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March 9, 1998

Critique of humanities instruction draws rave reviews from book critics

John Ellis

By Barbara McKenna

John Ellis, professor emeritus of German literature, is gaining national recognition for his book, Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities. The book made both the Washington Post and the Washington Times best nonfiction book lists for 1997 and received nearly unanimously enthusiastic reviews in 30 major publications and on nearly a dozen radio shows across the country.

Ellis's book discusses the changes in approaches to teaching literature in American universities in recent years, which, he asserts, "have increasingly isolated academic literary criticism from the broader world of readers."

"This is the result of an intense recent concern with race, gender, and class, together with the rigid jargon and dogmas that go under the name of postmodernism," he says.

The Wall Street Journal describes the books as, "A thorough and masterfully rational study of the issues behind the conflict. . .[done] with considerable brilliance." The Atlantic Monthly states that Ellis is "not the first commentator to express dismay at what is happening; what distinguishes him is the clarity of his perceptions, and his willingness not merely to deplore the new trends but. . .to subject them to a disinterested inquiry."

For further reviews, see the following Web sites:

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