The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what’s in issue 25. To get the issue delivered straight to your door, subscribe now.
College, in our society, names not only an institution, an important local employer or an obligatory step on the status ladder; it also names an aspiration to intellectual community.
“How often was I told by angry colleagues that a great book couldn’t be read in a week, not intelligently! And how often have I retorted, with my own degree of heat, that when the great books were first published, they were popular, which was the first step toward their permanent fame, and the public who first liked them read them quickly, perhaps overnight, without waiting to hear scholarly lectures about them.”
Peter Weiss and the political novel
As Weiss surely knew, … the political has a horizon: the universal fact of death. It seems unlikely that exploitation, want, cruelty, humiliation, hatred and other forms of human-made suffering will ever be eradicated, and to demand that art exist exclusively for the purpose of eradicating them is to condemn it to a kind of futility.
Hot or Not
Notes on my grandfather’s erotic novel
What does it mean that she is hot “enough”? It seemed to her like, if the option is available to live as a very hot person, it is a form of deprivation to live any less hot of a life. I once read that people are most ornery about the income bracket just above theirs, which means that the extremely rich envy the extraordinarily rich.
Symposium: What is college for?
The Real College Scandal
I cried. I lost sleep. I was, in fact, too upset to write anything worth reading. The press on the college-admissions scandal broke my heart, because I love the American university. I owe my life to it. Not my existence—that I owe to my parents—but my life, the way I live it, the things in it, the things I care about.
Degrees of Anxiety
Why is college, which is supposed to be empowering and a gateway to an open future, experienced by so many as a source of shame and powerlessness?
The Second Curriculum
[Jelani M. Favors]
As a student in Dr. Mack’s class at A&T, lectures that dissected our country’s long, tortured history with race were commonplace. These yielded fierce discussion and debate among my peers, but there was never any question that racism was a cancer eating away at the social, moral and political fabric of our nation, only differences in opinion about how to cure it.
What Should Students Learn?
General education programs, more than anything one can find in a school’s promotional literature, tell the actual story of what an institution thinks a college education is ultimately about.
Where Is the University?
It was uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing to converse with unorganized academics over matters of organized action. We learned that the ability to teach Marx in a classroom does not translate into knowledge of what a strike is (teaching off-campus is not respecting a picket line, a work stoppage is a work stoppage).
The Universe and the University
Theology has been expelled from the university or pushed to its margins in large part because a narrow understanding of rational knowledge has deemed it outside its proper sphere of concern. But that same narrow vision, which overwhelmingly tends to prize scientific expertise and quantificational knowledge as the gold standard, has pushed philosophy to the margins as well.
America will not be just any time soon; even its public education system devotes vastly greater resources to well-off children than to those from poorer backgrounds. As an individual faculty member you have no power over such matters in any case: you either play the hand you’re dealt or you quit. If you do stay, then you have to acknowledge that the sociological function of elite colleges in non-ideal America will always be to produce an unfairly privileged elite. The only question is what it means to do this well.
“I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, so college seems like a good place to not know things.”
When Meghan Married Harry
A comment on the humanities
When did Meghan and Harry marry? To some, this question might seem silly or even unintelligible, and that too is an important fact. It shows that to such a person the category of marriage has ceased to matter in the special sense of mattering we are trying to understand. It might continue to matter in other ways.
The End of the Dock
On wildfires and other conflagrations
From my perch up on my mountaintop, watching Lilo and Stitch and listening to the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, it doesn’t take much in the way of prophetic gifts to see that the profoundly limitless American landscape, as first sketched out by Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and then Mark Twain, and which was born again in the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and dozens of other pioneers and spiritual argonauts of every race and creed, is burning. The power of a shared, future-oriented culture was the great innovation of the Americans. It was the fuel that powered the country’s rise from a colonial backwater to the most powerful nation on earth. That country is gone now, done in by the titanic wave of creative destruction that it unleashed upon the entire planet.
Politics Without Guarantees
For Hall, the yearning to recover unity and authenticity—to be the center of all phenomena, the origin and the end—was always an attempt to fix and stabilize what can never be fixed and stable. To follow through on Hall’s thought today therefore means to conceive of a political action which doesn’t rest on an already existing foundation, whether it is defined in terms of experience or identity.
Edward Said’s Double Vision
By the time I was starting out as a journalist in Cairo in 2003, the premise of Said’s work, whether we had read it or not, was part of the air we breathed.
Artists and Elders
The video and the script commission transformed Bell’s continuing days of quarantine. For the rest of the summer she awoke with ideas and sat down to write. Gunderson had seen Bell not as old and vulnerable, isolated and shut away, but as a person with something urgent and important to say—so urgent, so important, that her physical safety was necessary to ensure her ability to say it.