’s Bring Back Existentialism“, Peter Lawler argues for a return to this focus:
The humanities should get back to what they were doing when they were flourishing in our country. That was during the “existentialist” moment that began after World War II and persisted through part of the Sixties…
During our existentialist moment, no serious person doubted for a moment that the “humanities” were about discovering who we are and what we’re supposed to do. And so the humanities–philosophy and literature–were embraced as our antidote to the dehumanizing extremes of scientism and relativism.
The humanities began to decline when they stopped focusing on the inward life of the particular person and turned outward in the direction of reading texts with the intention of discrediting their claims for truth by exposing their racism, classism and sexism. “Political correctness” displaced “man’s search for meaning.”