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Thinking Publicly What is the good of public intellectual writing?

Part of the PAL Writing Lecture "Thinking Publicly" poster
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Thursday, February 06, 2020
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4:30 pm
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Jon Baskin, editor of The Point
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A PAL "Writing Is Thinking" Lecture

Jon Baskin - Founding Editor of The Point, Associate Director of the MA Program in Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism a the New School, New York, and author of Ordinary Unhappiness: The Therapeutic Fiction of David Foster Wallace (Stanford UP, 2019).

When we founded the The in 2008, we assumed that the chief obstacles to getting good essays from academics would have to do with prose style. In fact the most serious challenges we faced were both more interesting and more intractable. They had to do not with how academics could write for a public audience, but with why they wanted to.

In this talk, I'll discuss the two pictures of public writing that continue to predominate among academics who write for the public-we might call them the academic as public expert, and the academic as public pundit-and outline the virtues and limitations of each.

Then I'll make a case for a third way of imagining the distinct value of the academic in public, who we'll call the academic as public thinker.

I'll end by making the case, building on some of Hannah Arendt's writing on the subject, that in order to become better public writers, we first need to think more carefully about what good it does to write (and think) publicly in the first place.

A PAL "Writing Is Thinking" Lecture
Thursday, February 6, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.
Reception at 4:30 p.m.

Co-Sponsored by the English Department's Working Group on Writing and Academic Work

Contact: Kevin Spencer