University Diaries

University Diaries

A professor of English describes American university life.

February 27, 2011 - 5:33pm
I'd like to reflect on a couple of passages from Mark Lilla's The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics.
February 10, 2011 - 8:01am
I had glancing, and wounding, encounters with Christopher Lasch in the early 'eighties. He was a close friend of an old boyfriend of mine, and when I moved to Rochester, New York, I went with an introduction to Lasch from the boyfriend. "I've told Kit you're there," he'd said to me. "Give him a call. He's expecting it."
January 5, 2011 - 1:27pm
In his short memoir, The Memory Chalet, dictated at the end of his life as he lay immobilized from motor neuron disease, the historian Tony Judt three times uses the word solipsism. It's a curious and exotic word, and its repeated use in Judt's brief final statement to the world conveys both his deepest fear about the future of politics, and his horror at his own locked-in condition.
December 14, 2010 - 5:37pm
Emile Durkheim, the great French sociologist, tells us that there are four kinds of suicide. None of the four really gets at the sort of suicide Bernard Madoff's son committed. New ways of life create new paths to death.
November 3, 2010 - 9:12pm
Contemporary Americans, wrote the philosopher Richard Rorty, are "rich fat [and] tired;" they live in an "Alexandrian" culture. Craig Brandon's new book, The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up On Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It, describes, in bland and angry prose, just the sort of universities Alexandrian cultures get. *****************************************
October 15, 2010 - 10:31pm
Last June, Inside Higher Education noted a legal case against the University of Calgary, filed by two students there who had been punished in various ways for making highly critical comments about a professor whose course they'd taken.
September 10, 2010 - 5:47pm
Last week was National Suicide Prevention Week. You missed it. We know so little about suicide that people worry awareness days might draw attention to the act and encourage some people to do it. For this, and for deeper reasons, suicide prevention week doesn't get much play. Although it would be ironic if suicides spiked on suicide awareness days, it would be an irony fully in keeping with this ironic act, to which, for instance, rich people in privileged nations are drawn much more often than poor people in failed states.
August 20, 2010 - 3:48pm
Donald Light, currently Lorry Lokey Visiting Professor of Human Biology at Stanford, has presented a paper at this year's American Sociological Association convention that's getting a lot of attention from the world press. (The paper is not yet published.)
July 16, 2010 - 11:57am
Cesare Pavese, the Italian writer who killed himself in 1950, when he was 41, once wrote: "Every luxury must be paid for, and everything is a luxury, starting with being in the world." One of the strange blessings of the burqa - the black robe that entirely hides a woman, even her face - is the way its presence among us reminds us of this truth. Existence, we remember when we pass blank sheaths on our streets, is a luxury - a brief, beautiful luxury, a flash of light before darkness. We should not extinguish that light.
July 6, 2010 - 2:00pm
"I must continue to write for the same reason I am always compelled to write, in sickness and in health: for otherwise I die deadly, but this way, by this work, I may die forward into the intensified agon of living."

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