I am an associate professor in the English Department at Temple University, specializing in English and Scottish literature during what scholars now refer to as the Long Eighteenth Century (1660-1832), which includes the Restoration, the eighteenth century, and the Romantic era. I am also interested in discussions about the state of the academy and the value of the humanities, organizing academic labor, community-based learning, and the literature of Philadelphia.

I am in the early stages of a book with the working title, Time for the Humanities: Competing Narratives of Value from the Scottish Enlightenment to the 21st Century Academy. It begins with the work of Adam Smith and then a trio of Scottish writers in the next generation–Robert Burns, Joanna Baillie, and Walter Scott, who reflect on the writers the emergence in the Scottish Enlightenment of three ways of talking about value: political economy, aesthetics and belles lettres, and moral philosophy. Together, they offer a pluralistic way of valuing not only persons and objects but also narrative itself, including a reflexive turn toward narratives of education that underscore the value of studying the humanities. The latter half of the book tracks the fission of these ways of valuing into the disciplines of the modern university, disciplines that tend more toward competition and exclusion rather than mutual illumination. This fission in narratives of value shapes the public’s understanding and misunderstanding of those of us who work in the humanities, who have unfortunately assisted in our isolation from and eclipse by disciplines typically accorded more explanatory power, such as economics. To make concrete these mutual communications and miscommunications, the latter half of the book is a series of case studies of practices and institutions in which university departments play only a partial role and yet offer opportunities for rethinking the value of the humanities: our students’ pre-professional desires as revealed in personal statements for graduate study, especially medical school; institutes and think-tanks seeking to influence humanities curricula; branches of US, UK, and Australian universities recently established in China and elsewhere; and experiments by universities in administering public high schools.

I have taken up some of these topics as editor of Temple’s Faculty Herald, starting in January of 2013: see http://www.temple.edu/herald.

Many of my scholarly interests coalesced in Ballad Collection, Lyric, and the Canon: The Call of the Popular from The Restoration to the New Criticism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). Focusing on the motives behind and the effects of the sustained interest by elite British writers in popular songs, it revises historicist accounts of the establishment of what we know now as the canon of English literature. While ballads allow elite authors to draw tendentious distinctions between high and low and idealize both the folk and the literary, they also use ballads to imagine a common world in opposition to modes of literary commodification and the overpowering of readerly agency. Among the figures I consider and continue to be interested in are better-known authors such as John Gay, Joseph Addison, William Wordsworth, William Blake, and Felicia Hemans, as well as lesser-known figures like Thomas D’Urfey, Allan Ramsay, eighteenth-century Shakespeare scholars and progressive educational theorists in the early twentieth century. Tracing the appropriation of ballads by elite authors puts me into touch with other topics that interest me, including nationalism, lyric, the history of English as a discipline, and the relationship between literary form and history.

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    Steven L. Newman

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