The Purpose of Interpretation and Theory?

by Dan C. Baciu
Published September 12, 2018

Between dense methodological and theoretical work, the wonderful news reaches me that the writer T. A. Barron just donated to UCSB to establish leadership in the environmental humanities. This is more than great news; it could be the beginning of a larger story of success. My past and present theoretical work leads me to the belief that substance is the cause, not merely an effect, of success and public attention. I feel that environmental humanities could be part of this success. My theoretical work tells me that the humanities need more visibility in their different orientations. I already mentioned:

  • The environmental humanities (Barron),
  • The digital humanities (WE1S),

And I add to give a sense of the idea:

  • The cognitive humanities (these could explore the human mind and what cognitive science can learn from the humanities and from the study of public discourse),
  • The urban humanities (dealing with urban life and technology),
  • The social humanities (parallel to the social sciences, but engaging with culture, online media, social networks, and language),
  • The fictional humanities (dealing with our ideals and dreams present in fiction or projected onto the future).

My work tells me that some ten to twenty of these orientations are important to keep the public discourse engaging for large audiences and ultimately help researchers and scholars collectively explore the world of human culture. Theory and methods can help develop the precise orientation of these fields to make them successful together (insofar as this does not already occur naturally). Studying the public discourse may also help identify and connect groups of people across the globe who already attempt to push the boundaries of research. Giving more substance and more variations to the humanities will ultimately make them succeed.