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Like a lot of other folks, I watched the series finale of Succession last week and then spent a decent chunk of the next couple of days on the internet talking about what it all meant.

(Spoilers below.)

The preshow hype was around which character would “win” control of Waystar Royco—the children of the company’s founder, Logan Roy, or Swedish tech billionaire Lukas Matsson, but this was just the surface-level conflict to drive the human drama underneath.

As a text, because it is well conceived, well written and well acted, the show supports a number of different interpretations in terms of the meaning and consequence of different moments in the episode.

For example, why did Shiv ultimately decide to deny her brother Kendall the CEO-ship of Waystar Royco?

Was it a tactical choice, knowing that it would put Tom, her mostly estranged husband—but also the father of her unborn child—in a position of power?

Was it spite, revenge against a brother who had blocked her path to the CEO job?

Was it the opposite, a choice to “free” herself and her brothers from the terrible legacy of their father and his company, by severing their ties in one fell swoop?

How are we to read the misogyny of the world Shiv operates in against her actions, Kendall saying he should get the position as the “first-born son” or Matsson confiding to Tom that part of the problem with having Shiv as CEO is that he might want to “fuck” her?

And how about that shot of Shiv and Tom in the car as he offers his upturned hand and she lays hers only sort of on top? Is it a détente destined, ultimately, to break down into the bitterness we’d seen between them in previous episodes, or the first gesture towards the “genuine relationship” Shiv says she might like to try?

Are any of the people on this show capable of a genuine relationship?

I won’t indulge myself by sharing my own interpretations of these and other occurrences in the episode, but believe you me, I got opinions, and let’s just assume they’re the most correct.

What I see in all this cultural chatter—the tweets, the articles, the podcasts—is a genuine interest in the stuff that apparently has limited value inside higher education institutions.

That’s right, I’m talkin’ ’bout the humanities.

I see the moves that I tried to help students in my gen ed literature courses back in the day employ. I see observations, drawing inferences from those observations and then making conclusions rooted in evidence. I see contextualization to other texts and the world at large. I see an embrace of ambiguity and a sharing of perspectives, the building of knowledge among people with different points of view.

I see a collective effort to shed additional enlightenment on a work of art/cultural artifact that enhances the lives of those who engage with the discussion, while also making them (OK, me) irrationally upset when they think that someone else has it wrong.

I don’t think Succession is a unique text in terms of being able to engender this kind of response. In fact, I know it isn’t, but what strikes me about the level of public engagement is the willingness of so many to answer questions that no authority was asking. There is no reason to do this other than a desire to do it.

Seven years ago, almost to the day, I declared in these pages that “the humanities will never die” because I was witness on a daily basis to the deep hunger people have for asking and answering questions about life on planet Earth.

My subtitle to that piece about how I thought the humanities will never die was “but that doesn’t mean the academy will continue to be their home.” The trends I wrote about seven years ago—decline in humanities faculty and humanities majors, the discourse around the value of a college degree being reduced to how much one earns, the alienation of the academy from the interests of regular folks, and the preservation of the privileges of the guild over living the mission—have only gotten more acute.

I wrote that piece from the somewhat embittered perspective of one of academia’s recent “waste products” for which the institutions of academia had no place and no apparent use.

The bitterness has faded as I’ve increasingly thrived outside academia, to be replaced by a kind of sadness, a belief that it doesn’t have to be this way, and yet there are so many barriers to changing the status quo.

Let’s not imagine there is no interest in the subjects of the humanities or in humanistic ways of thinking, though.

Just as the Succession talk died down, the Ted Lasso takes cranked up.

I’m off to tell everyone else what they’re wrong about on that front.

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