The cleanest library in Australia

I can’t help comparing the university where I work with St. Edward’s hospital, the apocryphal institution in Yes Minister which won an award as Britain’s most hygienic hospital because it had no patients to get the place dirty.

I’ve just come back to my office with an armful of old novels and literary criticism texts. The CDU library is having a monster book giveaway: free for academic staff and $1 each for students. I bargain-hunted gleefully until I managed to find a librarian to ask what was happening. I’d assumed they were just old, worn books for which the Library had newer editions on the shelves. But I couldn’t help asking just the same.

In fact the story is much more depressing. The giveaway pile is the last remnants of the university’s English literature collection. The English Department was abolished a few years ago as part of the ongoing “rationalisation” of this bastion of liberal education. Because English is no longer taught here, there’s no need for any novels or literary theory texts. QED. They need the shelf space for other things, so out they go. Such is the Brave New World of Australian regional universities. I suppose it’s marginally better than the University of Western Sydney, which is said to have bulldozed thousands of donated books into a landfill due to lack of shelf space. But not much.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Martin Pike
2021 years ago

The shame is, i studied an wide range of subjects at NTU, in the arts law and business faculties. And the english lecturers were all excellent, something you could NOT say for many of the others. They were also published and qualified at a level which was uncommon among NTU (now CDU) academics.

Their courses were not unpopular, and hardly difficult resource-wise to teach. Their abolition was part of the de-intellectualisation of NTU in the mid-late 90s, driven by the sneering engineer who was VC at that time. A shame, and so unnecessary…

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

Sad to see. The bit that gave me a laugh was “free for academic staff, $1 each for students”. There is a lovely anti-intellectual rant in there.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

That makes me feel sick. It’s the things which are close to home that really touch us.

Mark Platt
Mark Platt
2021 years ago

And what do we get in place of these rigorous disciplines? The latest fad marketing and management degrees, devoid of substance and full of Mickey Mouse fatuous fluff.

Don
Don
2021 years ago

Hey Ken… you didn’t see anything by Kenneth Burke did you?

Yobbo
2021 years ago

Please Mark, business degress are not particularly useful in their own right, but to suggest a degree in English literature is any more useful is going a bit far. They are both a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.

Mark Platt
Mark Platt
2021 years ago

Well, I don’t mean a business degree doesn’t have any value. Just that often the first year subjects have pretty much all the content there is and once you get past that there isn’t much new material. I’m speaking mainly of management and marketing, as I said. I should disclose though one of my degrees is a business degree majoring in accounting.

Tony.T
2021 years ago

Seeing they’re free, Ken. Tomorrow at work, see if you can’t rekindle — ho ho — that old campus spirit, go burn a few.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

I thought it was bra burning not book burning that was the campus fad, its been caricatured by conservative cultural critics for sometime.

Don
Don
2021 years ago

Well, at least they’re not burying them…

http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2001/446/446p5.htm

Tony.T
2021 years ago

Hmmm, inter-esting.

c8to
2021 years ago

did you actually manage to pick up a copy of brave new world…

that would be cool…

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Mark, Management as such isn’t really a discipline – the better Business Schools teach a combination of organisational sociology and psychology and a bit of methodology under that heading and hope for the best. The worse ones tend to have the intellectual content of a self-help book.

It is sad to see whole disciplines go. USQ used to have a really good Politics/Public Admin dep’t which was axed en masse. I don’t know what the story at CDU was, but some unis took the view that it was better to do away with whole disciplines than watch all disciplines eroded bit by bit. It’s an invidious choice!

On libraries, I used to be in the habit – in my undergrad days at UQ – of borrowing books that I really liked and were in low demand (they often had little forms pasted inside saying “borrowed once in the last decade”) on a regular basis. In the days of card catalogues, they couldn’t track who the borrowers were, so I could create an impression of demand and save the books. Sadly, my favourite book on the Liturgy of the Swedish Lutheran Church (not kidding!) was gone last time I looked – but only to the offsite archive. One nice thing about the ‘sandstone’ unis is that they do understand what a real research library is…

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

Sad, so sad, I am assuming they have kept the English literary texts on the shelves. Surely the students of Darwin deserve the right to experience Faulkner, Camus, Dostoyevsky, Melville, Turgenev et al in all their splendour. This sort of engagement is far more valuable than many a module. Even when I wasn’t enrolled in the B.Arts the library was a friend for such encounters.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

If they have any good pyschoanalytic theory (Lacan, Zizek, Jameson, Kristeva) that would come in handy.

If you spot any good Lusophile (Portuguese or Brazilian) literature can you pounce on it as its darn expensive to import. This is probably wishful optimism but if they have copies of Eca de Queiros, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Fernando Pessoa, Machado de Assis, Jorge Amado, Clarice Lispector) or any Toni Morrison or Juan Goytisolo, I’d definitely have to shout you some drinks at the next blog bash.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

Stephen, the pun got it in one.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Stephen – Jameson’s more of a Marxist literary theorist, is he not?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Stephen

I haven’t had time to check since the giveaway this afternoon, but certainly there were no literary classics among the giveaways, just lots of literary theory and criticism texts, poetry anthologies, and late twentieth century novels (but mostly fairly obscure ones). And a quick check of the catalogue just now shows that the Library still holds works by each of the authors you listed. So, assuming they just haven’t not yet gotten around to deleting them from the catalogue, it looks like the culling wasn’t quite as ruthless as I feared. But it’s still bad enough.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

I need my wishful optimism in times like these. Even if I’ve never believed a word of Uncle Pangloss – mind you we all know that the Lisbon Earthquake was the fault of the Australian Greens. Senator Brandis even signed a stat dec to put the matter to rest.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

Mark Jameson is quite a hodgepodge of Lacanian psychoanalysus, post-structuralism and Marxism. His work is also heavily influenced by Althusser who in his interpellative techniques drew quite heavily on Lacan. What I find interesting is that he is one of the Marxist critics who engage with aesthetics and also post-modern theory. He places far greater emphasis on textual interpretation than most Marxist critics, where traditionally have analysed texts through the examination of external social conditions. Jameson is more interested in examining how various interpretative systems are adopted, and attempting to find ways to debunk various meta-narratives. I have employed Jameson previously in the context of the allegorical work of Jose Saramago.

His main texts are “The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act”, “Marxism and Form” and “Postmoderism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Thanks, Stephen – I’ve read him but mainly in my capacity as a sociologist for his take on postmodernism as the “cultural dominant of late capitalism”. I have a copy of The Political Unconscious – must get around to having a look!

Tony.T
2021 years ago

Pangloss? Thick as a brick.

Mark Platt
Mark Platt
2021 years ago

Mark,

The management subject I’ve completed was essentially like that, yes. The content covered, though, was fairly superficially covered. In fact, my feeling was that there was no real reason why you couldn’t really find out all these things from observing an organisation while in some sort of managerial role. As an academic exercise it failed I think. It is also why I think the rationalisation of the arts based courses, in favour of these sorts of disciplines/courses/whatever, is a bad thing for education generally. Isn’t it better to have an education in core organisational psychology than a light-on mish-mash subject?

My gripe with the marketing is different. More to do with the fact that the content covered in the first year course seems to be the meat. Anything further than that really wasn’t new material. Or anything that you couldn’t glean, again, from practical work experience in a marketing type role.

In hindsight, I think my ‘Mickey Mouse fatuous fluff’ was a bit harsh and unnecessary. Given also that I’ve specifically identified why I feel the way I do.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Mark, I’m in broad agreement with you. I’ve got an Arts degree, as well as a Grad Dip in Business (mainly Industrial Relations but a little Management) – though my honours degree and PhD are in Sociology. I’ve taught Management to undergrad students at first year and it’s actually very difficult to teach people anything meaningful about organisations without their having experience in the full time workforce. There are some ways to get around this, but the general point stands. Postgrads (usually mature age and with workforce experience) get more out of it. My advice to any school leavers out there wanting a career in business would be to do an Arts degree, go work for a couple of years, then do a relevant Graduate Diploma in Business.

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