This review‐essay examines two books about the history of the modern humanities: Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age by Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon and Battle of the Classics: How a Nineteenth‐Century Debate Can Save the Humanities Today by Eric Adler. Both studies reconstruct genealogies of discourse and practice by which to understand the “crisis” of the humanities, yet they draw disparate lessons from these reconstructions. The review traces the two monographs’ competing accounts of the historical continuity of humanities practices and the moral dimension of humanistic inquiry. Together, Permanent Crisis and Battle of the Classics describe an antinomy that can be neither resolved nor ignored: the methodological norms of the modern university tend to subvert the humanities’ investment in meaning and value, but without that investment, humanistic study loses the motivations and purposes that define it.

You do not currently have access to this content.