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Generous Thinking

, 280 pages
February 2019



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Pre-order. Will ship in December 2018

Generous Thinking

A Radical Approach to Saving the University

Higher education occupies a difficult place in twenty-first-century American culture. Universities—the institutions that bear so much responsibility for the future health of our nation—are at odds with the very publics they are intended to serve. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick asserts, it is imperative that we re-center the mission of the university to rebuild that lost trust.

In Generous Thinking, Fitzpatrick roots this crisis in the work of scholars. Critical thinking—the heart of what academics do—can today often negate, refuse, and reject new ideas. In an age characterized by rampant anti-intellectualism, Fitzpatrick charges the academy with thinking constructively rather than competitively, building new ideas rather than tearing old ones down. She urges us to rethink how we teach the humanities and to refocus our attention on the very human ends—the desire for community and connection—that the humanities can best serve. One key aspect of that transformation involves fostering an atmosphere of what Fitzpatrick dubs "generous thinking," a mode of engagement that emphasizes listening over speaking, community over individualism, and collaboration over competition.

Fitzpatrick proposes ways that anyone who cares about the future of higher education can work to build better relationships between our colleges and universities and the public, thereby transforming the way our society functions. She encourages interested stakeholders to listen to and engage openly with one another's concerns by reading and exploring ideas together; by creating collective projects focused around common interests; and by ensuring that our institutions of higher education are structured to support and promote work toward the public good. Meditating on how and why we teach the humanities, Generous Thinking is an audacious book that privileges the ability to empathize and build rather than simply tear apart.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick is the director of Digital Humanities and a professor of English at Michigan State University. She is the author of Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy and The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television.

"A worthy and timely book, and an eloquent example of the critical generosity it advocates. Generous Thinking makes an important contribution to the ever-expanding debate about the role of the humanities in public life."

"Kathleen Fitzpatrick is one of the smartest and most nimble intellectuals and theorists working in academia today. In Generous Thinking she challenges us to reimagine the university, the work we do, how we do it, and how we share and evaluate it. Fitzpatrick offers a subtle and thoughtful reflection on the meaning, purposes, and possibilities of the university, which she argues must deepen its embrace of the broader public beyond its walls if it is to survive. This book should be read by everyone committed to determining how to save the public university from its neoliberal handlers and its own self-defeating and self-destructive policies and practices."

"This book challenges the competitiveness of academic life and instead proposes a model of community and collectivity. Fitzpatrick calls on professors to engage with each other and beyond the campus. Embodying generous thinking, she is attentive at every turn to the risks as well as the strengths of her ideas."

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