To be or t to be free, that is the question, the English question, the question of what is academic English at the beginning of the 21st century. So argues Thomas Docherty in this new and important new study, a study that begins with the claim that the fundamental idea governing the institution of the University is a will to freedom. Tracing a history of the modern European University from Vico onwards and including Hume, Rousseau, Schiller, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Newman, Alain, Benda and Jaspers, the author argues the academy's will to freedom is grounded in study of the 'eloquence' that has shaped literate and humane values. He goes on to explore the current condition of English as a literary discipline, arguing that literary studies is (or should be) a search for the unkwn; and that in only that search can the academy establish the real meaning -- or meanings -- of social, political and ethical freedom.
Thomas Docherty is Professor of English and of Comparative Literature, University of Warwick.