Department of English
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas 66506
“Detecting Human Life in the Corporate Universe”
While an understandable, wide political concern is underway regarding the corporatization of the university, largely under the rubric of a Frankfurt school “administrativeness” and rationalization, one possible tactic or strategy perhaps less explored would be the scrutiny of the corporate realm for its own forms of resistance. Chris Newfield has developed an analysis of the place of “Personnel” or “Human Resources” in the corporation, an entity largely directed by women, which can in cases act as a kind of resistance or drag upon corporate momentum, and thus as a place of the kind of auto-critique that academics often associate with their own disciplinary and institutional practices. A look at corporate management manuals in the case of those adopting the “pinnacle” of canonical humanities, namely Shakespeare, reveals some of this potential auto-critique. While some manuals adopt Shakespeare for “higher wisdom” through quotations to be used to add “culture” and sophistication to one’s memos, others actually engage in interpreting and considering the plays and characters in such a way as to critique their own practices, even to the point of observing that corporations now suffer a great moral and ethical decline over the business practices of earlier days. At the same time, we witness corporations increasingly adopting the humanities for their own purposes, as in workshop practices in communication and creativity. The assault on the humanities may thus be countered by a guerilla offensive in our own territory.