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In the Humanities and the Natural Sciences

jrlewis's picture

I found the activity of classifying Bryn Mawr College’s English Department very challenging.  Attempting to understand what knowledge and skills individual professors offer the department highlighted the different methodologies available for studying literature.  Genre, time period, language, nationality, and medium are all relevant ways of organizing literary criticism.  This is not true of the natural sciences.  Only current scientific knowledge is considered relevant.  The phenomena studied by scientists are not affected by language, location, or culture.  Therefore, the structure of natural science departments is very different from humanities departments.  For example, Bryn Mawr’s chemistry department is consists of professors who specialize in particular subfields of chemistry: organic chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, and physical chemistry.  These are the genres of chemistry. 


Herbie's picture

Departmental Genre

I mostly find myself incredibly jealous that the English department gets to subdivide so much and each professor can be so specific in his/her field!  In my department, history, we have 9 faculty members, but one of those faculty is President McAuliffe and another is Elliott Shore, both of whom can't teach every semester.  We don't have anyone to teach about Central/South America, Colonial America, Russia during any time period, China (or any other east Asian nation) during any time period, and I'm sure I'm leaving some area out.  As a result, professors are forced to teach outside their specialty, or genre, and then I worry about the quality of information I'm receiving.  If only ever department were lucky enough to be able to hire as many professors as the English department has!

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