How to Be an Intellectual: Essays on Criticism, Culture, and the University

How to Be an Intellectual: Essays on Criticism, Culture, and the University

How to Be an Intellectual: Essays on Criticism, Culture, and the University

How to Be an Intellectual: Essays on Criticism, Culture, and the University

Synopsis

Over the past decade, Jeffrey J. Williams has been one of the most perceptive observers of contemporary literary and cultural studies. He has also been a shrewd analyst of the state of American higher education. How to Be an Intellectual brings together noted and new essays and exemplifies Williams's effort to bring criticism to a wider public How to Be an Intellectual profiles a number of critics, drawing on a unique series of interviews that give an inside look at their work and careers. The book often looks at critical thought from surprising angles, examining, for instance, the history of modern American criticism in terms of itskeywords as they morphed from sound to rigorous to smart. It also puts in plain language the political travesty of higher education policies that produce student debt, which, as Williams demonstrates, all too readily follow the model of colonial indenture, not just as a metaphor but in actual pointof fact.How to Be an Intellectual tells a story of intellectual life since the culture wars. Shedding academic obscurity and calling for a better critical writing, it reflects on what makes the critic and intellectual the accidents of careers, the trends in thought, the institutions that shape us, andpolitics. It also includes personal views of living and working with books.

Excerpt

This book represents my effort to write a different kind of criticism from the academic mainstream. It fuses the techniques of literary journalism with scholarship to report on contemporary theory, intellectual life and culture, politics, and the university. One way to put it is that this book offers criticism without footnotes.

Journalism and scholarship usually inhabit different planets, with different gods, languages, and forums. Journalism pays homage to Hermes, favoring speed over the lumbering pace of academe, the timely report over the arcane investigation, the straightforward account over tedious elaboration. Its language is colloquial and direct, and it typically appears in the newspaper, magazine, or blog. Scholarship looks to Apollo, favoring rumination over snap judgments, careful qualifications over broad generalizations, and time-consuming research over the quick surmise. Its language is often hieratic, employing specialized terms specific to those in its particular fields, and it resides in small circulation academic journals or books. There is occasional commerce between the two planets, but rarely dual citizenship, and there is the constant suspicion that one violates precisely what the other values, academics thinking that journalism yields superficial over serious knowledge, and journalists thinking that academia opts for its own obscure cubbyholes over actual relevance.

If a fundamental task of criticism is to explain our culture, I think that scholarship needs better means of exposition than it usually employs and that enjoins an audience beyond a narrow academic field. (We often hear about interdisciplinarity, but most scholarship does not reach an audience outside of its field or period, so perhaps we should start with interfieldarity.) Conversely, we need journalistic accounts that filter from the deep well of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.