Scott Newstok writes:

“As administrators and legislators call for ever more assessment, and ever more measurement, defenses of the liberal arts struggle to balance advocacy of their genuine practicality with their ‘purposive purposelessness.’ In response to the gap in public knowledge about the art of teaching, and the misperception that education is equivalent to information delivery, we need a more coherent rhetoric for the value of what we do. I propose that “the crafts of freedom” offers a novel way to translateartes liberales, conventionally taken as ‘the liberal arts.’ While Cicero made a distinction between mental skills suitable to a free person andphysical skills suitable toa slave, ‘crafts of freedom’ more capaciously embraces any practice that emancipates us from what Blakecalled ‘themind-forg’d manacles.’ Drawing on the work of Richard Sennett and Matthew Crawford, I suggest that we might better defend our work in small-scale learning environments as an intellectualworkshop, a place wherecraft is honed through collaborative apprenticeship in conjunction with skilled instructors. In many respects, the medium itself of the liberal arts seminar – the schole which marks time and space for thinking hard (creatively, seriously, self-reflexively) – matters just as much as the content, since the venue provides the infrastructure for developing the habits that free us from mindless servitude.”

Scott L. Newstok is Associate Professor of English at Rhodes College, where he coordinates the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment and is President of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Dr. Newstok joined the Rhodes faculty after teaching at Oberlin College, Amherst College, and Gustavus Adolphus College, as well as holding the Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities at the Yale University Library Special Collections. He has published a monograph on the poetics of English Renaissance epitaphs (Quoting Death in Early Modern England[Palgrave, 2009]), produced ascholarly edition (Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare[Parlor Press, 2007], and co-edited (with Ayanna Thompson) a collection ofessays on race and performance (Weyward Macbeth[Palgrave, 2010]). His widely-cited “Plea for Close Learning” appeared in Inside Higher Ed and Liberal Education (2013).

Newstok’s lecture is part of the Howard Crawford lecture series sponsored by the English Department.