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Clich� corner

Thanks to Hugh for sharing Stephen Greenblatt’s up-beat heads-up about the upcoming, up-and-coming Arts-at-Harvard Taskforce. These “programs” and “initiatives” promise to “shape an even brighter future” for the arts - just when you thought the future couldn’t get any brighter-shaped. “Cross-School collaborations” are to encourage “broader engagement”, among those “community members” who “regularly engage the arts with enthusiasm and enormous talent”.


What does “engage” mean here? The arts can engage you, and you can engage in art, but can you “engage the arts”, except in battle? Don’t you need to interrogate them first? Either way, “enthusiasm and enormous talent” will win through, and that brighter future – sorry, even brighter future – will get shaped. Each future manages to be brighter than the last, even though the last was pretty damn bright.


“Engaged” is no longer confined to matrimony and toilet doors. It has become a general, and fairly meaningless, term of praise. In this New York Times piece on Auburn University, philosopher Kelly Jolley is described as “cheerful and engaged”. Where’s his fiancée, then?  


Newsflash – I should stop fussing and get with the programme. I think it’s all very silly, but – newsflash – some engaged community members with enormous talent think otherwise. Well – newsflash – “newsflash” is no longer new, or even flashy. And if the future's as bright as they say it's going to be, we won't be able to see it.

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