Alan Jacobsís Latest New Atlantis Articles

Wokeness and Myth on Campus” (Summer/Fall 2017)

Attending to Technology: Theses for Disputation” (Winter 2016)

Miss Marple and the Problem of Modern Identity” (Fall 2015)

Fantasy and the Buffered Self” (Winter 2014)


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Wokeness and Myth on Campus 

Alan Jacobs

The recent wave of protests at American colleges — in which students express their anger at the presence on their campuses of ideas and speakers that they believe to lie outside the boundaries of acceptable discourse — has elicited endless commentary, but little of that commentary has been helpful. To some observers, the students are admirably alert to institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, and are courageous in resisting those forces. To others, the students’ responses merely mark them as “special snowflakes” unable to cope with real-world diversity of opinions. These opposed interpretations of the protests are themselves laid out, fortified, and held with commendable firmness or lamentable rigidity, depending on your point of view. In any case, they lead nowhere and leave no minds changed.

The problem lies in a failure to grasp the true nature of the students’ position. If we are going to understand that position, we will need to draw on intellectual sources quite other than those typically invoked. What is required of us is the study of myth — and not in any pejorative or dismissive sense, but in the sense of an ineradicable element of human consciousness.

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Alan Jacobs, a New Atlantis contributing editor, is a distinguished professor of the humanities in the honors program of Baylor University. He is the author, most recently, of How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (Currency, 2017). Portions of this essay have been adapted from his New Atlantis blog Text Patterns.

Alan Jacobs, "Wokeness and Myth on Campus," The New Atlantis, Number 53, Summer/Fall 2017, pp. 33-44.