|Writing to be Heard - 38367 - ENGL 288 - 01|
“So what?” and “Why should anyone care?” are the two fundamental (and most irritating) questions that anyone writing for a diverse audience must address: by necessity, public intellectuals must explicitly confront these questions within their writing and throughout their careers. As a matter of professional survival, public intellectuals also must develop a writing style that negotiates between high and low cultures, addressing themselves to audiences composed of educated non-specialists, as well as erudite insiders. Whether explaining architecture or health care policy to a wide audience or arguing for the cultural significance of zombies without overstating the case, public intellectuals must draw on substantive backgrounds and acrobatic language. This course will also consider crucial questions of elitism, identity politics, and the balkanization of popular discourse in relation to the role of the public intellectual.
“Writing to be Heard” explores selected moments in the twentieth-century history of American cultural criticism as well as the practice of writing criticism in an accessible, yet intellectually rigorous manner. Students will study critical writing and investigate its influence; they will also practice the art of critical writing in regular assignments. The course will begin by exploring the elusive and changing definitions of “the public intellectual” and reading “Politics and the English Language”—Brit George Orwell’s classic essay on language that obfuscates, rather than illuminates. We will then study twentieth-century American culture critics such as H.L. Mencken and Edmund Wilson, the rise of the New York Intellectuals (Alfred Kazin, Dwight Macdonald), the early stirrings of the Second Women’s Movement (Betty Friedan) and the work of African American intellectuals of the Civil Rights Movement (James Baldwin). It will continue with the emergence of outliers like Susan Sontag and urban studies pioneer, Jane Jacobs. The formal curriculum will conclude with the writings of contemporary public intellectuals, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jill Lepore, Daniel Mendelsohn, and Roxane Gay.
Associated Term: Spring 2020
Registration Dates: Nov 04, 2019 to Jan 17, 2020
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