What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Question: What is the future of literary studies?

Louis Menand: There has been this period of about 15 years of anxiety, about sort of loss of exciting, theoretical paradigms, which were very vibrant for about 20 or 30 years after the ‘60’s and it kind of gave life to literary studies, basically critical theory, post-structuralism, then feminist criticism, and so on.  Queer theory... All these other, things were exciting and brought people into the field or gave people a new way of reading and teaching this material.  And then there’s been this kind of drought for a little bit and the kind of post-theory moment, and so forth, which has, of course, been heavily theorized as well.

And right now I feel that the sort of coming thing is this use of cognitive science and talking about why we read and how we read, and there have been some books that people get excited about that have come out in the last three or four years on the subject and cognitive science, generally, I think is one of the places in the whole academy where things are happening that everybody in other disciplines is now paying attention to.  Even in the economics department, they’re paying a lot of attention to it. 

So that seems to be, when I look at, for example, applications to our graduate program, a lot of people, just even in college, are already expressing an interest in pursuing literary studies in combination with something in cognitive science.  My own view of the moment is I don’t really see cognitive science as actually adding all that much to what we’re able to do with texts, we’re able to say about them.  But that could change.  I mean, cognitive science is a rapidly developing area, so it could be that there are some surprises around the corner.  That does seem to be kind of where the trend line is leading.  And you could say this is just an effort on the part of people in literature to get some, you know, street cred in the academy by being scientific.  But it’s more than that, I think there’s a genuine feeling that this is a kind of exciting way of repositioning the subject that we teach, getting away from arguments about the canon and arguments about, you know, ranking, and who’s the best author, and that kind of stuff and much more in the direction of something that’s appropriate to scholarship and research.

 

Is Science the Future of Li...

Newsletter: Share: