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Staying Alive: A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts

L.O. Aranye Fradenburg

Published onNov 27, 2021
Staying Alive: A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts
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Staying Alive: A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts

L.O. Aranye Fradenburg
Edited by Eileen A. Joy

  • ISBN: 978-0-615-90650-8

  • Paperback, 5×8 in., B/W, 372pp.

  • Publication date: October 21, 2013

  • Price: $24

  • BISAC: PSY026000, EDU040000

  • Thema: JNA, JMAF1

  • Categories: Pedagogy, Psychoanalysis

Staying Alive: A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts fiercely defends the liberal arts in and from an age of neoliberal capital and techno-corporatization run amok, arguing that the public university’s purpose is not vocational training, but rather the cultivation of what Fradenburg calls “artfulness,” including the art of making knowledge. In addition to sustained critical and creative thinking, the humanities develop the mind’s capacities for real-time improvisational communication and interpretation, without which we can neither thrive nor survive. Humanist pedagogy and research use play, experimentation and intersubjective exchange to foster forms of artfulness critical to the future of our species. From perception to reality-testing to concept-formation and logic, the arts and humanities teach us to see, hear and respond more keenly, and to imagine, or “model,” new futures and possibilities. Innovation of all kinds, technological or artistic, depends on the enhancement of the skills proper to staying alive.

Bringing together psychoanalysis, neuroscience, animal behavioral research, biology & evolutionary theory, and premodern literarature (from Virgil to Chaucer to Shakespeare), Fradenburg offers a bracing polemic against the technocrats of higher education and a vibrant new vision for the humanities as both living art and new life science. Contrary to recent polemics that simply urge the humanities to become more scientistic or technology-focused, to demonstrate their utility or even trophy their uselessness, Staying Alive does something remarkably different: it argues for the humanism of a new scientific paradigm based on complexity theory and holistic and ecological approaches to knowledge-making.  It urges us to take the further step of realizing not only that we can promote and enhance neuroplastic connectivity and social-emotional cognition, but also that the humanities have always already been doing so. “Nature always exceeds itself in its expressivity” — which is to say that living is itself an art, and artfulness is necessary for living: for adaptation and innovation, for forging rich and varied relationships with other minds, bodies and things, and thus, for thriving — whether in the boardroom or the art gallery, the biology lab or the recording studio, the alley or the playground, the book or the dream.

Staying Alive is about turning the Superdome into a Pleasure-Dome. It’s not just a survival manual, but a guide to thriving. Part monograph, part anthology, Staying Alive assembles all kinds of creatures together in its life-raft, with chapters by Fradenburg and interwoven “fugues” by other scholars. This arrangement manifests formally a sense of camaraderie, of coming together, a theme central to the book’s message: that human existence is a messy tissue of fuzzy connections and oozy, unbounded inter-relationships, and that the humanities is precisely the key to exploring these relationships.

~ A.W. Strouse, Glasgow Review of Books

L.O. Aranye Fradenburg is a Professor of English and Comparative Literature, specializing in medieval literature, literary theory, and mind studies, at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of City, Marriage, Tournament: Arts of Rule in Late Medieval Scotland (Wisconsin, 1991), Sacrifice Your Love: Psychoanalysis, Historicism, Chaucer (Minnesota, 2002), and numerous articles on the relations between contemporary thought and medieval studies, as well as the editor (with Carla Freccero) of Premodern Sexualities (Routledge, 1996). She is also the Director of UC-Santa Barbara’s specialization in “Literature and the Mind,” and a Clinical Associate of the New Center for Psychoanalysis, with a private practice in Santa Barbara, California.

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