Comments by Commenter

  • Alan Jacobs

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 21 February 2018

      I’m not sure this is useful, but I’m reminded here of that great moment near the end of *West of Everything* where Jane Tompkins describes the experience of watching a young critic take a party the work of a senior critic, describes her own delight in the performance, remembers that that was how she herself made her name as a scholar, and finally — this is the reveal — points out that this is precisely the same agonistic ethos that characterizes the Western. It’s a wonderful way to catch us all in unwitting complicity with an often unhealthy mode of thinking.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 21 February 2018

      I like this story:

      The late Robert Nisbet used to tell a story about the academic scientist who was angrily accosted by his humanist colleague for “speaking against the humanities” at the previous day’s faculty meeting. Au contraire , said the other; he was doing nothing of the kind. “I love the humanities! I would die for the humanities! All I asked was”what the hell are the humanities?”


    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 21 February 2018

      Perhaps worth noting — ? — that while the title of the chapter is “The Liberal Arts” much of the chapter is actually about the humanities, which is a rather different matter. I think the relationship is sketched at the beginning of paragraph 3, but perhaps it could be a little more explicit?

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 21 February 2018

      Forgive me if you get to this later — I’m responding before I read the whole argument but also before I forget my point! — but one of the forms of generosity is *attentiveness* (indeed, Simone Weil seems to have thought that it is the primary form of generosity), and that can mean attentiveness to errors or wrong turnings as well. So that someone who pays close enough attention to show me where I’ve gone wrong is being generous to me.

    • Comment on Values on 21 February 2018

      You begin this section by distinguishing generosity from hope, but now they seem to be sliding back together — perhaps define that relationship more precisely? I find myself wondering whether one would ever practice generosity without a preceding hope. Generosity is, after all, a kind of risk, and why would one take that risk unless one had at least some hope that it might be rewarded?

    • Comment on Practices on 21 February 2018

      I find myself here thinking back to what you said on the previous page about misunderstanding. Could there be some connection between empathy and misunderstanding, such that empathy could *lead* to misunderstanding? (“Ah, you must feel just as I do.”) And then there must be a next stage where you realize that your empathy was, not inappropriate, but somehow misplaced. (“Hmm, I guess you’re not as much like me as I thought.”) The first generosity, then, would be the offer of empathy; the second generosity would be the recognition of the limits of my empathy as a tool for understanding you. We can, after all, become pleased with ourselves for seeking to practice generosity, and to think that practice accomplishes more genuine understanding than it does. That recognition of the (perhaps necessary) limits of our understanding might be the test of a genuine generosity.

    • Comment on Practices on 21 February 2018

      I also want to make a case for the generative effects of misunderstanding. As Valéry said, “Une difficulté est une lumière. Une difficulté insurmontable est un soleil.”

    • Comment on Listening on 21 February 2018

      Two thoughts. First, again I want to commend Simone Weil on attention, because I think it is genuine attentiveness that makes listening the active thing that you counsel here. Second, and related, I find myself thinking about your earlier point regarding privilege and asymmetry. If we are not *threatened* by the one we listen to, then paying attention becomes easier. But if we are vulnerable, then attention and listening can feel like a way of legitimizing those who would delegitimize *us* — an aiding and abetting of injustice. (This is why, as I tried to argue in an essay, hearing such people out can be experienced by the vulnerable as defilement.) I am not sure what to do about that, I am just noting the problem. (Not much help, I know!)

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 21 February 2018

      This is a very meta chapter in a very good way.

    • Comment on Why Do Readers Read? on 21 February 2018

      Auden’s introduction to his *Oxford Book of Light Verse* is a powerful and brilliant correction to any disdain for popular verse.

    • Comment on Why Do Readers Read? on 21 February 2018

      I wonder if there might be some useful homologous between these (sentimental?) defenses of reparative or otherwise positive reading and the earlier-mentioned (sentimental?) defenses of the humanities.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 21 February 2018

      You’re making me realize that our discourses are usually generous to the naive/pleasurable *as opposed to* the critical/theoretical, or to the critical/theoretical *as opposed to* the naive/pleasurable.

    • Comment on Readers and Scholars on 21 February 2018

      As I was turning to this page I noticed the book’s title at the top and realized that there haven’t been many mentions of the university lately — so maybe you might go through and see if there are places where you can occasionally remind us readers of that larger context for the argument.

    • Comment on Public Access on 21 February 2018

      This might be a good point to point out that this is another form of generosity, and that piece by piece you’re fleshing out that concept and indicating its range.

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 21 February 2018

      Thank you for saying this! Writing about serious ideas for a general audience without dumbing-down those ideas is the most challenging work I know.

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 21 February 2018

      Somewhere here might be a good opportunity to make explicit that in describing these various publics for scholarly work you’ve been points to various modes of generosity, various venues for generosity. And I like that very much. Generosity, it is now clear, is not simply a disposition but a disposition that thrives only on practices, and those practices can be quite diverse!

  • Alan Jacobs

    • Comment on 5. The University on 21 February 2018

      The provost is sadly correct, and the chief context here, I think is accreditation. Universities’ willingness (need?) to submit to accreditation utterly disables scholarly and pedagogical innovation.

    • Comment on 5. The University on 21 February 2018

      I should add that I’m not sure it *has* to disable such innovation, but in practice it does.

    • Comment on Public and Private Goods on 21 February 2018

      I wonder if the term “paradigm shift” has been so overused that it has lost force. Might an alternative be possible?

    • Comment on Public and Private Goods on 21 February 2018

      Now that I turn to the next chapter: Never mind!

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 21 February 2018

      A truly depressing model for “innovation.”

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 21 February 2018

      This is something that Chad Wellmon is trying to get at with his distinction between the University (a large and complex corporation whose President is a CEO) and the Academy (where the production and dissemination of knowledge goes on):

    • Comment on Community on 21 February 2018

      The problem — and it is the same problem that all institutions in need of reform face — is that people who have succeeded in navigating a certain set of incentive structures don’t want to let go of those incentive structures, nor do they want to make things “easier” (as they think) for those who come after them. How to address the primary stakeholders in the current structure is the big question, for me. When I’ve tried to raise suggestions for change among my fellow “Distinguished Professors” here at Baylor, I find that they’re appalled by the idea that the university should “compromise its standards.” My attempts to explain that different standards are not necessarily lower standards have fallen on deaf ears.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 21 February 2018

      All this is sadly true, Dorothea. I feel that I’m an outlier here because I like teaching undergrads, indeed first-years, and when I came to Baylor I did so because the offer came from the Honors College where we all teach first-years and have very few contingent faculty, and I don’t have to teach graduate students unless I want to. But the entire American university system is set up to allow senior faculty to ignore undergrads and instead to have them taught by contingent faculty. If senior faculty suddenly started demanding to teach lower-divisional courses — something I can’t imagine — then who would teach the upper-level and graduate courses? We can’t give plum courses to the contingents! What would happen to our prestige?? (We’re back to that provost Kathleen talked with.)

      I cannot imagine my way out of this situation. We need some universities that are secure in their identity to opt out of the system (in ways that, e.g., Reed College has, and in others) — but everyone feels too precarious to do that.

    • Comment on A Question on 21 February 2018

      I think the order makes sense, but I also think you might do more to call attention to the reasons it makes sense. For instance, people who are interested in the university but who are not in the literature/philosophy/history wing of the profession might wonder why you place such emphasis on reading. This could perhaps be more explicitly laid out.

  • Alan Snyder

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 23 February 2019

      A related concern is that status – individual and institutional – can be dissociated from the benefits we bring to students and to publics. For individuals, this occurs because this benefits are almost always accomplished communally. For institutions, it occurs because competition is too often on terms that aren’t tied to our public purposes.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 24 February 2019

      “A proper valuation of public engagement in scholarly life, however, will require a systemic rethinking of the role that prestige plays in the academic reward system…”

      The same can be said about the determinants of institutional prestige.

      “It is, however, crucial to a renewed understanding of the relationship between the university and the public good.”


    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 24 February 2019

      This is tragic. One description of the way of being of a scholar is gravitation toward questions that are (a) important, and (b) really hard, such that resolution is just maybe within our grasp. If that’s true, then both audacity and humility are essential. It seems t me that this is the way of being we should be cultivating in our students (not just graduate students).

      I might add with regard to public engagement that it’s generally not the case that a public expects neat answers to hard questions. A public does expect, of an institution it’s supporting, that its concerns and aspirations are reflected in the questions we pose.

  • Angela Gibson

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 10 March 2018

      [a conversational disposition that is not merely waiting for my next opportunity to speak but instead genuinely focusing on what is being said to me, beginning from the assumption that in any given exchange I likely have less to teach than I have to learn]

      This has broad application beyond the audience you address here, of course, but it’s hard to envision a form of listening to others who refuse to listen back. It has me thinking that practicing such behavior without reciprocity risks a version of martyrdom.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 10 March 2018

      Others comment on the way your audience is variously imagined here, and I think, too, that the various publics/nonexperts envisioned could be articulated up front as well.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 10 March 2018

      This final sentence puts forth a broad utopian vision that involves others not addressed in this book–not able to listen. Is there a paradox to acknowledge or address here?

    • Comment on Acts on 10 March 2018

      [ infinite, unbounded, ongoing obligation]

      You go on to mention sainthood, but what you here describe has me thinking of female Christian piety and mysticism in the Middle Ages–specifically, the strategy of gaining power by receiving (here, listening)–as well as practices of quietism. “Devotion” is not the right word to replace “obligation,” but you’re describing something a lot like a medieval version of it here.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 10 March 2018

      [Labor, in fact, is the primary reason that I resist the notion that all scholarly publications can be made available for free online.]

      *Holds fist up in solidarity.*

  • Anke Finger

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 2 March 2018

      Much agreed – but it requires an intellectual (and emotional) maturity few grad students will have developed – my cohort, for sure, was not only trained to critique without humility, but it was also rewarded for finding the weak spots in an argument on paper or with each other – without possibility for failure (so important for creative work). In that sense, how do we teach our students to be sharp (as in practicing critique and de-construction applying traditional hermeneutics) while being open (to their own as well as others’ limitations)?

      Take a look at this project: http://www.humilityandconviction.uconn.edu

      Full disclosure: I am involved as a research associate and public outreach director

    • Comment on Practices on 2 March 2018

      I think it is valuable to think of emotions/affect as culturally imprinted as well, beyond personal habit and practice. Thankfully, recent research has moved away from the notion of a universality of human emotions, and it behooves us to think of empathy, for example, as an interculturally diverse term. See Lisa Feldman Barret, How Emotions Are Made (2017).

  • Annie Johnson

    • Comment on Public Access on 27 March 2018

      This might be the paragraph to mention the important role libraries have played in furthering OA–including starting OA publishing funds (to cover APCs), to supporting initiatives like Knowledge Unlatched, to providing publishing platform (such as OJS) for scholars who want to start an OA journal.

    • Comment on Public Access on 27 March 2018

      I think this paragraph understates the resistance to OA among many people in the humanities.

      Also, the worry about “prestige” is not just limited to publishing an OA book, but applies to publishing in an OA journal as well.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 27 March 2018

      I have encountered many people who doubt the citation advantage when it comes to openly available scholarship. I think this statement would benefit from citations to some of the various studies on the subject, which do disagree on this topic.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 27 March 2018

      A really important paragraph. Is there room here to mention the rise of openly available theses and dissertations and the concerns students have about them being public? One of my favorite quotations, by a faculty member at Harvard (not Peter Suber), whose name I can’t remember right now, is “we don’t give PhDs for secret knowledge.” With the push for embargoes from faculty, departments, and some of our professional associations, are we indeed doing just that?

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 27 March 2018

      Again, I think this is another place to mention libraries and librarians. They are doing a lot of important and invisible labor to make scholarship openly available.

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 27 March 2018

      I think this also gets back to a point you made a few pages ago–in the humanities, the book is privileged above all other forms. How does that focus limit our ability to think more broadly about ways to communicate with the public?

      Also: worth mentioning here the NEH Public Scholar program?

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 27 March 2018

      I think Steven Lubar makes an important point related to this topic: “The work of public engagement comes not after the scholarship, but as part of the scholarship.” (Seven Rules for Public Humanists)

    • Comment on Possibilities on 27 March 2018

      [All of us—faculty, staff, students, parents, and the institutions that we rely upon—have more to gain from working together, from understanding ourselves and our institutions as intimately connected, than we have to lose in market share.]

      I think this notion of collaboration is really important, but it seems to contradict your point about “faculty leading” in paragraph 13.

  • Barbara

    • Comment on About the Project on 14 February 2018

      Yes, yes, yes!

    • Comment on About the Project on 14 February 2018

      I remember realizing one semester, casually assigning an essay that I thought was accessible, how much name-dropping goes on in scholarly writing and how off-putting it is when you have no way of translating a name to a set of ideas, which the author assumed the reader would do. And that was right at the threshold of the essay, which wrong-footed novice readers from the start. (It was an essay about culture; it wasn’t written with awareness of the limits of the culture it was speaking to and the boundaries it erected.)

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 17 February 2018

      Reminds me of Peter Elbow’s “believing game” in Writing Without Teachers (1972) – even then he had to argue in favor of considering something other than the more common reading strategy, the “doubting game.”

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 17 February 2018

      I love your vulnerability in the paragraph.

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 17 February 2018

      [ engaging with what is actually in front of us rather than continually pressing forward to where we want to go]

      Or to resisting orders to press forward without engaging what’s currently the case. (Going through curriculum revision at the moment, and so much of the work is in figuring out arguments against whatever might be done differently without confronting what’s not working now. Which is perhaps a way of resisting a mandate from above to reach certain strategic goals on a timetable. Sorry for the detour…)

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 17 February 2018

      [the best of what the university has to offer the world lies not in its power to advance knowledge in any of its many fields, but rather in its ability to be a model for what I am referring to as “generous thinking.” ]

      Coming from a liberal arts college, this is similar to our claims though the phrase “generous thinking” takes the place of the anodyne “critical thinking” in a way that I think might be productive. “Critical” like “liberal” arts is so widely misunderstood, and generosity is something we so rarely acknowledge as valuable, but it’s key to fair inquiry, isn’t it? Not jumping too quickly to hasty conclusions?

      Responding to the previous comments, there’s a TON of marketing language right now about “solving the world’s greatest challenges” and signaling community engagement but I’m not sure the signals are getting through. For many reasons. many not of the university’s doing.


    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 17 February 2018

      [This is a pernicious assumption, one that has spread through public discourse and become widely adopted by parents and students, with profound effects on the ways they approach their investments in and time at the university.]

      Someone just pointed out to me that a HERI survey of incoming students indicates “getting a good job” is their top concern but within a single percentage point or two is something very different: to learn something new about something they are interested in. I just found it interesting that we don’t acknowledge those mixed motives in our public discourse about higher ed very often. (another detour, sorry.)

      I’m also really cognizant of the role of community colleges (which enroll nearly half of undergraduates) – not to say you left them out but that complaints about higher education’s general uselessness or high price or elitism always leave them out.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 17 February 2018

      [the sciences’ focus on “basic science,” or science without direct industry applicability, is often imagined to be just as useless.]

      … but without billions of public dollars invested in it, industry would be screwed, which is perhaps why so infrequently it’s called out as useless, unless it’s social science in which case LAFF LAFF LOOK AT THE SILLY PROJECTS take their funding away immediately. Oh, and climate science, that has to go, too because politics.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 17 February 2018

      I agree – ending on absolutely anything would be powerful. Citing that income study wouldn’t hurt, either (haven’t read anything but news reports so I don’t know how strong it actually is…)

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 17 February 2018

      [The politics we are subject to, however—and this is the part of Fluck’s argument that I think is crucial—is the politics that structures all institutions in the contemporary United States, and perhaps especially universities, a politics that makes inevitable the critical, the negative, the rejection of everything that has gone before. It is a politics structured around competition, and what Fluck refers to as the race for individual distinction. ]

      I’ll be interested to see where you go with this. In the case of the humanities, a lot of right-wing resistance involves their claim that historians reject what went before, that they refuse to teach the triumphant story of progress that so many aging white folks grew up with. There are probably similar issues in other fields though history is the most publicly fraught battlefield. So yes, this assumption that competition and individualism is natural is shot through the academy and the rest of our culture, and there’s the shiny tech future, but there’s also anger and morning about wanting to return to the past and be “great again” with all the white supremacist connotations.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 17 February 2018

      I take your point, but also know where it’s coming from. I used to resist “relatable” as a grating non-word that is in constant use among students when talking about fiction but I have decided to live with it in part because I value that kind of affective response and in part because language does that, carves out new banks and leaves me standing by an old invisible border.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 17 February 2018

      [the degree to which people feel the cultures we study to be their own]

      Yes. And this is where generosity – accepting that “untrained” people’s readings or beliefs matter to them and aren’t simply wrong or unsophisticated, requiring remedial training – might defuse some of the hostility to how academics read. (Thinking about Rita Felski’s Uses of Enchantment, here.)

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 17 February 2018

      [ the state has lost centrality and certainty]

      This is probably too minor a quibble, because what you say is true of the state that was  – but the current state is very central to promoting capital and ensuring the welfare of financial institutions. It just no longer sees the welfare of the people as a whole as its business.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 17 February 2018

      I love this paragraph. Knowledge is communal, but we are encouraged to act competitively and it’s very damaging.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 17 February 2018

      All of this is exacerbated by the faux austerity that has been forced upon us because we need to funnel our wealth upward.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 17 February 2018

      I just did an ngram on “research productivity.” Yikes. And it only goes up to 2000.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 17 February 2018

      [the competitive work that will allow us as individuals and our universities as institutions to climb the rankings.]

      I wonder how much this sense that we’re working against one another in a marketplace for credentials has undermined public trust? How much room for the public is there in such competition? Not much.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 22 February 2018

      The persistence of book clubs (despite their often gendered denigration) suggests people really love reading together and discussing books. The popularity of “100 great books you should read” lists, too. Assuming it takes special training to read properly and nobody who isn’t trained that way has anything worthwhile to say about their reading experience is … infuriating to avid and critical if untrained readers everywhere. Who are legion.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 22 February 2018

      [non-experts into the discussion, bringing them along in the process of discovery.]

      I resemble this remark. 🙂

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 22 February 2018

      [to understand ourselves as a community. ]


    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 22 February 2018

      I like this way of following up on the previous moral education mentioned earlier that was followed by the workforce preparation mantra.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 22 February 2018

      Yes, I immediately thought of it too!

    • Comment on Acts on 22 February 2018

      I’m not sure how to put my finger on this (and perhaps you address this later) but acting and listening is good and thinking about being in the world, not above it or apart from it is … what’s in it for the public? What do they get from it? Do they want it? Do they get to choose the topic of conversation or terms of engagement?

      I’m not doubtful there’s a lot of interest in learning things and talking about things but people don’t always have the luxury of time and energy and attention. Or some do, but many don’t and what do we do with that?


    • Comment on Feelings on 22 February 2018

      Reminds me of that neologism you mentioned earlier, “relatability” in connection with reading – readers of fiction do gain some facility with empathy, but so often “it was relatable” or not means “I thought it was enough like my experience” (or not) that it was a success for me (or not). Very double-edged, this empathy.

    • Comment on Practices on 22 February 2018

      It would be interesting to have an anthropologist read this section on practice – they wrestle with this constantly.

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 25 February 2018

      [My hope, however, is that it might open its address to include readers of many different kinds, and of many different genres, both across and beyond the university. Reading is one of the crucial processes through which all of us—scholars, students, book club members, and casual readers—have the potential to come into a more generous relationship with the world.]

      Do you know Catherine Sheldrick Ross’s work on this question? She had grad students interview avid readers for years and I think really illuminates how and why people read. Looks as if there’s a second edition of her Reading Matters collection out this year.

      Also may be  of interest … From Codex to Hypertext: Reading at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (2012) edited by Anouk Lang and Reading Communities from Salons to Cyberspace(2011) edited by DeNel Rehberg Sedo. 

      I realize I am not helping with the “I haven’t read everything” anxiety….


    • Comment on Why Do Readers Read? on 25 February 2018

      [The therapeutic may not always be about conforming to an oppressive status quo; it may be, as Sedgwick argues, about “extracting sustenance” from the status quo in the face of the many injuries inflicted by everyday life ]

      Isn’t this similar to what Janice Radway discovered when studying romance readers?They had a critical reading capacity that was more sophisticated than she originally assumed.

    • Comment on Why Do Readers Read? on 25 February 2018

      It’s my impression based on some not-very-scientific surveys that readers often mix pleasure with an ancillary purpose – e.g. learning from reading commercial fiction set in the past or another county which isn’t their primary purpose. And no, I would say “naive” is not the right word for it except perhaps for the very occasional reader who picks up a book once or twice a year at most. Avid readers are extremely nerdy.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 1 March 2018

      [If the function that literature serves in individual readers’ lives is to open in them the desire for intersubjective understanding, and if such desire can be built upon in communal settings to create a readiness for ethical political and social engagement, then not only do literary scholars have an obligation of sorts to support that work, but we should also want to participate in it, as through such participation we can demonstrate the centrality of our work to the entirety of the social enterprise.]

      Yes! But that communal setting must be (I think) respectful of the ways of knowing that readers who aren’t trained in theory bring to the text. An example: I’ve heard papers given by people versed in lit theory but not versed in a genre say things that are simply wrong … the theory is misapplied because they haven’t read deeply in the genre and think they can draw conclusions without doing the reading but simply by doing the theory. Respecting readers of the genre and their knowledge would help avoid such mistakes. And if avoiding drawing conclusions based on incomplete knowledge the theoretical tools would be much more likely to be embraced by the people deeply immersed in the fan culture around the genre.

      I’ve seen outreach be an unpleasant kind of colonial missionary work. The exchange of knowledge has to involve respect for multiple ways of reading.


    • Comment on Reading and the Social on 25 February 2018

      There is also an enormous amount of book discussion online and has been since the days of Compuserve. I did some poking around during a sabbatical … the results starting with this chapter of an online collection of essays, i in case it’s of interest. SO MUCH BOOK TALK going on these days it’s infuriating to hear over and over “nobody reads anymore” or “books are a thing of the past.” Bullshit.



    • Comment on Reading and the Social on 1 March 2018

      Yes, you said what I had been trying to say much more concisely and well, here.

    • Comment on Readers and Scholars on 7 March 2018

      It’s my impression that students view schooled reading very differently than they do reading for pleasure (and students do read for pleasure, just as many adults who aren’t in school do).

      I think part of generosity must be to honor the unschooled pleasure of reading and being very careful not to correct it but to collectively and respectfully enrich readings for one another. I also think it will help a lot to show love, not just reverence or expertise or whatever else students think scholars are up to.

      Having participated in online genre book discussions for years I am sometimes amazed by ordinary readers’ insights, and sometimes impressed by the breadth of knowledge of a genre if not sophisticated readings of it. It’s also the case that the vast majority who read these conversations on a daily basis never contribute to them, but they feel they are important. I don’t know how to factor that “lurking” majority into the generosity equation, but maybe there’s something valuable in not demanding visible, measurable, public participation for it to count.

    • Comment on Public Access on 1 March 2018

      There is no real author-pays model in any field that isn’t already richly reward with public dollars. There never has been.

      Sure, it’s not unusual for scientists to pay to be published in print or online. That’s because they have money and it’s easy to use that money as a publishing revenue stream. Humanities and most social science (and some of the sciences) are not funded by billions of public investment so relied, once upon a time, on some individual sales and a lot of library money.

      The fields of science that had money sloshing around ate the library money. All the poorer cousins had left was the value of reputation and maybe trade divisions of university presses to fund the costs of scholarly publishing. Routledge and its ilk survive by charging high prices for a very few copies of books required for academic reputation. This is not how you make scholarship public, so it’s not really publishing, it’s extremely wasteful badging.

      The same companies that made enormous profits want to keep their profit margins and that means they want open access to be profitable. Libraries and anyone who cares about the value of knowledge (not just science) needs to stop feeding those beasts and put funding into solutions that don’t involve high profit margins – e.g. Lever, Open Library of Humanities, non profits that can’t be bought out by Elsevier or its kind. Humanities Commons is a good example of scholarly societies turning away from publishing-as-revenue-stream to publishing as making public. What happens in (some of) science stays in science but pollutes everything downstream.

      Oops, sorry for the rant.



    • Comment on Public Access on 1 March 2018

      Yes! Not just “oh how nice, I’ll let you read my erudition” but public engagement means sharing and listening and that is value even if it’s not the kind of value metrics we’ve been using in recent years.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      This is a real head-scratcher for me. One the one hand, trolls come with torches if you talk about gender or race, so maybe it’s easier to just not let them see your stuff. On the other hand, making talk about gender and race really hard to understand unless you pick up all the references to every name you drop can make you sound like a snobbish jerk, and there’s nothing generous about that. Assuming you’re part of an in crowd creates an out crowd.

      I think expert methods and vocabularies are sometimes used to do two things: earn a badge (I earned my Ricour badge!) and shift into a foreign language because pas devant les enfants.

      Les enfants find that tres exaspérant.

      Some academics (preferably people who don’t face actual risk – like me, tenured, white, safe) have to find a way to engage those who have no intrinsic interest in the expert methods of vocabularies but care about the work those things can do. Oh wait, you just wrote the book on that. 🙂




    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      Yes. And also engagement in return. Like actually showing up to the thing you invited people to.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      Yes. And also engagement in return. Like actually showing up to the thing you invited people to. Being present, publicly. It’s hard and time-consuming.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      [I may have misplaced this reply… sorry if it’s a duplicate.] Yes. And also engagement in return. Like actually showing up to the thing you invited people to. Being present, publicly. It’s hard and time-consuming.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      Michael Polanyi referred to this as “public liberties” – a freedom to ask new questions that only matters if it’s for the public good, not for private gain. (“Republic of Science.”)

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      In many ways there is nothing fundamentally conservative or traditional about this. It’s a neoliberal project of making public funds benefit corporations rather than the public. The whole concept of “intellectual property” is fairly new, and the metrics of productivity are also a recent invention, and prestige is being turned into a weird sort of fake financial derivative.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      A weird shell-game: take a non-subsitutable good (the expression of an idea that is original enough that you can’t just go get a cheaper one instead) and make it an exclusive luxury good. Then call it valuable.

      Academic judgment and honest debate can govern commonly-held resources e.g. the knowledge commons. We don’t need corporations or governments to decide what knowledge is good knowledge through fake mechanisms like impact factors. We do, however, have to agree on how to sustain these resources. Right now, they are being enclosed and depleted.


    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      It’s odd how much what those of us with regular employment do is not thought of as a contribution to the public good but rather as a personal accomplishment that has to be measured to see if we actually earned our keep.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      This is a really good and interesting question, though I’m not sure the scholarship we are being urged to give away typically provides any (or much) pay to the author. But it’s a piece of the labor issue being brought up here. Well said.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 7 March 2018

      I haphazardly participated in the Engagement in a Time of Polarization MOOC where community models were mentioned – the Antigonish movement, black community education self-organized in the Jim Crow south, and the Highlander Center.

      All of these were in a sense answers to that hierarchy problem.

      I’m very interested in ways to develop new “Wisconsin Idea” ideas that are attuned to the needs of our times and the distrust that is so ingrained. Somehow the idea of public service has been corrupted into government oppression and/or rude incompetence in so much public discourse these days. How to trust one another and listen to one another- that’s a hard one.

    • Comment on 6. Conclusion on 7 March 2018

      It could be just my  mood tonight, but I’m wondering if we (in academia) can earn the right to be generous anymore. Not “can we be generous?” but will anyone trust the generosity we may try to extend?

      This is very fuzzy in my head right now, but if the women of West Virginia can organize and win a teacher’s strike, everything seems possible. On the other hand, the recent record of higher ed’s embrace of ruthless, mindless competition and performative hand-wringing about adjunct exploitation without managing to do anything about it suddenly makes me wonder if we are capable of generosity, not to mention putting a generation in debt bondage, if we can shake off our elitism and reliance on claims of expertise and training and actually DO something brave like those women – I don’t know. Our record of generosity is not great lately. We have been shamefully timid. We mostly talk to ourselves and do very little listening.

      I think a lot about the near universal love of public libraries in the US and their (admittedly unequally funded) persistence when nearly everything else requires membership fees and proof of  return on investment and I wonder how they have managed to practice generosity all these years. It’s something about being local and being literally free to all and being willing to let people love what they love without telling them they’re loving it wrong. It’s also a balance of community members owning the place and librarians negotiating their management of a common resource while (sometimes) insisting on values that may not align with local mores. It’s also just about the only public space where everyone can go, which means it seems fine and natural for librarians to be trained to administer Narcan because who else is going to do it? Where else can people go? It’s as if all the other cultural institutions locked their doors so let’s let library workers tackle all the social problems. (And the public schoolteachers. They’re expected to do it all, too, but with less love and more segregation.)

      I’m also thinking about what Dorothea brought up early on. Culture is all around us and people have stories to tell and histories that matter to them and they’re making films with their phones and we’ve done a terrible job of even acknowledging these thriving communities of creativity that get schooled in capitalism by “free” surveillance platforms that assume it’s all about attention and marketing.

      Sorry, sorry. This gloom doesn’t belong here, but maybe the question I want to raise is “how?” and “whose example should we be following, because ours has been pretty craptastic lately.”

      There was generous thinking, grand thinking in the past. What could it look like now? How can it be inclusive and respectful and … the kind of big generosity we need now?


  • Brandon Walsh

    • Comment on About the Project on 1 March 2018

      I had the same thought as Katina. I’m very drawn to the generosity/community/care approach that you’ve taken in the small slices of this that I’ve read in advance of this draft. I wonder how much the anger you mention here might be not just acknowledged but also dealt with in a healing or reparative way? How might we direct frustration and negative energy in a way that is not just cathartic but also constructive in this context?

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 1 March 2018

      Might be slightly out of scope for your topic and discussion, but much of this makes me think of Rita Felski’s work on critique and the hermeneutics of suspicion. I’m thinking of The Limits of Critique and Uses of Literature. You’re talking specifically about literary study, of course, but I think there are overlaps in your concerns and approaches (at least how I read them as they’re articulated so far – haven’t finished yet!).

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 1 March 2018

      Ah never mind – you get to Felski in the next section!

  • Cameron Neylon

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      “Yes requires us to step away from competition, from the race for professional distinction; when we allow ourselves to linger in yes before jumping to but”

      Interesting, that in the improv communities I know that I’ve never heard the “yes” separated from its cognate “and”. I’ve been speculating about these communities as good models of cultural evolution. They have broadly shared culture “yes, and” but also local differences, and local formats with specific rules. It’s obvious to speculate that a parallel community that adopted a “no” approach to improv would not survive because it would generate weak narratives, but equally so with “yes…but”

      It seems to me that your concept of generosity is rooted in adding to the value that is being examined, not taking away from it? So the “and” might be central in flipping the idea of what critique is supposed to be doing? Not sure that makes sense but anyway…

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      FWIW I’ve made similar arguments with regard to “impact”, usually defined as “stuff happening outside of research”, that we should treat impacts on research in exactly the same way as impacts outside of research. Separating them leads to a kind of special pleading in many cases.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      I’m with Rebecca on struggling a bit with the distinction between critique and competition.

      I think it’s in the spirit of the text to offer the following: critique offers the possibility of generosity, it can be of the form “yes, and” of an earlier comment I made. Competition does not, at least in the negative sense it is meant here, which as I understand it is focused on zero-sum competition.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 17 March 2018

      I don’t know if this is relevant but this is very reminiscent of an argument that happens in a similar context in the sciences (and is sometimes made by humanists and critical folks) that the way science seeks to understand something “takes away the beauty/appreciation/enjoyment” which is an argument no scientist understands.

      Dawkins tackles this headon in Unweaving the Rainbow and while he may not be a preferred source I am struck by the notion that there’s a strand of science communication which has moved towards “understanding supporting wonder” that might be a step further down a parallel road?

    • I’ve skipped forward to this chapter so may have missed something intervening in terms of definition but I think there’s something crucial here for your argument is the distinctions between public good as “in the interests of publics” and public goods in the economic sense. I also think there’s a critical part in your last sentence, the word “should” that needs more unpacking.

      I remain of the (unpopular) view that knowledge is not and cannot be a public good but is rather a club good. It is natively excludable. We choose to invest in making it less exclusive/excludable. Here to me is the link to generosity. We have a cultural commitment as scholars to that “public-making” (which includes publishing) but we rarely unpack the political economics of that.

      Anyway, I think the argument that we have “privatised knowledge” misses the mark and recapitulates the standard left-right dichotomy of of C20 politics (public good, private bad, or vice versa) rather than understanding how the groups engaged in collective/club good production are interacting. We didn’t privatise a public university, we converted highly exclusive groups, supported by universities with strong identity tied (in theory at least) to public-making, into less exclusive groups where the collective goods are less exclusive leading to a concomitant shift to private good benefits for members, and efficiency seeking that played into the hands of capital.

      Err, or something. Apologies for thinking out loud. Anyway, the question of what the granularity of generosity is seems crucial. Is the individual natively generous (the values argument) or do they seek membership of group where generosity is part of the culture, or is the institution (as a platform or infrastructure) the site where generosity is to be supported and enforced a la Merton? Having skimmed forward through the chapter I think that could do with more exploration (although TBH this may be a case of me throwing my concerns on the table as you described in the opening!)

  • Christian Wach

    • Comment on About the Project on 7 March 2018

      Thank you Kathleen. It’s great to see this new manuscript in CommentPress format and better still to see how much discussion there is around this text. Very impressive indeed.

  • Christopher Long

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 12 February 2018

      This passage does a very nice job, particularly at the end, of calling attention to the underlying question concerning the combative habits of scholarship we cultivate in our students. “Reading with rather than reading against” is a succinct way of formulating this.

      In a sense, we are dealing with the legacy of the elenchus as a primary mode by which we attempt to discern truth. Communities of scholarship have too long been riven by the agonistic approach that animates practices of refutation.

  • Danica Savonick

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 6 March 2018

      I almost wonder if you’re selling your work short here. It seems to me like the crises in education you are addressing actually do have life or death consequences (thinking specifically about the production of an educated public, who then goes on to vote, become thought-leaders, policymakers, activists). It may require some dot-connecting on our part, but I think the work of humanists positions us to make these kinds of connections: to emphasize the importance of culture, what constitutes common sense, the knowledge we gain through education of ourselves in relation to others and the world. There are real, material and embodied, consequences to all of these.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 6 March 2018

      [a luxury]

      Your invocation of luxury makes me think of Reagan’s vilification of activist students during his time as governor of California and later formalized and made into policy/structure during his tenure as president. At this point in the intro, I am wondering if/hoping that a historicization of our current conjuncture will follow. I am also reminded of Audre Lorde’s essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” which connects aesthetic and humanistic education to social justice.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 6 March 2018

      +1 that standardized testing is an important piece of this puzzle!

    • What about a term like relevance, which seems to shift the focus from the individualism implicit in relatable and towards modes of critique, methodologies, and learning that reorient/reshape/reframe how we understand the world? “Relevance” was key to the student movements of the 60s and 70s that helped produce the kind of humanistic education many of us believe in and want to defend today. I see “relatable” as a current version of this desire for “relevance.”

    • [or what Fluck refers to as the race for professional distinction]

      It is wonderful to see that someone else was as shook up by Fluck’s work as I was! I couldn’t stop thinking about it for months after I read his critique of the competition implicit in U.S. academic culture – you’re the first person I’ve found who seems equally perturbed by it (perturbed, I suspect, because it resonates as true, but we know this doesn’t have to be the case and that there are other modes of academic thought/engagement that your book highlights).

    • Since reading Miranda Joseph’s Against the Romance of Community, my viscera have been trained to produce skepticism whenever I see this term. At this point in the introduction, I’m hoping that a thick consideration of “community,” including its genealogy and utility, will follow.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      I love this genealogy of the term. Generosity, to me, is also always gendered in the sense that women are expected to be more generous (giving of themselves) than men are and are punished more when they aren’t.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      [with a completely distinct category called “service” almost inevitably coming in a distant third behind research and teaching]

      Thinking about tenure and promotion, this seems truer of R1 universities than of regional and community colleges, where teaching and service are weighted just as much, if not more so, than research. Perhaps there is a way to strengthen your argument by attending to this nuance?

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      [of sharing our writing at more and earlier stages]

      It’s interesting to think about how foundational peer review is to every writing instructor’s classroom… it is one of the few commonalities among (I would guess) every student’s introduction into academic writing cultures, and yet something happens… we are supposed to somehow unlearn that collaboration strengthens thought by the time we become professors. That’s completely antithetical to what I teach my first-year writing students.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      [What might become possible for each of us, for all of us, if we were to retain the social commitment that motivates our critical work while stepping off the field of competition, opening ourselves and our work to its many potential connections and conversations?]

      And what structural shifts need to occur to allow generous thinking to flourish? (Thinking about how it’s less risky for a tenured professor to share unfinished/messy work than it is for a doctoral student.)

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      [risks turning the scholar into an amateur in the literal sense of the word: a person so devoted to a practice that they ought to be willing to do it for free. ]

      This really resonates for me with writings by both Michael Berube (MLA Address) and Fred Moten and Stefano Harney (The Undercommons) on how graduate students’ love for the work of teaching and research can contribute to our exploitation.


    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 6 March 2018

      [How might that expertise work to break down the us-and-them divide between campus and public, instead creating a richer, more complex sense of the connections among all of us?]

      This point was central to advocates for institutional change in the 1960s and 1970s (I’m thinking particularly of essays by Adrienne Rich, June Jordan, and Toni Cade Bambara because they’re the focus of my own research, but also the student movements so wonderfully analyzed by Roderick Ferguson). Imagining that a historicization of these questions/calls to actions will likely appear later in the book.

  • Daniel Cohen

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 23 March 2018

      Like Danica, I also wonder if this unnecessarily reduces the scope of this book. Although academia’s current lack of generous thinking may not be world-historical in nature, I do think it’s part of a national or even global decline in generous thinking and especially of our ability to take others’ perspectives. Or it is, as others have noted, a symptom of the decline of the Enlightenment project. That’s a lot to unpack here, and perhaps unnecessary, but I think you could be a bit less modest. 😉

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 23 March 2018

      Having read this page, I wonder if it needs to be freshened a bit with a more recent (i.e., over the last six months) idea that perhaps it is a lack of humanistic studies that have led to the tone-deafness of so much technology around social and ethical issues. I think that’s implicit here but could be heightened, or perhaps that’s to come…I’ll keep reading.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 23 March 2018

      [agonistic approach]

      I’m a little worried that a critic could point out here that scientists can be equally vicious and antagonistic. And indeed, that science is advanced though “disagreement and revision” as well. I see where you’re going with this, but it could be clarified.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 23 March 2018

      [That is to say, we would need to open ourselves to the possibility that our ideas might turn out to be wrong]

      Nice overlap with Alan Jacobs on this point.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 23 March 2018

      Speaking of Alan Jacobs, I wonder if, like him, you at least need to pay some lip service in this introduction to the literature from psychology (e.g., Daniel Kahneman) about the difficulty of perspective-taking, and how humans aren’t wired well for it. I think you are placing a lot of emphasis here on the academic and humanistic/critical mindset, but some of this resistance to generous thinking is surely a broader problem with human nature.

    • Comment on Acts on 23 March 2018

      [What I am seeking instead is something that is seemingly smaller and yet more pervasive: rather than understanding generosity as transactional, and thus embodied in finite acts, I want to approach it as a way of being that creates infinite, unbounded, ongoing obligation]

      dang I like this sentence

    • Comment on Listening on 23 March 2018

      I really like this section, and I’m glad that it precedes the chapter on reading, as listening is perhaps a more primal form of how we consider others and their thoughts. Moreover, I think you could highlight even more here how out of balance the ratio between listening/talking/yelling has become in our country/world.

  • Dara

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 25 February 2018

      I’m puzzling over the “exchange ideas with one another — in our classrooms” phrasing and construct. It seems to me that one of the problems right now is that the “us” of the professoriate and the aspiring professoriate is not the “us” of the students in the majority of classrooms.  I guess I’m arguing that [undergraduate] students, as often as not, belong in the category of those broader publics, rather than in the “us” of the university.

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 25 February 2018

      Okay, so I’m cheering the notion of higher education taking as its mission the modeling of generous thinking — and not just the modeling, because by engaging students in it as well as and while modeling it, we shape generations.

      In terms of the discussion above, there are some historical threads that might be useful. “Generous thinking” recalls the original mission of liberal arts colleges (back when they all were). Although in practice they were mostly about educating elite white men to continue governance and leadership, they built on a notion of disinterested service that resonates. Both the Land Grant Acts and the importation of the German university model shifted the emphasis toward a narrower focus on the production of new knowledges — although I’d argue that there was a practical/theoretical division built in at that point that has diminished with time and change.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 25 February 2018

      This definition of humanistic inquiry resonates with me. Part of what’s at stake is defining the university as a collection of modes of inquiry rather than a collection of subject areas (and hence objects of analysis).

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 25 February 2018

      This is so true and so brilliant. I would add, as an example, that it is not uncommon for to be asked to indicate the percentage of a collaborative work belongs to you. I’ve seen vitae listing “50%,” “30%” and so on after each collaboratively-authored item.

    • Comment on 2. On Generosity on 25 February 2018

      In general, I think that you’re doing a really good job of modeling generous thinking in this book, in the work with sources but not only that. But I realize in reading this Mean Girls anecdote that I’m hungry — and hopeful — that we’ll get at least one vivid anecdote of what generous thinking looks like in action, whether it’s an anecdote like this or a moment where you show us how a particular essay or book enacts this. It’s quite possible that I’m just jumping ahead, anticipating something you do later.

    • Comment on Values on 25 February 2018

      [These values, however valuable, have origins and histories and contingencies, all of which can too easily disappear behind assumed universals rather than insisting on our examination.]

      This is so important.

    • Comment on Practices on 25 February 2018

      I’m thinking about some of the work on creativity here, as digested for me in Miller & Jurecic’s Habits of the Creative Mind.

    • Comment on Listening on 25 February 2018

      This resonates with Krista Ratcliffe’s formulation in *Rhetorical Listening.” I’m also perhaps leaping ahead again in thinking about Deborah Brandt’s study of young writers in *The Rise of Writing* — in that section, one of the points she makes is that the young writers she interviews read differently than her older participants; they read *always poised to respond,* in part. She thinks about the extent to which that responsive reading has been catalyzed in part by Web. 2.0 technologies, and I’m puzzling over the ways that mode of reading is quite different from the generosity of listening as you sketch it out here.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 25 February 2018

      [What I am asking of scholars, then, is not simply that we recuperate popular reading practices but that we seek to understand the serious work those reading practices do for many readers, as well as the ways that such a deepened understanding might help us more fully engage with those readers. ]

      This feels so important. I’m thinking as a teacher at the moment, and thinking about what a difference it makes to honor the ways of reading students bring into the room when I try to teach them some new ones. It’s back to the “Yes! and . . .” logic of generosity.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 25 February 2018

      I’m thinking about Dickens as I read this, because I’m in the midst of re-reading The Old Curiosity Shop precisely because of the way it pulled readers in to anticipation of (and anxiety about) Little Nell’s death. The piece here, though, is about canonization: the nineteenth century is a moment when relatability was part of what made a text great, and the novelists, at least, that the twentieth century canonized for literary study from that period have that as a significant part of what they did at that time.

      All of which is really to say that I think you’re right.

    • Comment on Readers and Scholars on 25 February 2018

      This echoes Alan’s comment on this page a bit. I’m curious about what publics you’re thinking about here, and what some of the opening mechanisms are. Or rather, I think that it’s both the students in English classes (and who are self-selecting out of English classes), and readers and non-readers alike outside the academy. But that gets blurry at various points in this chapter, which is important because what it looks like when literary scholars share our love for literature and reading with students and what it looks like when we share that in writing for/with broader publics in mind are different — at least because they have different delivery mechanisms? And if they aren’t, to your mind, I think that delineating some of the contours might be helpful.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 25 February 2018

      I am wondering about how the logic of patent operates within this discussion, particularly given the financial incentive for research universities to have faculty producing patent-able work (since they then hold the patents).

      In some ways, this is back to your critique of competition as a primary mode of engagement and being in the academy. Here, though, I’m maybe jumping ahead to the next chapter and thinking about the university’s interest in promoting both secrecy and competition — the economic value of proprietary knowledge.

    • Comment on 5. The University on 25 February 2018

      You invoke the specificity of the land grant institution mission earlier, and I’m wondering about the diversity of missions of higher education institution types within the rubric of competition — and the extent to which part of what you’re calling for is a re-commitment to some of those more particular originary missions, re-written for the twenty-first century. (In other words, we shouldn’t all be trying to be Harvard.)

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 25 February 2018

      [And in the case of the transformation I am attempting to describe here, it requires refusing the dominance of the privatized, economized rationality that has gotten us into the situation we currently find ourselves in. The metrics and the budgetary constraints will always push the institution away from its public orientation, away from generosity, and toward the kind of economistic comparison with the corporate sector that the university can never win. But it’s a comparison that we should never want to win. ]

      Yes. Just yes.

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 25 February 2018

      [The paradigm that has become dominant is that of the market, within which the ideal structure is understood to be the corporation, which functions first and foremost to return value to investors, and the ideal value is understood to be competition.]

      “value” in this sentence gets confusing: “returning value to investors” suggests profit and money, specifically; but “the ideal value is understood to be competition” is a different meaning of “value.”

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 25 February 2018

      And, I’d add, exploitation of faculty! It was all over my feed a couple of years ago when AZ State changed the teaching load for its first-year writing lecturers, increasing it dramatically and doing away with development/service time as part of the contract.

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 25 February 2018

      Yes! Yay!

    • Comment on Community on 25 February 2018

      I love this. Rebuilding structures from the bottom up by first focusing on values, but by really naming and understanding those values.

    • Comment on Community on 25 February 2018

      So what I’d add, though, is that this also requires rethinking processes, right? How can the university *enact* communitarian, collaborative processes? How to balance those goals with the need, sometimes, to Get Things Done?

      How to be sufficiently patient?

      I’m basically just musing aloud here — I’ve so enjoyed reading the book this afternoon, and thinking with you and with its ideas — but I am wonder if another part of the problem for the neoliberal university is that of fast capitalism: there is no time to reflect, to pause, to consider, to build alliances, to listen, to better understand the problem(s) before having to act on them.

    • Comment on Community on 25 February 2018


    • Comment on Community on 25 February 2018

      I really love where this paragraph takes us. Not everyone can be a leader, but everyone has a role to play. How can universities work to remake the commons?

    • Comment on Possibilities on 25 February 2018

      [But it’s impossible to talk about MSU today ]

      I think that you’ll need to specify that, just to keep readers a decade from now from having to flip back and remind themselves when all this went down.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 26 February 2018

      Now, thinking about where you take the paragraph at the end, about systemic failure and accountability for not-knowing …

      Part of the problem structurally is one of silos, yes? There’s a growth-and-complexity issue that can be glossed as at least partly a matter of internal separation and also sheer size. But I’m entirely uninclined to suggest that size is an excuse for a failure to build a sense of community enterprise, or that it justifies blindness and avoidance of responsibility. But there’a kind of thinking that focuses on efficiency at the cost of complexity, and a failure to see the institution as a whole as operating more like an ecological system than a factory.

      And in this I think that MSU is only an example.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 26 February 2018

      [We must find ways, that is, of placing our value where our values are.]

      Yes. It’s so hard.

  • David Parry

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 20 February 2018

      In Japanese there are no prepositions, there are things that serve that purpose but are not direct equivalents so the following is somewhat a characterization and somewhat true. But in Japanese you don’t talk to someone, you talk with them. I think about this lots in terms of conversation. And your intro here makes me want to extend that to texts, we often think against, at, or about texts, but we do less well in thinking with them.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      To what degree is the “we” here functioning to talk about academia and the professoriate? To what degree is the “we” an exclusive United States “we.” When I think about these problems here I think they have a particular American bent, not only because of a complicated American intellectual tradition, but also, because a particular part of this issue is related to an entire politically engineered agenda.

      The story of the decline in trust and confidence in academia in the American context can’t really be told without talking about something like Turning Point USA.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      In the broadest sense isn’t this true of all disciplines. Maybe this is a particularly humanities way of looking at the world, but to me what it means to study a discipline (probably about to channel Foucault here) is to study a way of approaching the world. Although maybe a scientist wouldn’t say that about their work, so maybe what is humanities is that we would say this about our work.


    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      This is where I wonder to what extent we are talking about a second order effect. The decline of the humanities, whatever that means in the broadest sense-either the funding, or in prestige, is tied to much larger social forces. To be sure some of this is tied up with how the humanities talks about itself, and engages with the world, at least in the American context, but also the humanities are in some sense a casuality in a much larger cultural discursive shift, which some humanities scholars perceived happening and engaged with, to little effect, and some perceived and didn’t engage, and yet others missed entirely.

      (Not sure I totally believe the above, but worth thinking with)

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      In some senses I think it is mistaken, in others I think it is intentional, a targeted rhetorical strategy meant to harm the institution of higher education. See also: Turning Points USA.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      [The politics we are subject to, however—and this is the part of Fluck’s argument that I think is crucial—is the politics that structures all institutions in the contemporary United States, and perhaps especially universities, a politics that makes inevitable the critical, the negative, the rejection of everything that has gone before. It is a politics structured around competition, and what Fluck refers to as the race for individual distinction]

      Thus far I find this to be one of my favorite passages, one of the ones I most want to think with. To what degree is academia, structured as a politics of competition with winners and losers, and conflict, like so many other social and cultural spheres, not much different than say athletics or American Idol where the goal is out-ideaing someone/something rather than constructing community.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 20 February 2018

      This makes me think of the way students, self included from grad school, often take on personas in the classroom. Stake out ideological positions and defend them throughout the semester as a performance of a certain kind of academic identity.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 23 February 2018

      [do the work we do for one another]

      Seems to me that the claim is that this work actually isn’t even on this level done for one another, but instead done for ourselves

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 23 February 2018

      [the limits of critique might allow literary studies]

      This is where I am a bit torn between two modes of the book thus far, on the one hand the audience seems to be humanities/liberal arts, on the other it is a bit more focused on/at literary studies. This paragraph really seems to imply the later.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 23 February 2018

      [ if we open ourselves and our institutions to the opportunities that genuinely being in community might create]

      James Carey points out there are two ways to think of “Communication.” One is that communication is about the transference of information, sending one bit of knowledge from one place to another. When folks talk of communication this is often what they mean. But there is another meaning to the word communication, one tied to the word “community,” that communication also has what he calls a “ritual” function one that binds and ties people together, that to think about communication is to think about community. I think in part here what you are saying is that in academia we ought to think a little bit more about that second mode of communication in scholarly ideas, less about the transference of information/scholarship and more about building a community of scholars.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 23 February 2018

      I am not so sure that the de-funding of liberal arts could be reversed by arguing that the “love” of science, art, reading is worth promoting. I think that the defunding of these methods of study is in part driven be a cold hard economic calculus, that a course of study should be a job title, that the only things worth studying are ones that produce a higher GDP. I think that people probably are already conivnced that studying literature produces a love of literature, the disconnect being that many are also convinced that that is a private matter, and even if it does produce a communal good (cultivate community) it doesn’t produce an economic good and is therefore not worthy of economic support.

      The defunding of the liberal arts is also in part a cold calculus about defunding critical thinking. That is people are convinced that teaching literature fosters a love of reading, but they argue that love of reading is in itself pernicious. And not only ought not to be fostered, but rather actively resisted. The culture wars in this sense have roared back and in a particularly viscous way.


  • Dorothea Salo

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 14 February 2018

      Agree with Ethan. I think part of the answer might be deconstructing (sorry) “the university.” I work at one, and I don’t experience it as any singular being, even around the questions you are raising, Kathleen.

      For example, I work in what used to be an explicitly and purely professional program, in a set of professions that hasn’t much choice but to confront a lot of social problems head-on. (Respect to the librarians learning to use Narcan…)

      “Advanc[ing] knowledge” has only ever been part of our brief (and de jure, it’s not supposed to be my brief at all — I’m academic staff, not faculty). You can see that clear as day in ALA’s accreditation standards. Engaging with the outside world has also been part of our brief as long as I’ve been around.

      Now, even we aren’t unified on this. We certainly have students who disappear into arcane research vortices and never re-emerge. What’s interesting about us, given your thesis here, is that we are actually transitioning AWAY from being only a professional program TOWARD a lot more service teaching on the undergraduate level… and quite a bit of that teaching (not mine as much, I remain a how-to go-to) looks a lot more liberal-arts/humanistic than our professional program typically has.

      So, I’m rambling, sorry, but if you have questions about this process that might help your argument here, I’m happy to try to answer them.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 14 February 2018

      Even when it’s true, says this instructor in a professional program?

      I think you risk falling into a trap here: the “targeted career education is lesser / evil / a neoliberal trap” trap. It’s not just me you lose here; you could live without me — it’s community-college instructors (who deserve so much better), and it’s students whose personal situations don’t give them much space to look beyond “career-enhancing credentials.”

      I will say for myself that I spend a lot of energy on figuring out how to infuse ethics, aesthetics, a sense of justice, and similar into my career-enhancing courses. The idea that “career-enhancing credentials” are devoid of such niceties strikes me as pretty pernicious too.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 14 February 2018

      [no matter what the deeply ingrained belief in what Robert Matz has called “the myth of the English major barista” might suggest.]

      Instead of activating this obnoxious stereotype (and it IS obnoxious), maybe just refer to the recent research report on how liberal-arts students do just fine with careers.

      “Recognition heuristic:” when you repeat stereotypes, you give them more credence, because Brains Are Annoying That Way.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 14 February 2018

      Yes, yes, YES, YES, and can you find a way to frontload this? It feels like a buried lede…

      … the more so since I represent a lot of what the humanities has decided it’s competing against. I hear y’all when you devalue what I do. I hear. And despite my own humanist education, it divides me from y’all, often unnecessarily.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 14 February 2018

      [as the kids would say]

      Erm. I don’t think generational agonism is setting quite the example you want to?

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 14 February 2018

      [to respect the intellectual work of your peers]

      I like this… but I also note that the word “peers” is loaded in the academy in a way it maybe isn’t in improv comedy.

      Part of the agonism of the university in general and university faculty in particular is a narrow definition of who is “peer” to faculty.

      I’m not. It’s not just my lack of a Ph.D or my absence from the tenure track, even; my Ph.D advisor back in the day absolutely refused to recognize one of his own graduates as his “peer” because the said grad had a tenure-track position at a SLAC, not an R1.

      It would probably break your argument to discuss this here; I’m noting it as something this book may want to tackle somehow, at some point.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 14 February 2018

      [But why not public literary criticism?]

      Example, if you want one: http://humanities.wisc.edu/great-world-texts

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 14 February 2018

      [everything in the environment of the seminar room makes flirting with being wrong unthinkable]

      Idle thought: this aversion extends to other learning environments as well. I teach quite a bit of coding and other tech. The hardest students to work with are the ones who have been taught that they Simply Must Not Mess Up At Anything Ever. They were practically all star undergrads in humanist disciplines.

      You can’t learn to code — you can’t even code professionally — without messing up early and often. It’s basic to doing the work. Same is true of music (I say, as a total amateur), sport, and any number of other endeavors.

      So yeah, what you’re saying here is important, and thank you for saying it.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 14 February 2018

      [danger of the vocation]

      There is an absolutely brilliant essay on “vocational awe” in librarianship by Fobazi Ettarh at http://inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2018/vocational-awe/ I know you’re avoiding footnotes, but this might well provide you with a quote you can use.

    • Comment on Acts on 14 February 2018

      [on behalf of their colleagues and students]

      and publics!

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 14 February 2018

      [as a scholar trained in literary studies]

      The funny thing is, even literary studies isn’t in entire agreement on this point. I have a good friend with a Ph.D in English literature. I have a BA in comparative literature.

      The pedagogies and reading and discussion modalities we experienced could not have been more different! Hers was much as you are describing: skeptical, find the One Truth by battering at all available attempted truths (and if you haven’t read all available attempted truths you automatically lose), agonistic.

      Mine was more “what are the angles by which people experience(d) this cultural thing? how do they interact? can different angles be harmonized? what did they learn from it, and how can that be seen in what they did later? what else is related?” Just a much more pluralistic, exploratory approach to figuring out what we can about Cultural Things.

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 14 February 2018

      Is there a way to come back to the “public literary criticism” idea that you floated a while back in this segment somewhere? Because I think you’re starting to sketch out what it would look like.

    • Comment on Why Do Readers Read? on 14 February 2018

      These strains of thought definitely turned outward into the world, in less-than-helpful ways. There’s a well-known recurring cycle of thought in American public-library collection development, sometimes around genre, sometimes medium, but ALWAYS novelty:

      “That?! We can’t have THAT in libraries! That will corrupt the young / the female / the poor / {insert other oppressed group here}!”

      “But people LIKE That. And maybe if we have it in libraries, the people who like That will also learn to like other library offerings.”

      “Why is it necessary to relegate That to the role of loss leader? That is a perfectly worthy thing all on its own!”

      And round the cycle goes with the next new thing. Novels, movies, comics/graphic novels, games, music… over and over and OVER again. Given how many librarians come from humanist education, I have to think this anxiety is part of the fuel for the cycle.

      So, selfishly — a more generous humanities would help librarianship break out of this cycle of condescension, and I am ALL in favor of that.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 14 February 2018

      [we would teach literature if we were in fact convinced that what we were doing could make a person different]

      Oh wow. I love that. I hope you expand on it somewhere — because something that I often feel as I read more instrumentalist humanist defenses of the humanities is “no, no, your pedagogies do not actually do the thing you are claiming for them, and you as instructor don’t even make a serious effort to, come on!”

      And Park comes up with an explanation for what’s going on there that I didn’t even think of, so thank you for that. (It’s a despair I find familiar. There’s lots of things the professions that I train for wish I did in the classroom that I couldn’t do even if I wore a cape and spandex. Neither could the professionals dumping on me — but I represent an easy target for their anxiety.)

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 15 February 2018


      I’m… going to question this word. I think it gives away too much to the agonists. “Different,” yes. “Less immediate,” perhaps. “Deeper,” well. It depends on who’s defining “depth,” doesn’t it?

    • Comment on Reading and the Social on 15 February 2018

      Possibly you’re going to get to this, but…

      … fanworks?

      Definitely social (incredibly social!), absolutely capable of inspiring personal change, and often critical enough (see e.g. examples of “fixfic” that engage with e.g. issues of power/oppression in a work that its author did not navigate successfully) to satisfy even hardened agonists.

      Ficcers in ur litrachoor fixin ur fail. 😉

      Happy to find you fixfic examples if you like. I definitely have a favorite or two in that vein.

    • Comment on Readers and Scholars on 15 February 2018

      Pursuant to my suggestion about fanworks on the last page — reading as engine of creation is also a thing!

      As an old-school comp-litter, I can say that it’s also a thing that the agonists try their level best to bury or poison. “Derivative,” they sneer. “Anxiety of influence,” they opine. “When will they do something ORIGINAL?” When “originality” is just another tired call for competitive Byronic individuality.

      (It’s also SO ahistorical. I tend to look originality-wonks in the face and pronounce “Don Giovanni” as levelly as I can. Yeah, I’ve read Tirso de Molina. ¡Amor, clemencia, que se abrasa el alma! The agonists usually haven’t.)

      I will never forget learning that we only have the second part of Don Quixote because a no-talent hack fanficced the first part and Cervantes got hacked off about it. But, honestly, sometimes fan “headcanon” is better than the original author could ever have imagined…

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 15 February 2018

      [developed something of a bad reputation of late]

      I’d argue it always had one. Sure did (and still does) in GLAM circles. “Ew, icky, amateurs doing metadata?!”

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 15 February 2018

      [Kelly Susan Bradbury has recently explored this issue with respect to the term “intellectual,” pointing out the ways that, for instance, traditional academic exclusions of the more applied interests of adult education programs from that category results in those who participate in such programs rejecting the notion of the intellectual as part of their self-definition. ]

      First, I will have to read this now, thank you.

      Second, I think pulling this argument a lot closer to the start of the book would address some of my questions there about what you mean when you say “the academy” and whether that academy includes preprofessional programs like the one I teach in.

      Because yeah, academy, make us feel excluded and we unaccountably don’t identify with you. How odd is that.

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 15 February 2018

      Returning (again, sorry) to fanworks: the “acafan” might fit here.

      Not that there haven’t been fandom dustups involving acafans (Heeeeeenrrrrrryyyyyyy JJJJeeeeeenkiiiiiiiiiins) over appropriation and erasure, not that some academics haven’t tried to exploit or abuse fandom (often unsuccessfully; fandom bites back!) — but many acafans identify with and interact with fandom writ large in a way that’s rare and (in your formulation) generous, and certainly as public as fandom ever is.

      A lot of acafans are pseudonymous, to avoid academe’s agonistic scorn. This of course intersects with gender and race; Henry Jenkins can afford to use his wallet name where many acafans can’t.

      This means, unfortunately, that I can’t easily connect you with acafans — I’m only ever on the fringe of fandom anyway, and I’ve never been part of acafandom except as occasional consumer.

    • Comment on Community on 15 February 2018

      [The need around us is infinite, and as Noddings notes the thought of meeting such need is sufficiently overwhelming that as individuals we are faced with “the temptation to withdraw from the public domain,” to focus on our own internal requirements.]

      This connects to the carer-burnout argument you made several chapters ago.

    • Comment on Community on 15 February 2018

      This paragraph is a thing of beauty and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 15 February 2018

      [it must be led by the faculty]

      So, this is awkward and uncomfortable, but. In my reading of the history here, faculty did a fabulous job of attenuating their own organizational power by abdicating their duties of care — especially (though certainly not exclusively) to non-tenure-track folks all over the university. Like, say, me. Or any adjunct anywhere.

      Speaking of adjuncts… adjunctification is often framed as a Thing Those Awful Administrators Did. I don’t find it that simple. Faculty screaming for course releases to do research (competition, again!) own a lot of responsibility too. Have they acknowledged it? Have they hell. Too busy rationalizing why they’re top of the heap and brutalized adjuncts aren’t.

      That argument, that competition with adjuncts and folks like me, actively helped the thinning-out of the tenured/tenurable workforce. (I’m well aware that part of the reason I have the job I do is that I’m paid less than tenured/tenurable faculty are.) Heckuva job, faculty.

      What does that mean for this moment? That faculty can’t do this alone. Brutally frankly, faculty don’t have the numbers it will take to make a difference (and, as you’ve noted throughout, working together is not really their strong suit anyway).

      So FACULTY NEED US. Us academic/instructional staff. Adjuncts. Librarians. Alt-acs. Other academic professionals. But there’s still that long history of abandoned duty-of-care to reckon with. Whyever should someone like me — academic freedom? what’s that? I don’t have it; faculty have it and I’m not faculty — sign up to help faculty with anything ever? When faculty as a group have never given a tinker’s damn about us?

      I know I sound bitter, and I am (for many and personal reasons), but I’m peaches and ice cream compared with many.

      I don’t know how you work this into your argument, much less what you might suggest toward solutions. I do feel it’s a giant gaping hole that needs some spading.

  • Dorothea Salo

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 19 March 2018

      If you need an example of exactly this, it’s happening at the University of Wisconsin-Madison right now.

  • Elisa

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 19 August 2020

      [If we are to correct course, if we are to restore public support for our institutions and our fields, we must find ways to communicate and to make clear the public goals that our fields have, and the public good that our institutions serve.]

      This is a wonderful point, though it assumes goodwill and sincere engagement by critics. I think many of the groups and individuals criticizing liberal arts/humanities education are precisely concerned about the relational knowledge, the generous thinking, that the author promotes. So I am interested in how this political problem will be addressed in this text.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 19 August 2020

      I love this point. It is so important that universities and departments “credit” public work appropriately, particularly at a time of shrinking budgets. If we wish to make a case to taxpayers that they should support their universities, and to private donors that their funding will be used for the greater good, we need to be present in the community and offer many opportunities for community education and community dialogue with faculty — locally and globally. However, this takes so much time and faculty are already overburdened, especially at public institutions. It seems to me that establishing “ready-made” opportunities for faculty-community dialogue, administered regularly and consistently by university staff, would be very helpful — that way faculty do not have to initiate, plan, organize and fund outreach activities alone, reinventing the wheel each time.

    • Comment on Values on 19 August 2020

      [demanding that we behave according to my understanding of civility runs the risk of reinforcing inequities between those who already get to speak and those who are expected to sit respectfully and listen passively.]

      This is an excellent point — one that is so important in the present moment, when young people in particular are addressing long-standing inequalities and are facing the criticism that they are not practicing civility!

  • Elliott Shore

    • Comment on About the Project on 20 February 2018

      It seems to me that the eroding of the connections between higher education and “students, parents and the many other people” may appear to have accelerated recently, but its roots are deep.  I wonder if it would be possible to tamp down the noise of the last year and a half and look at the roots of the disconnect — I suspect, knowing you and your work, that that will be the case as I read further!  I only worry that by paying close attention to the current braying, we are getting sucked into a maelstrom that may be purposefully intended to consume our attention.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      Isn’t it the “we” who created the conditions which the students and the faculty at conferences perform in the “About the Project”opening section? Would it be good to recognize that there and then refer to it here?

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      This is right on — going to an ACLS conference is like going to a revival meeting — we are all wonderful, we should be loved and idolized by all, why oh why are we not!


    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      I think here you are proving the point of the basic argument that you are making — the “we” is stuck in a swirl of its own making — the “we” are good at criticism, and can and will criticize anything and everything.  It is a blunt instrument when wielded willy-nilly at every opportunity.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 20 February 2018

      This is brilliant (as it everything else that I have read so far, no surprise!) and I suspect the core of the problem. All of a sudden, after years of competing with each other, with proving how brilliant the “we” are as individuals, the “we” are supposed to be good community members.  So the “we” are taught by experience to favor research over teaching, favor research over “service”, favor the department over the university, favor self-promotion over the community.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 28 February 2018

      I don’t know if this is relevant but it might be useful as a way to think about attempting to measure our own expertise and allow us to be better teachers:  I taught a course once on Ben Franklin — he was 300 years old, I was teaching at Bryn Mawr and although I am a historian and an American one to boot, I did not know much about Ben Franklin.  So I tried to teach what I did not know — and it was for me and I hope for the class a worthwhile experiment:  I relearned how to read things I did not know much about and how little I retained from the time I read it until I came to class. I learned how had it is for people who do not share our “training” — hate that word — to think like we might and engage the way we expect them to.  It teaches humilty and compassion to struggle along with the students.  Maybe we can see expertise then as a challenge not just for others but for ourselves.

    • Comment on Practices on 28 February 2018

      This is the point that I did not make as well when talking about teaching what we do not know — it allows us to have the generosity, the empathy and to learn that we are not only not always right, but that there is not absolute being right.

    • Comment on Listening on 28 February 2018

      [But connection with others that is grounded in listening may lie at the heart of what’s required of all of us in order to ensure the future of all of our fields, including the humanities, the liberal arts more broadly, and in fact the university as we have known it. ]

      Bingo! I often think that when people gather together they often think only about what they will say next rather than listening to others and allowing the conversation to determine what they might want to add to move it further along. In so-called leardershhip workshops that I co-lead, this is a practice that one can work on and remind onesself to do — and to think that being quiet can be a powerful way of listening, learning and contributing. And that focusing on the other takes an enormous amount of energy.

    • Comment on Listening on 28 February 2018

      [To listen is to be ready for that which one has not yet heard—and, in fact, for that which one might not yet be willing or able to hear]

      This is gorgeous.

    • Comment on Listening on 28 February 2018

      I think you may be valorizing Clinton’s listening too much.  One can also use the term listening like one uses the tearm hearing — one may be listening, and I suspect that Hilary Clinton does that well, but to what end?  The generous listening that you so beautifully argue for is not the only kind of listening:  one can listen to take advantage, to gain power, to make money, to further one’s own interests in ways that are not at all generous.

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 28 February 2018

      [Perhaps understanding myself not as the one who has to have all the answers, but instead as the one who can ask a few key questions, might shift the emphasis in the classroom—and in all of the reading practices in which I engage—from mastery to connection.]

      Isn’t this the only way to teach?

    • Comment on Public Access on 28 February 2018

      I don’t think the real issue in the humanities is the cost structure of open access — i think that the problem is largely about prestige, perceived self-interest and the largely lacking sense of generosity and listening to which you point in chapeter 2.  There is not only self-interest on the part of individual schoalrs, but also on the part of disciplinary associations who make their bread and butter through publishing journals — one prominent head of one of those associations told me flat out that his associtation makes 500k a year from his journal and that means more than opening his humanities scholarship towards integration into the web. So in this case yes, money plays a role, but it is self-interst at play:  that money would not be hard to come by if there wasn’t the overweening desire to protect one’s work in ways that many think still matters.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 28 February 2018

      This plays out in another way on campuses large and small: when librarians and other adminstrators point to the economic realities of book storage, there is almost always a vast negative reaction by humanities faculty.  The protection of older ways of working while blind to the real cost to the institution and to the larger possibilities inherent in linked information technologies seem to me to be directly linked together. We as faculty in the humanties close ourselves off to the world when we insist that each and every book must be at hand, that we and we alone have the right to determine who gets to read what and when — imagining that there are only about 200 copies of each monograph available in US libraries — and blithely attack those who want to open ourselves up to the world as anti-intellectuals. ow we spend the money ientrusted to instituions of higher education by students and donors is something we almost never consider.

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 28 February 2018

      Brilliant insight.

    • Comment on 6. Conclusion on 28 February 2018

      This is an extraordinarily learned, provocative and inspiring work and I feel privileged to have gotten the invitation to read it.  You have explored this terrain in a generous and direct way — a very difficult combination that proves the point you are making about listening and teaching.

      I think that it might be useful not only to suggest how the community can move forward together but start the process.  You might do that by first inquiring of the associations of which you and others of us are a part to challenge them to collaborate  in the work of building a coalition that can enact the change that you have proven is needed.  So instead of you writing the conclusion, you are challenging us to work together and you will have already begun the task of organizing that change.

    • Comment on 6. Conclusion on 28 February 2018

      ps:  I would be honored to help out in that task.

  • Erik Simpson

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 23 March 2018

      This is a fantastic and deeply important analysis of the competitive dynamics of highly selective institutions that primarily reward research productivity in tenure and promotion.

      I do wonder, however, how well it describes other institutions of higher ed–the institutions where most faculty teach and most students learn. My parents taught at a community college and a regional private university; at those places and at regional state institutions, many of these points would not apply or would need a good deal of qualification.

      For example, take the idea that “it’s not uncommon for an institution to ask external reviewers in tenure and promotion cases to rank candidates against the best two or three scholars in the field.” But it is uncommon, unless we have adopted an exceedingly narrow definition of “an institution.” I do know that my own (SLAC) institution carefully instructs its reviewers not to look at materials in that light, and my understanding is that many promotion processes have no external review component at all.

      I do not mean to say that other categories of institutions are free of competition or “the race for professional distinction”–far from it. But their modes of competition and of awarding distinction are different from those this paragraph describes, and those differences indicate something important: we have a lot of colleagues who already know what it is like to build careers and institutions that work with different structures of public commitment, collaboration, and professional distinction. I wonder whether this wonderful book-in-progress could bring more of their experience into its field of vision.

  • Erin Templeton

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 20 February 2018

      [I am noodling about the importance of generosity]

      I worry that the use of “noodling” minimizes the importance of this work in that it perhaps reinforces a rather ungenerous reading of what follows? You counter this in the sentences that follow, but for readers who are already inclined so see this as a kind of fiddling while Rome burns, the damage might already be done.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 20 February 2018

      I could be naive, but I think that service to institutions is valued very differently at teaching-intensive institutions. Does is count *more* than research? Probably not, but it definitely counts.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 20 February 2018

      In addition to Lisa’s terrific piece, Janine Utell also write something similar that was based on the “yes and” principle from Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Janine’s piece ran in the Guardian. 

      My point is not that you should cite one over the other, but that I think they work in tandem and both speak to the importance of positivity and openness in the ways that you’re talking about in this paragraph, the whole of which I completely love.

  • Ethan Watrall

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 14 February 2018

      I’m worried that this passage doesn’t recognize that, in many disciplines, this is what is happening already.  Many disciplines are deeply research driven, but also recognize that the results of their work can and should also be applied to address a wide variety of pressing social, environmental, and economic issues at a variety of scales.

    • Comment on 4. Working in Public on 14 February 2018

      One of the things that struck me about this whole section is that it focuses exclusively (or, almost exclusively) on text as the scholarly product (either in the form of something “formal” – an article, chapter, book – or something “informal” – a blog post, etc.  I think there is an opportunity here to broaden the discussion of open scholarly products to include quantitative data and other open science products (open notebooks, etc).  In doing this, you include a nod towards the issue of reproducibility in the sciences and social sciences.

    • Comment on 5. The University on 14 February 2018

      In reading this section, I wonder if there is room for the inclusion of the university museum in the discussion.  University museums (especially at public universities) are very interesting expressions, microcosms, “battlegrounds” for many of the issues you raise in the section.  They are both venues for research and public engagement.  They, by their very nature, embody tensions between open and closed (or public and non-public).  Many also wrestle daily with notions of openness and accessibility of materials in the face of cultural patrimony, sacredness, etc.

  • Francois Lachance

    • Comment on About the Project on 10 March 2018

      [undermined by the university’s own betrayals of the public trust]

      Is there a typology of betrayals? A timeline? I wonder if we might better describe this as a “fraying of relationships”. I tend to think in the plural for there are various sites whereby academics and others engage.



    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 10 March 2018

      [toward community, toward engaging with what is actually in front of us rather than continually pressing forward to where we want to go.]

      I would like to argue for the necessity of teleology. Isn’t there a need to cultivate a historical sense, to know the past, in order to “engage with what is in front of us”? And this historical sense is informed by our desire for a community that lives by the mores of generous thinking…

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 10 March 2018

      This recalling of agonistic rituals reminds me that dissertation defences were once public. It opens up for me the space for witnessing of contests — wondering if how to do so with civility is a part of “generous thinking” — performance in a fishbowl? My go-t0 novel on this would be Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game — a text with lots to say about the relations between an academic world and its surroundings.

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 10 March 2018

      I had to look up “noodling”. I thought it was related to doodling. It is a musical term referencing improvisation. A notion which may be at the core of how to judge from the outside what goes on in the interchanges between academics i.e. are we of the general public viewing a set of improvisations? Skillful performances attuned to the instant…

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 10 March 2018

      A fictional treatment of the impact of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on science research (and the role of intellectuals) is found in Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem. See in particular the second chapter which recounts an encounter with Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring.

      I raise this example because there may be some space to tease out the political [ideological] from the economic (and both from the educational).

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 10 March 2018

      [The humanities are interested, then, in the ways that representations work, in the relationships between representations and social structures, in all the ways that human ideas and their expression shape and are shaped by human culture.]

      This expansive view puts me in mind of the work of Edward Said (definitely about ways of engaging with the world in a generous fashion) from his Humanism and Democratic Criticism:

      That deployment of an alternative identity is what we do when we read and when we connect parts of the text to other parts and when we go on to expand the area of attention to include widening circles of pertinence.



    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 10 March 2018

      Another way of viewing the agonistic approach is to consider it a species of listening for the unconscious, uncovering what rubs up against the overt argument (and this is not always voiced in the mode of challenge; it can take the form of sympathy).

      Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight by Shoshana Felhman:

      Reading is an access route to a discovery. But the significance of the discovery appears only in retrospect, because insight is never purely cognitive; it is to some extent always performative (incorporated in an act, a doing) and to that extent precisely it is not transparent to itself. Insight is always partially unconscious, partially partaking of a practice. and since there can never be a simultaneous, full coincidence between practice and awareness, what one understands in doing and through doing appears in retrospect: nachträglich, après coup.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 10 March 2018

      [to live our academic lives another way.]

      I know that the plural of “academic lives” connects with the subject “we” but it does lead me to ponder if the individual faculty member leads a number of lives. And by implication if “another way” is one that leads to a less fractured sense of the intellectual self. Hinting at the notion that competition is internalized as a split between what is desired by the individual as meaningful work and the realities of institutional reporting.  I know this “repression thesis” doesn’t jive well with the private/public split that is being discussed here. Not sure about the value of thinking in terms of the “lives” that compete with one another i.e. that the competition is internalized thus syphoning off valuable energies for exploring another way.


    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 11 March 2018

      I like how the elements of this paragraph align. The “relatable” beginning being attuned to next generation (Relatable: enabling a person to feel that they can relate to someone or something).

      It’s this openness to the language of the other that betokens that “glimmer of care” which leads to the creation of “forms of connection and dialogue”.

      Which is why I also want to stress the other meaning of “relatable”: able to be related to something else. This recognition of what can be related to what is a comparative move often found in expansive critique. Relatable harkens both to affect and to intellect.

      The paragraph and indeed the whole chapter can be read as an invitation to express feeling about “competition” and to think through what “competition” is connected to. Relatable is a lovely word to unpack in this context.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 11 March 2018

      The excerpt from Annie Get Your Gun is not merely about competition. It is also about gloating about the rewards. Raises for me the interesting question: can one have a generous form of boasting?

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 11 March 2018


      This section reads like an editorial. It operates, for me, like a pause in laying out the argument. The implied reader for this section is a faculty member. Imagine for a moment what an outsider sees when reading this? I ask because something needs to be asked of the public and of the student (who will is a member of the public). What does a student or member of the public to do? There appears to be a basic assumption here that if the academic “we” changes then they will have a better relationship with the non-academic “other”. There’s a wall here that can perhaps be turned into a bridge.

      Still I love any editorial that sneeks in a mention of empathic otherness. Oops that should be empathic unsettlement…


    • Comment on Acts on 11 March 2018

      A turn to etymology?


      from Latin obligare, from ob- ‘towards’ + ligare ‘to bind’.


      Latin committere ‘join, entrust’ (in medieval Latin ‘put into custody’), from com- ‘with’ + mittere ‘put or send’.

      What I like about “obligation” is that it conveys both the notion of binding together, the one to the other, and it hints a joint project, a moving towards.

      Commitment carries a hint of madness.

    • Comment on Values on 11 March 2018

      Earlier the limitations of “love” were explored. Here the limitations of “hope”. I am wondering if the third of the Christian virtues, caritas, has its own set of limitations?

      Listening has been situated in an ethic of care.

      I wonder if hope and love have impacts on listening. What kind of actions do hope and love entail? I would venture that love is about bringing the best to the listening situation and that hope is about taking the best from the listening situation and that charity is being mindful of the power dynamics in each listening situation.

      Perhaps when one of the three fails, the other two can compensate…

    • Comment on Values on 11 March 2018

      O what a lapsus. The three Christian virtues are of course faith, hope and charity.

      Recognizing this now, I profess my faith, as a creature of the Enlightenment, in critique.

      Is it possible to see projects such as Generous Thinking as a response to a crisis of faith (in critique) and a call to (re)build a culture that is responsive and engaged?

      Some of the actions in such a project are based on belief; others, on doubt. In a sense they both join up: belief in what could be and doubt that it has always been this way. In essence faith in critique is a step in the rhetorical imagining of the possibility of change. Hope is a Janus-faced virtue.

    • Comment on Values on 15 March 2018

      If I may, a remapping….

      Faith is about bringing the best of the past to the listening situation (we trust there is some value in what has gone on before, it’s a belief that grounds our commitment) and hope is about taking the best from the listening situation and projecting it into the future (we expect that good will follow). Caritas (charity or love) is being mindful of the power dynamics in each listening situation. Care is of the present.

      Faith and hope belong to the world of affect. Care is of the intellect. It requires judgment and assessment. It weighs. It is the judicious application of critique.

      In the context of the discussion in Generous Thinking the question arises as to the alignment of empathy with these orientations to the communication situation. Inspired by the work of Paul Bloom (see the References section for a quotation from his take on parenting as being outside the realm of empathy) and mindful of his discussion of “cognitive empathy,” I would suggest that empathetic understanding or care involves a temporal folding: bringing into the present space both a historical sensitivity (being attuned to what people value in the past) and a teleological bent (a watchfulness of what desires propel communicative encounters). Care is not so much being open to the feelings of other people in sense of the Adam Smith’s sympathy which Bloom argues against (and distinguishes from “cognitive empathy”). Care or “cognitive empathy” is a receptivity to the fault lines between hope and faith that run through any sense of self and more so in the relation of self and other. Care understands story as story: the past (barbaric or edenic) as abandoned by progress; the apocalyptic future ushering in utopia or nightmares. Care or “cognitive empathy” would thus recognize and acknowledge affect and attempt to trace its origins and where it might lead.

    • Comment on Feelings on 11 March 2018

      Are there two empathies? Empathy of feeling and empathy of imagination. And is not reason and critique that which allows the participant in a communicative situation to ferry between the focus on the self (how do I feel?) and a focus on the other (what is the other is feeling). Inserted into this space is judgement which of course is open to inspection. Empathy invites a sort of mapping  and a consideration of the rightness of that mapping.

      Such a tripartite view of empathy is rooted in a belief that all communication is mediated. It addresses Paul Bloom’s reductio ad absurdum: “The necessity of feeling exactly the same things as another person makes empathetic connection, especially with those whose life experiences and personal values may be quite different from our own, all but impossible.” Empathy actually operates in the gap, in difference, and in an awareness that the map is not the territory. It doesn’t flatten or transfer affect. It brings the mind to bear on emotion.

    • Comment on Listening on 11 March 2018


      Had to reread this. First espied this as “condensation” in the psychoanalytic sense which of course leas to the “receptivity that may lead to an unexpected connection.”

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 11 March 2018

      Might the concern with adequate reading be a displacement of the angst the accompanies being read?

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 13 March 2018

      [to grow into an ethical engagement with self, other, and world]

      I do appreciate that rhetorically there is a beauty in progression of self, other and world. It operates like a nesting of matryoshka dolls. But how are we to theorize the species of reading that leads to engagement with the world that doesn’t pass by the other? Or of that dead zone where reading is unconnected to self, world or other? Can boredom trigger affects that lead to engagement? I suggest a quick peek at the table of contents of Patricia Meyer Spacks’s Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind for an answer in the affirmative.

    • Comment on Reading and the Social on 13 March 2018

      Wondering how the argument would port to a different context: reading poetry, attending poetry slams … encounters based on connoisseurship or self-organizing audiences. In a piece from the 1990s (The Written, the Archived and the Active I proposed paying some attention to the academy’s relation to audiences, publics and communities and even had the cheek to propose some institutional rearrangements:

      There was a time when auditing courses was free. There is nary an institution that set its counters to keep track of such a service. The audience was not seen as a contributor to the college life. The community was intramuros including the invisible college of researchers and professors tied together inter-institutionally by disciplinary lines. The dominant mindset was that of community of scholars on the one hand and general public on the other. CMC [Computer-Mediated Communication] has allowed more people to understand that this was never the case. That along with public and community there was audience.

    • Comment on 4. Working in Public on 13 March 2018

      Along with dealing with trolls which you mention in paragraph 10, there is also the overhead of managing spam in the comment sections of the blogs which is an artefact of trying to gain search engine algorithms. This is of course the point you are making about finding and keeping abreast of the interesting conversations. In a sense, blogging especially in the genre of the Wordherders was about collegial conviviality glued together by “tales from the trenches”. The vulnerability of the posters was accompanied by a certain daring. Not unlike Usenet groups in the day — a hint of nostalgia here may be inflecting the argument towards a mourning pose. I have noticed on Twitter the emergence of the thread (several Tweets that carry a topic through and most often can be read in any order — like a palindrome — parataxis is the preferred mode of exposition — which leads to a quilt-like reading behaviour). I have found myself reading Generous Thinking in various modes: sometimes I read a section ignoring the comments; sometimes I read all the comments first; at other times I toggle.   Audience and reading habits may be dispersed and fragmented but I would argue that it is not necessarily distracted — there is work happening, piecing elements together requires concentration (and especially if one goes meta and comments on the process itself). “Catastrophic success” is about the success of the catastrophe (in the technical sense of the term, an element of rhetoric that finds us perpetually pivoting).

      In a rhetorical regime where parataxis rules, hypotaxis is challenged and so too thereby is the championing of critique. The dispersal leads to a flattening which makes it difficult to distinguish the principle and subordinate clauses and to reason through cause and effect.

    • Comment on 5. The University on 15 March 2018

      The mention of shadow missions makes me think of the genre of the graphic novel and imagine a lavishly illustrated book about the shenanigans of academics 🙂 All kidding aside it is worth pondering how Generous Thinking might look in format supported by graphic in the mode, say, of Introducing Postmodernism: A Graphic Guide.

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 15 March 2018

      [the damage done by our institutions’ focus on prestige, and the damage done by our culture’s focus on the market]

      The two paradigms are earlier (The University, paragraph 6) characterized as shadow missions. I wonder if there is something to say about the making of paradigms visible as a way to challenge their functioning as a political unconscious.

      Would there be some lessons to glean from the reception of a book about open source coding (the Cathedral and the Bazaar)?

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 17 March 2018

      [influence and prestige]

      a spot to park the reminder that “prestige” is a term of art in magic performance:

      Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.

      Christopher Priest
      via Goodreads

    • Comment on 6. Conclusion on 16 March 2018

      Please do not take the following suggestion as being glib. Consider a thought experiment: what would a Generous Thinking board game look like, feel like?

      I ask because play with stereotypes (how they are shaped and how they react with each other) is something that suggests itself in the shadow missions (The University paragraph 6) and paradigms (Paradigm Shift, paragraph 8).

      I raise this because I am fond of exploring group dynamics and the plurality of roles. For some reason, after mulling the potential of the shadow-paradigm for fictional treatment, I find myself thinking about the Divergent Factions in the fictional universe created by Veronica Roth (see http://divergent.wikia.com/wiki/Factions) how they resemble the poses of the intellectual vis-a-vis society [Abnegation • Amity • Candor • Dauntless • Erudite • Factionless]. It’s a reach but not so much when I read this in a profile of Robert Morrison, an expert on De Quincey

      “I once had a teacher who told me that the scholar has two roles,” says Morrison. “He [she] is both a monk and an actor. The monk is the scholar when [s]he’s doing research, the actor is when [s]he’s in the classroom, teaching.”


      Care of the self:
      For soothing respite and a reminder of the “humane passion for pure and disinterested reading” indulge in Virginia Woolf’s “Hours in a Library.

    • Comment on 7. References on 11 March 2018

      The library catalogue I consulted gave an abstract of Bloom’s book based on the paratext (the dust jacket):
      “We often think of our capacity to experience the suffering of others as the ultimate source of goodness. Many of our wisest policy-makers, activists, scientists, and philosophers agree that the only problem with empathy is that we don’t have enough of it. Nothing could be farther from the truth, argues Yale researcher Paul Bloom. In [this book], Bloom [posits that] empathy [is] one of the leading motivators of inequality and immorality in society. Far from helping us to improve the lives of others, empathy is a capricious and irrational emotion that appeals to our narrow prejudices”–Dust jacket flap.

      Within the book, the case is made in a less outlandish fashion (see page 35). For one, Bloom has a highly focused target: “I’ve been focusing here on empathy in the Adam Smith sense, of feeling what others feel and, in particular, feeling their pain.” This reminder comes after a paragraph outlining the argument and the marshalling of examples:

      “The issues here go beyond policy. I’ll argue that what really matters for kindness in our everyday interactions is not empathy but capacities such as self-control and intelligence and a more diffuse compassion. Indeed, those who are high in empathy can be too caught up in the suffering of other people. If you absorb the suffering of others, then you’re less able to help them in the long run because achieving long-term goals often requires inflicting short-term pain. Any good parent, for instance, often has to make a child do something, or stop doing something, in a way that causes the child immediate unhappiness but is better for him or her in the future. Do your homework, eat your vegetables, go to bed at a reasonable hour, sit still for this vaccination, go to the dentist. Making children suffer temporarily for their own good is mode possible by love, intelligence, and compassion, but yet again, it can be impeded by empathy.”

    • Comment on About the Author on 12 March 2018

      I teasingly ask where are the mentions of books our author has read or means to read:

      Favourite book?
      Want-to-read book?
      Book never-finished?
      Book for airplane reading?

      I should walk the talk and declare my favourites:

      Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game for the relation between academic and non-academic worlds


      On the limits of unrestricted empathy I would recommend the novels of Octavia Butler, especially the Patternist series


      And this next book for its sheer beauty and the resilience it celebrates and a good reminder that one is never too old for a children’s book:

      When We Were  Alone
      by David Alexander Robertson | illustrated by Julie Flett


    • Comment on About the Author on 15 March 2018

      There is now a want-to-read book on my list after finishing Generous Thinking. I am intrigued by the following:

      The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber.


      The Table of Contents looks promising:

      1. Time Management and Timelessness
      2. Pedagogy and Pleasure
      3. Research and Understanding
      4. Collegiality and Community
      Conclusion: Collaboration and Working Together


  • Jennifer Howard

    • Comment on About the Project on 26 March 2018

      This seems like a useful/fresh angle on the public-humanities theme that keeps emerging in MLA and AHA discussions, which tend to focus more on how to train graduate students for public-humanities or (outdated term?) alt-ac careers.

  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick

    • Comment on About the Project on 1 March 2018

      Completely agreed, Elliott — and I wonder, now that you’ve finished reading, whether you think I got there. It’s become all too possible for us to burn ourselves out trying to hear and respond to all that noise, and I wonder about the degree to which the noise is keeping us from listening carefully enough to the things that are really important. Not in that “don’t get distracted by X, when Y is the important thing!” sense that keeps sweeping through Twitter responses to whatever most recent horror has emerged, but in the sense that our attention keeps getting fragmented down into smaller and smaller bits, leaving us decreasingly able to find the signal in amongst the noise…

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 14 February 2018

      Thanks for this, Ethan. I’m trying pretty hard throughout to step outside the comfort zone of my own discipline, but it’s much to easy to slide back into “how we do it.” So I appreciate knowing where I’m doing that! When you say “this passage,” do you mean this paragraph, or this section? I’ll take a closer look at it.

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 19 February 2018

      Hmmm. I’ll have to ponder this. I’ve felt odd about the parallel as well, and yet I’m not sure I have a specific enough instance…

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 19 February 2018

      Ah, I think I see. Thanks for this! I’ll contemplate a way of being a bit more detailed here without getting too far away from the overview too soon…

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 19 February 2018

      Oh, that marketing language. Whatever specific programs in most colleges and universities are working really hard to accomplish, that kind of sloganeering is often so far from most of the public’s lived experience of the university (not to mention the messages they’re getting about the university from lawmakers, business leaders, etc) that it becomes not just easily dismissable but active evidence of our institutions’ bad faith. I need to think about this some more…

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 23 February 2018

      You are toooootally correct about that, Martin. Following news of the strike in the UK has made clear to me the extent to which my focus here really is the US higher ed landscape. Perhaps to the good, but if that’s where I’m going to focus I’ve got to say so.

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 1 March 2018

      Oh, very interesting — thanks for sharing this!

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 13 March 2018

      Huh, interesting question. Several years back, I was “first opponent” on a Norwegian dissertation defense, which is likewise conducted in public. The title I was given made me really nervous, until I realized that the day’s events — and it was an entire day — included lots of processing in and out of the room, that there was a lunch break at which the committee, the opponents, and the candidate and his family all ate together, and that the day culminated in a dinner party planned by the candidate. It was a day of at times very challenging discussion, and yet there was a sense of community, and of shared goals, throughout.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 14 February 2018

      Thanks for this, Dorothea. That’s certainly not my intent! What I’m after here is trying to help those fields that get accused of being luxuries (many though by no means all of which are in the arts and humanities) find ways to counter the assumption that higher education’s value lies only in those “career-enhancing credentials.” I don’t see myself arguing against career-oriented education here; only against what the previous sentence suggests: that credentialing is higher ed’s sole purpose, and that everything else is a waste of resources. But if there are ways of making that clearer, I’d love to hear them.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 19 February 2018

      Yeah, much as I love that piece, you’re all undoubtedly right. I’ll take a closer look at that HI report; what I’ve read about it seems to indicate that (a) humanities majors’ salaries may lag a little behind others right after graduation, but the gap closes quickly, and (b) not only are humanities majors well-employed, but they actually like what they do.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 1 March 2018

      That is absolutely true, Steve, though I think that a lot of private institutions are starting to feel the same pressure, if from parents and donors and accrediting agencies rather than legislatures; their insulation from this line of critique varies directly with the size of their endowments, shockingly.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 19 February 2018

      Not too minor at all; the phrasing here is not quite clear enough. Thanks!

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 19 February 2018

      Yeah, I intended the phrase as an ironic bit of “the kids today with their long hair and their loud music” — that is, more as a critique of my own resistance to “relatable” than anything else. But it’s not playing, obvs. I’ll find another way to do this. (And Barbara: that affective response is a bit part of what I’m hoping to explore in the third chapter! I hope you’ll let me know how I’m doing there.)

    • Erin and Rebecca: Absolutely. Thanks for reminding me that I need to be clear about the kinds of institutions I’m discussing, and why, and the differences that different kinds of institutions present.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 13 March 2018

      I like this line of thought, François; I do very much hope that we might find our way toward each of us having available a multiplicity of at least potential lives, rather than the singular pathway that often seems to be what’s in front of us…

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 13 March 2018

      Huh. It doesn’t, quite. But it probably should. I will ponder where that belongs. (And thanks for the reference!)

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 28 March 2018

      I hadn’t come across her work; thanks so much for the reference!

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 28 March 2018

      These are really important correctives, Erik; thanks for them. Community colleges in particular play an enormous role in higher education as a public good today, and they don’t yet figure enough into the argument I’m making here. What I want to ponder a bit is the tension between the enormity of that role and the clear hierarchy (in terms of resources and in terms of prestige) among the various kinds of institutions that constitute public higher education today. Fabricant and Brier explore the ways that public disinvestment has exacerbated that hierarchy, with a resulting stratification of the kinds of education that are available to students that replicate and deepen race and class disparities. That hierarchy isn’t in and of itself competition of the kind I’m describing here, but it is a related aspect of the prestige economy, something I need to think a good bit more about. Thanks again!

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 29 March 2018

      Thank you for this! It is an enormous help. I’ll very much look forward to reading her work.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 19 February 2018

      Absolutely. Especially where I get to the university as a community: those dividing lines between those we consider our colleagues and those we don’t (and the resulting differences in how we treat them) are pernicious.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 19 February 2018

      Aha! I talk about Great World Texts in chapter 4. Perhaps a sneak preview here.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 19 February 2018

      Ooh, thanks for the reference!

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 1 March 2018

      Oh that is so great. Thanks for this reference, Alan!

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 3 March 2018

      Thanks for the link, Anke; I’ll look forward to exploring the project!

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 28 March 2018

      Oh absolutely! This is not a local issue, at all. I’m going to be thinking a good bit in revision about how to balance the specificity of my own community of practice with the larger groups (researchers; intellectuals; humans) of which it is clearly part.

    • Comment on Acts on 21 February 2018

      I see the issue you’re pointing out, but I’m not sure “commitment” is the right replacement — that seems to suggest a decision on the individual’s part rather than an ethical requirement that exists outside of personal choice. I’ll see if I can frame it another way, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge that the requirement exists whether or not we agree to take it on.

    • Comment on Acts on 1 March 2018

      I take the point you’re all making, but I still can’t help but wonder: don’t we have obligations to one another? One of them would be living in community. One of them would be recognizing one another as full members of that community. I don’t think the absence of voluntarism in the notion of obligation makes it less generous; in fact, recognizing those obligations is itself a generous practice.

      I just searched a bunch of my research notes for “obligation” and am struck by the fact that the term pops up in Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, in Anthony Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism, and in Bill Readings’s The University in Ruins, three texts that have heavily influenced my thinking here. In that last, he describes the scene of teaching as “a network of obligations” — we don’t have to participate in the relationships those obligations imply, but if we’re going to live out the role we’ve taken on, we probably should at least try.

      So… I don’t know. I’m not yet convinced that I should drop “obligation” here. I’ll keep pondering.

    • Comment on Acts on 13 March 2018

      That sense of being bound together is exactly what I’m after in “obligation” — it’s not something we can just decide to walk away from, not without doing irreparable damage to the whole. Thanks for helping me think through this.

    • Comment on Values on 1 March 2018

      Argh, this is a very good question. I’ll have to think about it; I don’t want to lash generosity to hope, as I take the disparity in hope as a possibility seriously. But at the same time, I don’t want to give up on it…

    • Comment on Feelings on 1 March 2018

      Noted. (May this date very quickly, indeed.)

    • Comment on Practices on 3 March 2018

      Thanks for that reference; I hadn’t come across it!

    • Comment on Listening on 1 March 2018

      Fair enough. One does end up with a somewhat overly starry view of what might have been, at this hour of the world.

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 19 February 2018

      Oh, of course! I should have made that connection more clear.

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 1 March 2018

      Oh, I don’t know that work; thank you! (And no worries: it’s a lot more exciting and less intimidating to have a pile of things to read now that I have a draft in place.)

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 13 March 2018

      Undoubtedly. Angst about being read is deeply connected to angst about having one’s readings judged, I think.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 19 February 2018

      Good point.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 1 March 2018

      Ha! Literature Against Criticism has been on my to-read list for a bit now. I’ll bump it up the list!

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 1 March 2018

      Oh, that’s so great, Sharon. Thank you for the reference!

    • Comment on Reading and the Social on 19 February 2018

      :forehead smack:

      I totally meant to talk about fanfic, and particularly the emergence of writing from reading. I’d love to know what your favorite fixfic examples are!

    • Comment on Readers and Scholars on 1 March 2018

      Hmmm. This definitely deserves more thought. I mean, yes, undergraduate students in English classes are by and large self-selecting, but there are ways in which they are more different in degree than in kind from readers off-campus, and in fact the ways we engage them might model ways of engaging with readers-in-general. I’ll mull this over, because I’m not quite sure yet where the contours lie…

    • Comment on 4. Working in Public on 19 February 2018

      Very good point! I’ll rethink…

    • Comment on 4. Working in Public on 1 March 2018

      Oh yes! More ahead…

    • Comment on Public Access on 1 March 2018

      Absolutely! Thank you.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      I’ll give this some thought and see if I have something reasonable to say. Honestly, the whole “OA/DH/whatever is neoliberal” debate leaves me a bit exhausted. I mean, what part of the contemporary university isn’t neoliberal? In fact, I tried really hard to see if I could write this book without ever using the term. (I think I did let one instance slip in.) But I take your larger point, and will contemplate…

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 1 March 2018

      [we too often do not know how to speak with those publics, because we do not understand them]

      I was told an amazing story over dinner last night about Bill Kristol utterly demolishing an academic audience during a late 1990s debate over defunding the NEH, NEA, CPB, etc., largely because of how clear it was that the folks arguing with him hadn’t fully studied the actual conservative position, but had instead constructed their own ideas of the basis for that position, thus leaving them with easily torched strawmen. Honestly, unless we’re willing to really listen to and really understand the positions of those with whom we disagree, we stand zero chance of ever saying anything that might reach them. (C.f. Hochschild. That kind of listening is hard, but it’s got to be done.)

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 1 March 2018

      Oh, thank you!

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 28 March 2018

      Ooh, thank you for that reference!

    • Comment on 5. The University on 19 February 2018

      Hmmm. I’ll ponder this — thanks!

    • Comment on 5. The University on 1 March 2018

      You’re totally correct, as was he, which is the depressing thing. I’ll ponder the accreditation issue; it’s been one way of keeping any number of bad actors out of the arena, but it’s absolutely been used — and increasingly so, I think — as a means of cudgeling institutions into (a very cautious and hyper-metrics-focused) line.

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 1 March 2018

      The golden age of the US land-grants and the era of the GI Bill did give us a glimmer of the possibility of higher education for the public good. It is undoubtedly true that the glory of that past is exaggerated, but there was an ideal being served for a brief moment.

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 1 March 2018

      [An entirely different view of that system might become possible if we were instead to begin our narrative with a different birthplace: the 1862 Morrill Act, which established the land-grant system of state agricultural and mechanical colleges, charged with promoting “the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life” (7 U.S. Code § 304).]

      I need to acknowledge here, however, the slightly deeper history of the land-grants that too often gets elided (precisely as I have just done): the land that was “granted” was first seized from the indigenous peoples who had long inhabited it. So however egalitarian these institutions may have tried to become, the communities they were intended to serve were far from inclusive.

    • Comment on Community on 1 March 2018

      Yes, yes, yes. Absolutely. Not least because the next annual review report is coming due and we have to be able to demonstrate outputs rather than understanding.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 19 February 2018

      You are so totally correct, of course. On all of this. *sigh*

    • Comment on Possibilities on 1 March 2018

      Oy. You’re right. Like the election, I’ve got to spell it out.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 28 March 2018

      I’m increasingly convinced that “leading” is not what I’m actually after… a key point to ponder as I move into revision.

    • Comment on 6. Conclusion on 1 March 2018

      You are the best. And I will definitely be calling on you as things move forward.

  • Katina Rogers

    • Comment on About the Project on 16 February 2018

      I expect the tension between generosity/community/care on one hand and anger on the other will be highly resonant for many. I love the hopefulness of the title, especially knowing that anger was a pervasive emotion while drafting the book.

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 16 February 2018

      Is there a specific instance of this that you could (tactfully) describe?  I find myself waiting for a more concrete “emblematic moment” that parallels the first.

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 16 February 2018

      I love the second sentence.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 16 February 2018

      One thing that might be useful here is noting more specifically that this assumption has led to the devaluation of certain disciplines without recognizing that the career outcomes in those fields are often just as strong as those that come more immediately to mind in terms of workforce readiness. Students really do need to secure meaningful and sustaining employment when they graduate, and liberal arts degrees can help them do that, even if it’s not their sole focus.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 16 February 2018

      (As you do in the next paragraph. Nevermind!)

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 16 February 2018


    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 17 February 2018

      Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for articulating this so well.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 19 February 2018

      This section is great. I’m hoping that you’ll also go into the structural mechanisms that stoke this competitive drive. (You probably will! Reading on…)

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 19 February 2018

      I found this to be very powerful as well. Glad to see you reference it here.

    • Comment on Acts on 21 February 2018

      I love this paragraph but I wonder if you might try a word other than “obligation.” Commitment, maybe? I’m not sure what might be a better fit but the notion of infinite, unbounded obligation feels dissonant with what you’re building up around generosity. It seems wearing in the way you describe burnout in nonprofit workers.

    • Comment on Values on 21 February 2018

      The word “racism” feels conspicuously absent here.

    • Comment on Values on 14 March 2018

      I wonder if it might be helpful to look toward e.g. Afrofuturism as a different kind of manifestation of hope with than what you cite from Solnit and Tippett. I think the disparity you’re teasing out is important, but it also seems limiting to suggest that hope is exclusively found in white and privileged spaces.

    • Comment on Values on 14 March 2018

      (I write this while listing to this amazing conversation on Black Joy in the Arts and Humanities – http://aadhum.umd.edu/event/conv-black-joy-arts/ – in which the participants frame joy specifically as an act of resistance)

  • Ke Li

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 18 August 2020

      The Covid-19 pandemic may raise the same question to us as educators that is it too much individualism that we have advocated?

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 19 August 2020

      Maybe ask students to articulate both what they agree and disagree with the reading?

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 19 August 2020

      I guess the good thing of teaching business classes is that we always let students to do projects that look into people’s needs and then come up with ideas that can help the community.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 19 August 2020

      Totally agree

  • Kreigh Knerr

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 25 March 2018

      This bit reminds me of the YouTube game. (Probable there’s another name for the phenomenon.) That is, when your friend shows you a video on YouTube, you spend the whole time it’s playing mentally queuing up the next video that you’ll show your friend. And then your friend does the same thing while your video plays. It’s not even one-upmanship really. More just a profound disengagement of the thing before you and focusing instead, as this paragraph notes well, on getting our own ideas on the table.

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 31 March 2018

      I love this opening, not least because it echoes an experience I had leading a number of former students (who were now college students) in a summer reading seminar. One of them found “three critiques” of the text instead of appreciating it for what it was. One of the “critiques” was that the author didn’t follow a particular thread of thought to its logical conclusion, even though such deeper investigation there would have lost the the author’s intended audience (given the academic journal in which it appeared). Basically, the author “hadn’t been academically honest” by not pursuing that logical end, even though the author’s audience wouldn’t have been interested nor was it central to his thesis. My former student attends a university where critical thinking is the supreme virtue, a form of thinking I sometimes term “weaponized critical thinking.” That is, a flaw must always be found; and any disagreement must be because of a logical error or unseen bias, not disagreement by any other means.

      I do think there’s a place for critiquing a lack of exploration of what Howard Gardner describes as ‘rhetorical brinkmanship’. That is “Instead of stating the unpalatable, the authors lead readers to a point where they are likely to draw a certain conclusion on their own.” (Intelligence Reframed, p. 9) That certainly would be open to the critique of a lack of intellectual honesty. But in this essay we were discussing, the thread my student wanted investigated further would have been of little interest or use to its intended audience, which I would note was not us. So my student’s critique, while in the remotest of senses true since I suppose the author could have written more, “frankly…missed the point.” Merciless takedowns is an equally apt description.

      Regardless, I think the personal narrative to open is powerful, particularly as taken from a teaching experience with graduate students. I came back to comment on this opening after reading all the way through because this vignette helpfully shaped my consideration of your argument.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 25 March 2018

      This bit is outstanding. In recent news supporting your argument, UW-Stevens Point has cut many of its humanities majors, leaving them as minors intended for this precise purpose.

      My only concern is that this line might get lost because the sentence before it is long and the sentence after presents an excellent but potentially distracting example (neuroscience being a buzzy field and all). This sentence and its example might also do well as a separate paragraph. The idea that we’re being reminded of and needing reminding of the human ends of our work… It’s a powerful line.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 25 March 2018

      [What kinds of new discussions, new relationships, new projects might be possible if our critical thinking practices eschewed competition and were instead grounded in generosity?]

      Have you encountered any of Trudy Govier’s scholarship in your exploration of this? She’s one of today’s pre-eminent critical thinking theorists, and I keep thinking of her writing as I move through your book. Though a keen examiner of the material and ideas she engages, Govier leaves her readers with unmistakable encouragement towards generosity.

      In addition to authoring one of the best-selling critical thinking texts (now in its 7th edition), Govier wrote a seminal text on argument analysis, which includes a fascinating chapter that explores of the principle of charity, something interrelated with generous thinking.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 29 March 2018

      Certainly! I realize you don’t have endless time for research, so here are my suggestions:

      Reasonable Responses: The Thought of Trudy Govier
      –This one as introduction to her overall thought. It’s a lighter read.

      The Philosophy of Argument by Trudy Govier
      –from its intro by philosopher J. Anthony Blair, “More than any philosopher I know she is open to the merits of criticisms of her favored views, and she sympathetically gleans illumination from ‘opposing’ positions that others would have overlooked in the rush to refutation. The Socratic honesty, humility, and tenacity of these essays makes reading them a particular pleasure and inspiration.”

      I think you’ll struggle to find a spirit more kindred than hers in the project you’re undertaking! Not to say she’s a perfect representative of generous thinking, but she’s certainly an excellent example of the human attempt towards such thinking, particularly as a top scholar in her field.

    • Comment on Why Do Readers Read? on 26 March 2018

      [Not only is there no room for interpretation in any rich, imaginative sense; there is no room for anything other than terror at the consequences of getting the answer wrong.]

      I think you’re absolutely on point about this, but I think there’s almost two realities (or senses) of testing in our current educational environment. There’s the standardized test model, which I teach for on a weekly basis (happy to converse about that if you’re interested! I’ve found there to be great misunderstanding about what this can look like, particularly if judged from the occasional university professor many op-eds.).


      There’s also the classroom teacher model, which can create yet another version of “right answer.”  Some of this is inspired by the standardized testing model, no doubt.  Even so, the teacher as the arbiter of the right and just interpretation of The Text certainly predates our current educational environment. The symbol hunters of The Scarlet Letter fanclub don’t require inspiration from standardized-test writers. Those tests can be written by standardized-test makers, but classroom teachers can quite easily generate their own such tests without requiring any inspiration from a forthcoming standardized test or the standardized-testing model in general.


      I realize separating the two could take up more space than you intend, but I always wonder to what degree the testing environment has a compounding effect on an already-existent, problematic instructional practice. Your text suggests that effect here, but I think it might too-gently excuse instructional practices that aren’t derivative of standardized testing, even if perpetuated by them (and perhaps occasionally re-shaped). Standardized-test reading evaluations, and even more test-makers, deserve critique on multiple levels, but the gross instructional practices you describe here aren’t necessarily or even fundamentally intertwined with standardized tests.

      I think your argument will be stronger if that distinction is made. And I don’t suggest you drop an ounce of your vitriol for testing. Just make certain that readers understand that “testing” isn’t simply the psychometrics-obsessed oddballs at ETS. Literacy research and instruction isn’t predicated on the same assumptions as psychometric testing, even if they have significant and unhealthy interaction.

    • Comment on Why Do Readers Read? on 26 March 2018

      [mode of code-switching]

      Really liked this phrasing within the overall paragraph.

    • Comment on Why Do Readers Read? on 26 March 2018

      [many injuries inflicted by everyday life]

      I was actually talking to someone just yesterday who declared that they were “getting into reading” now, knowing that I am rather a fan of reading. When I inquired about what inspired this response to the particular work presently being read, the individual commented that it was the character’s nearly identical experience of the same horrific thing. The book had actually been suggested by this individual’s counselor–and I’m guessing as a way to indeed find sustenance in the face of one of the worst injuries a person could encounter in life. So I really like this insight.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 29 March 2018

      [Where I am asking for generosity then—for giving it away—it is from those who are fully credited and compensated, those who can therefore afford to be generous:]

      So I’ll bring up Govier again here, as she is a great example of this generosity. The forthcoming second edition of Problems in Argument Analysis and Evaluation will be available online for free via Windsor Studies in Argumentation. She had to go through some serious hoops to reclaim the copyright from the original publisher. My copy cost of the original edition cost over $100. It was worth it for my research, but my goodness that took a chunk out of my research budget. And that’s one of the most cited books in argumentation theory and informal logic. Her willingness to offer that work up, not just as a cheaper version but for free, is incredible.

      I should also note that the journal Informal Logic also provides its resources for free. As an independent researcher, that journal’s openness has been invaluable. Of even greater benefit, I’ve been able to introduce some of its articles to high school students encountering academic writing for the first time, something they relish. Oh, and that journal is also an offshoot of University of Windsor.

      Those aside, I truly love this sentiment here and in the rest of this paragraph.

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 31 March 2018

      Love the Audrey Watters shoutout. Her indefatigable work is invaluable.

  • Martin Paul Eve

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 23 February 2018

      The “we face today both at home and in the world” seems to make this quite a US-centric paragraph and interpellates the reader as a US reader.

    • Comment on Acts on 23 February 2018

      This paragraph felt overly repetitious, to me, of the similar statements made in the introduction (particularly: “I do not primarily mean to say that we should all be doing more volunteer work in our communities, or developing more service learning projects, or engaging in any other form of “giving back” that you might imagine”, which I think was almost exactly the same in the intro: “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we should all be doing more volunteer work”). Perhaps this is intended but I just wanted to flag it.

    • Comment on Acts on 23 February 2018

      [infinite, unbounded, ongoing obligation]

      I also wondered about the compulsion that feels, to me, inherent within the term “obligation”  (the etymology comes from “to bind”, hence there’s a sort of lack of agency in being “tied” to act in a certain way). Should not generosity be something that is entirely voluntary and agential? This isn’t necessarily the sense I get from “obligation” here.

    • Comment on Feelings on 23 February 2018

      [the post-election discourse]

      It might be worth contextualising the election to which you here refer as this may date very quickly otherwise.

    • Comment on 3. Reading Together on 23 February 2018

      [It’s imposter syndrome]

      It’s probably not just imposter syndrome, but an endemic part of a humility that comes with knowledge; a knowledge or sense of the scale of what you don’t know seems healthy…

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 23 February 2018

      [the sense that emotional responses and critical distance are somehow opposed modes of reading]

      Is there here a challenge of communication, though? That is, one can follow an argument (critical distance) from a text and the idea is that others should also be able to follow it. But one cannot necessarily guarantee that a reader will have the same emotional response to the same stimuli. Certainly, one can disagree with an argument, even if one follows it, but I wonder whether the way that we write about texts is meant to instil a communicability of which the emotional often sits outside.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 23 February 2018

      [It’s that competitiveness, I increasingly believe, that builds a wall between the scholarly and the “common” reader]

      OK, I’m doing that bad thing of “have you cited Eve (2015, 2016, 2017)” etc. but just to note that I made an argument in Literature Against Criticism that certain forms of (meta)fiction since the 1960s have played into this game of competitive critical reading practices against academic English, resulting in an arms race against the non-academic reader. It might (or might not) be of use or interest here.

    • Comment on 4. Working in Public on 23 February 2018

      Not much to add here except that I agree with pretty much all of this!

    • Comment on Public Access on 23 February 2018

      [ largely rely]

      Certainly, many of the most prominent (in the minds of commentators in the Global North) OA journals rely on APCs, but if you take APCs as a proportion of titles listed in DOAJ then it is by no means the predominant model.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 23 February 2018

      This might be a better source for similar sentiments: https://osf.io/preprints/lissa/8bzav/

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 23 February 2018

      I wonder whether this section and the one preceding it need to do more to counter the arguments that OA (especially in the humanities) is neoliberal. Perhaps in its current implementation you agree that it is. But some reference to Golumbia’s attacks here might be worthwhile (even if, personally, I do not strongly buy them). Citing some more sources on the humanities and OA would also pre-counter accusations of OA being only for the sciences.

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 23 February 2018

      [Critics of open access often argue, as I noted earlier, that the public couldn’t possibly be interested in scholarly work, not least because they couldn’t possibly understand it, and that there is therefore no particular reason to ensure their access to it.]

      Could cite Osborne R. Why Open Access Makes No Sense. In: Debating Open Access. London: British Academy; 2013. p. 96–105 as an example.

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 23 February 2018

      A thought struck me here that I’m not sure you fully articulated but that might be of use: there’s a strangeness, though, in how the public is constructed. It’s billed as a space into which we need to code switch in order to be received, but we also know that a very good percentage of the population of, say the US and UK, have humanities degrees. They are, therefore, capable of reading our internally coded discourses but, once they have left the university, they choose not to. So I suppose I agree with you that it’s not just about making room in prose. But I don’t fully know where the disjunct lies.

    • Comment on Paradigm Shift on 23 February 2018

      [The paradigm that has become dominant is that of the market, within which the ideal structure is understood to be the corporation, which functions first and foremost to return value to investors, and the ideal value is understood to be competition]

      OK, playing Devil’s Advocate: is it possible that the view we have that the university was ever for the public good is an imagined history? Oxbridge in the UK was always a finishing school for the elites. There may have been a post-WW2 period when HE was differently funded, but (at least in the UK) it remained a middle-class phenomenon with technical colleges (polytechnics) “catering” for those (to be blunt) from working-class backgrounds. There are probably differences to the US system, but I often worry in arguments about a historical shift to privatization/neoliberalism (which have certainly happened) that we construct a rosier view of the past of HE and its supposed public good rationale.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 23 February 2018

      [the public-service mission of most state-supported, land-grant universities]

      (This may be the difference with the US system to which I earlier alluded)

  • Natalie Brown

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 1 March 2018

      As someone currently outside of academia who struggles to access material behind paywalls, I think that open access is essential.

      However, as these sections suggest, only those whose positions reward them with promotions or salaries can really afford to write for free.  Free work is likely more influential because more widely read, and persons with  positions or influence will have an easier time self-promoting.

      I find myself wondering, therefore, if increased embrace of open access by scholars could ironically hurt the ability of persons without positions (i.e., the public)to participate in the conversation as widespread availability of free material erodes their chances to publish for pay?  Clearly many people will read and comment, but it takes substantial time to write long-form.

  • Patricia

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 19 August 2020

      then we need the institution in order to exist, in order to research and perhaps to teach.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 19 August 2020

      so,  we, in order to exist we need this institution- the university

      in the way universities are structured faculty are labor force, the point is what is the secondary benefit, this means what makes happy these workers? well, a good investment in egos. We get a status which has great recognition, as social quo.

  • Rebecca

    • Comment on About the Project on 27 February 2018

      I’m sure you’ll address this later, but I’m wondering whether you see these “connections” to be (mostly) similar or (somewhat) different than the “networks” of the academy addressed in Planned Obsolescence. I often worry that the “town/gown” split is made worse (especially in the digital realm) by the perception that academics want to engage (on their own terms) with the public, but don’t wish for the public (on their own terms) to actually engage with them.

    • Comment on About the Project on 27 February 2018

      Only in the U.S.?

    • Comment on About the Project on 27 February 2018

      Is your audience then still primarily those within or just outside the walls of the academy? I’m thinking here of policymakers, politicians, citizen-scholars, and so on — but perhaps those are “the many others” to which you refer?

    • Comment on 1. Introduction on 27 February 2018

      I’m sure this isn’t your intent, but it sounds here as if inside the academy we “exchange ideas,” but that the turn then is unidirectional, to “how the university presents itself to the world.” That is important, of course, but that “presentation” almost seems more like a PR exercise than community engagement or (if I can put it another way) as if “the sage on the stage” simply got a larger audience.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 27 February 2018

      [research and teaching]

      I wonder here whether there isn’t also a possibility for rethinking service, too — rewarding not only service “to the profession” but also service within the broader community. I realize “service” is a fraught concept that would need radical rethinking if even more of it were being asked of faculty. But I’m thinking here as a first step of the possibility of rewarding community engagement that already takes place (as private citizens) but that is entirely invisible to the university because it is not considered part of rewarded academic labor.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 27 February 2018

      [have been led in a self-reinforcing cycle to believe that the skills these fields provide are a luxury in the current economic environment]

      I don’t think it’s the skills that are considered luxuries, but rather the degrees themselves. Most employers value anyone who can read, think, and write, but those skills are not considered valuable solely in and of themselves. To play devil’s advocate, why can’t business majors or engineers be taught to read, think, and write as well as English or philosophy majors? I’m not sure the humanities have as ready an answer to that as is needed to curb the very troubling cycle you describe.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 27 February 2018

      Too true.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 27 February 2018

      [writing, music, art, media, and so on]

      Perhaps worth noting is the decline of public (or at least funding) support for the arts, which are also considered (by some) to be elitist pursuits.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 27 February 2018

      [might not be solely about the object itself, but instead about a way of engaging with the world]


    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 27 February 2018

      [public support]

      It’s interesting to note that the level of “public support” in monetary terms often determines the level of “public support” in advocacy as well. When education (generally) was seen to be crucial to Cold War competitiveness, the public were better well inclined to fund higher education; when education is seen (as it is now) as “merely” for the furthering of private, personal employment aims, there is less clamor to provide public funding. I’m not arguing here for a return to the Cold War motivations for funding education, but rather noting that there was a collective appeal for public support of education that now seems to be lacking as we’ve shifted from nation-state discussions of the importance of education to make the world safer for democracy or whatever to highly individualized hopes for personal career advancement that don’t resonate in the same way.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 27 February 2018

      [to recognize the human as yet another oppressive inheritance from bourgeois ideology]

      I’m not exactly sure what this means.

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 27 February 2018

      [courses on European art consider its deep transnational correspondences and influences]

      See, for example, the remake of “Civilization” as “Civilizations,” with exactly this take: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05ws2kj

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      [In actual practice, however, those metrics are never neutral, and what we are measured against is far more often than not one another. ]

      Spot on.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018


      To Erin’s point above: You seem to use “universities” and “institutions” interchangeably, but most often you seem to have in mind research-intensive universities rather than, say, LACs or (especially) community colleges. Would what you’re saying be different within those contexts?

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      [And no amount of trying to persuade ourselves, or our administrations, or our legislatures of the public good that we, our fields, and our institutions serve will take root unless we figure out how to step off the competitive track, to live our academic lives another way.]

      Amen to that.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      [Distinguishing our arguments from those of others working in our fields is the primary goal;]

      You’re so right. And also what distinguishes the humanities — including often cherry-picking arguments, creating straw men (and women), not citing those who may have made the argument before us if they’re not famous enough to be known — from the sciences. Scientists think of themselves as building on the work of those who have come before them, but doing so in a novel way that moves knowledge forward. Humanists think of themselves as doing something often opposed to what has come before and thus doing … something … but what exactly that is seems unclear from outside the debate.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      [pure negativity]

      As I suggest above, I think the concern goes beyond that. I think it makes those who view these debates from the outside believe there’s no possibility for a community of thinkers within humanities disciplines. Individualism, while prized in theory, is often viewed suspiciously in practice.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      [intent on self-dismantling.]


    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      Very powerful and important paragraph.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      [scoffs at the uses of jargon in high-energy physics]

      It’s interesting, however, that physicists (think: Sokol and Bricmont) seem to think it’s entirely fine to use such jargon to embarrass humanists. I’m not sure whether you had the Sokol affair in mind here, but it seems somehow relevant, if tangential.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      [They might indicate the degree to which people feel the cultures we study to be their own, leading them to want on some level to engage with us, to understand and participate in what we’re up to.]

      And this I think is exactly right. It’s one of the takeaways some of us had from the furor over last summer’s articles “in defense” of transracialism and colonialism: the humanities do matter after all to those outside the academy! Both those cases were colossal failures when it came to engagement with those people, however; they were described (and dismissed) by academic bloggers as an angry mob intent on a witch hunt that would result in (one imagines) an academic being burning at the stake. No one was burned, as far as I know. But also no one (as far as I know) engaged in trying to help anyone outside the academy understand and participate in the debate.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 27 February 2018

      [Rather, the dark opposite of generous thinking, that which has in fact created an imbalance in scholarly work—and not just in the humanities; far from it—is competitive thinking, ]

      I like this distinction very much. (And I look forward hearing more about how critical thinking can still be generous thinking.)

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018


      This term comes down to us laden with class overtones — you can be “generous” because you are noble (in mind, if not in birth): late 16th century: via Old French from Latin generosus ‘noble, magnanimous,’ from genus, gener- ‘stock, race.’ The original sense was ‘of noble birth,’ hence ‘characteristic of noble birth, courageous, magnanimous, not mean’ (a sense already present in Latin). But I like how you’re recasting it here.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018


      Also a term that also carries with it some nobility overtones — not just “equal” but “of the same rank.” Dorothea’s comments begin to get at some of the concerns about “academic peerage” that I hear often. Many faculty, for example, are shocked to hear that their “peers” who act as reviewers of their articles are often grad students. How could those be peers? This doesn’t undermine Lisa’s excellent point, but does go to whether a smart member of the public who wants to engage with the academy might ever be considered a “peer.”

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018

      [But why not public literary criticism?]

      And does this not already exist in the numerous book clubs that meet regularly or is it not found in the public reviews made on Amazon or Goodreads? Those are less formal than your examples, but speak to a robust practice of public literary criticism that seems to be quite invisible (or perhaps just disparaged) by at least the academic in this example.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018

      [“service” ]

      I was just at a panel over the weekend at APA Central in which one of the questions from an academic in the audience was about whether research couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be considered “service” rather than its own category. The questioner argued that research was in reality “service to the profession” and so didn’t deserve primacy of place. I like your suggestion here even better that perhaps research could be seen service to the broader public. I like this idea enormously.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018

      [“Assume positive intent; own negative effects”; this is generosity]


    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018

      [not from critique but instead from competition ]

      I’m sure you’re tackling this in discussion to come, but I don’t think you’ve separated clearly enough (for me, anyway) how critique (the way it’s usually practiced) is not in itself a form of competition: my idea is better than yours. (The academic version of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO23WBji_Z0).

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018

      [adopted position of the neutral, impartial, critical observer and instead become a participant in the work around us]

      Or even more so of the communities that are often “subjects” of study.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018

      [ building community]

      Defined as?

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 27 February 2018

      [What new purposes for the university might we imagine if we understand our role in it to be not inculcating state citizens, nor training corporate citizens, but instead facilitating the development of a diverse, open, community—both on our campuses and across their borders—encouraged to think together, to be involved in the ongoing project of how we understand and shape our world?]

      I love this vision. But it seems considerably less easy to accomplish than the other two without some sort of shared vision. Nation-state citizenry requires no vision: it is a top-down demand that you give your loyalty to the state or be considered a traitor. Corporate citizenry requires a coordinated approach: buy into the idea that you’re part of the capitalistic system, give your loyalty to some company (or companies) or get fired. Community citizenry requires even more coordination, but there’s no stick. I want to believe only carrots will work … but it’s not been tried before.

    • Comment on 2. On Generosity on 27 February 2018

      And if only they had.

    • Comment on 2. On Generosity on 27 February 2018


      I agree that this is often seen as pushback, but I wonder why it needs to be understood that way, rather than (as you intended in your question about the sublime) merely clarifying. I think we often take a combative stance that then prevents our hearing question as that — simply questions to ensure we’re not only on the same page but speaking the same language on that page.

    • Comment on Acts on 27 February 2018

      [in the public]


    • Comment on Acts on 27 February 2018

      [our obligation]

      Noblesse oblige? Again, I’d like to see you address head-on the idea of privilege embedded in terms such as “generosity,” “peer,” and so on. The concept of the “ivory tower” — which you haven’t used, but which rides back behind all this — draws upon this distinction as well. Let’s face it. Many academics (even grad students!) think they are intellectual nobility and that they can treat anyone who is not an academic as if that person is by default a member of the “great unwashed” no matter when they may have last taken a shower.

      I have no doubts myself about my own intelligence and intellect (nor about my broad knowledge and critical thinking skills), but when I enter academic circles and am discovered to be not a/an fill-in-the-blank academic, my credibility in asking a question or engaging in discussion goes downhill. All my professional expertise is considered to be pretty close to nothing in terms of credentialing. (Who is a peer? Not me.) I say this not in bitterness but bemusement. I know several Nobel Prize winners who treat me with great respect. Humanities grad students and professors — not so much.

    • Comment on Acts on 27 February 2018

      [The potential damage of such an approach is, I hope, visible. When we focus on what we can give them, we not only deepen the divide between us but we further entrench our own assumption that we inhabit the true center where knowledge resides. ]


    • Comment on Acts on 27 February 2018

      [returning to the rest of my life unchanged]

      Because it is unidirectional, from you to me.

    • Comment on Acts on 27 February 2018


      I’m going to agree with Katina and Martin about “obligation.” I’ve already referred to obligation in terms of “noblesse oblige,” which isn’t (to me) a positive concept, but also the non (anti?)-Kantians among us would like something more akin to what Martin describes than the moral imperatives conjured up by the word “obligation.”

    • Comment on Acts on 27 February 2018

      Very nice here. Generosity is not about giving but rather about (the humility of) receiving.

    • Comment on Acts on 27 February 2018

      [on the gaps or missteps by which we can demonstrate that our own position is the correct one]

      Or, conversely, by not being open to the criticisms being leveled at us, especially (gasp!) by those we don’t consider to be our peers. Maybe less “How dare they!” and more “Tell me more!”

    • Comment on Acts on 27 February 2018

      [It’s more that the structures within which we work, and the reward system that lets us know when we have succeeded, limit the locations and relationships within which we are encouraged to practice generosity.]

      I want to believe this is true — and I don’t want to belabor this point (although I fear it may be a theme throughout) — but you cannot dismiss academic superiority. I know that’s precisely what you’re trying to address here, but you might need to be more direct about it. We know superiority exists within the academy in terms of all kinds of biases (implicit, reputation, stereotype), but all of those biases are exacerbated outside the academy. It’s not just about reward. It’s about superiority.

    • Comment on Values on 28 February 2018

      Does this irreconcilability have broader implications beyond the academy? How do the hopeful and the hopeless talk to each other, whether within or outside the academy, especially if (as you imply) there’s a racial component that must also be addressed?

  • Rick Blackwood

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 2 March 2018

      This is a crucial argument. The humanities have prepared many generations of thinkers and leaders in every arena, from law and politics to the sciences. Studying film is one of the best ways, I argue, to understand a political world, as film bridges—as can literature, poetry, and art—the no man’s land between abstract political thinking, for example, and even realpolitik (PLATOON I argue tells a student more about war than reading a pacifist tract), or even between an abstract and a “how-things-work” physics (at Berkeley in 1969, Honors Physics used Kubrick’s 2001 to augment a student’s understanding Einstein, as the student worked math problems and read Einstein’s work).

      The Humanities provide some of the most effective means to comprehend—and adapt onself productively to—what its critics call a “Real World.”

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 2 March 2018

      In my view, the Humanties provide both a private and a crucial public good.

    • I would say the overweighted emphasis on competetitive individualism contradicts important aspects of life within our institutions… This reflects nothing more than a blank space in my head when I ask myself, “How do we NOT compete?”

    • The need to outradicalize one another makes professors seem to working class students like bad listeners. I got this complaint all the time at LSU, from Black kids as well as white.

    • Just an aside, but I often feel the bourgeois careerism of academia has taken all the teeth out of radicalism. It’s feels like a revolution—rather than one with intellectuals striking alongside workers for higher wages for example, as the CPUSA did in the 1930s—of erudite, 21st century talking heads.

      And writing heads. But how many unions in the U.S. use anything written by radical intellectual careerists post-Vietnam? I can’t think of one example.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 4 March 2018

      One issue of generosity is connectivity. This is especially important as I think elitist theory particularly is perceived politically as judgmental, for example the idea that we in academia think a majority of Americans are ignorant or racist—with the most hostile implications of those everyday words—by working Americans with first generation students in university who might most benefit from education.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 4 March 2018

      A new relationship is crucial. The humanist critique of America is perceived by many Americans as not so much critical of their values as hostile. I’ve heard said outside academia, many times, something amounting to, “The professors are ruining this country,” or “They hate this country.”

      Hatred is not not dialogue. Even if they’re wrong which, in their terms, they won’t ever recognize in the terms of Marx, let alone those of Lacan or Foucault.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 4 March 2018

      “Empathetic unsettlement.” 2016 proved one needs to feel “unsettled,” IMHO. We could not have been more wrong.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 4 March 2018

      My family is from South Carolina. My friends there respond to “expertise” as if it were not a different and more nuanced way of analyzing problems, but as something they see as a continuation of the “attack”—their perspective as I see it—on their religion and their values, such as respect for the flag.

      They see intellectuals as religious zealots. Again, I know this is wrong; so what? I argue their so-called “anti-intellectual” attitude has less to do with the content that an expert might deftly write about, and more with the perceived arrogance of intellectuals publicly ridiculing their most fundamental—nurtured in their families, outside the “centers of enlightenment”—beliefs.

      Do you read what we say on FaceBook? They do.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 4 March 2018

      One last bit on the so-called “anti-intellectual” Americans I meet in South Carolina or in the military. Many of them are quite well educated, some from Ivy League schools. Most of my conservative friends read a lot. Their perception that American values are disrespected in the university in not at all one of inferiority; they often talk as though they confronted not alternative ideas, but an alternative religion.

    • Comment on Acts on 13 March 2018

      [unbounded, ongoing obligation]


      Goes to purpose. Purpose is to make the world better, starting somewhere, and recognizing as one starts there is no finish to the university’s obligation.

    • Comment on Acts on 13 March 2018

      [first and foremost a willingness to think with someone]

      Yes again. And not just with agreeable colleagues, but at times with adversaries. One of the problems I see in academia is a political failure to recognize the difference between an adversary with whom one disagrees, and an enemy.

      These two categories—adversary-in-discourse, and enemy—are different.

  • Sharon M. Leon

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 25 February 2018

      I love this definition of the humanities. It’s the one that I was raised with, and the way that I prefer to look at the world.

      Reflecting on it, I do wonder if the reason that it does not resonate with the larger public at the moment is that we’ve systematically gutted the structures that help students build a large enough context to see the relationships between humanities content and the larger world. I hate to lay everything at the feet of standardized testing regimes, but they’ve done a tremendous job of undermining a generation’s capacity for analogical thinking.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 25 February 2018

      I couldn’t agree with this more.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 25 February 2018

      I might add that this state of affairs makes it much harder to collaborate with colleagues within one’s own institution. External collaborators can be put in a box and set aside, to some degree, when accounting for individual achievements — at least they’re much less likely to be directly involved in the “competition” for credit for the same work.

    • Comment on Critique and Competition on 25 February 2018

      As a public historian, I agree with this. Far too often, efforts to tap in to this interest and to engage the public about the histories in which they are deeply invested is read by our traditional colleagues as failing to take the appropriate competitive stand in the struggles over interpretive discourse. If we’re not fighting with other historians, we’re not doing real work. But, to do good, publicly engaged history, we have to open a conversation with the public, and then bring the resources we have to the table to broaden and extend that conversation.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 25 February 2018

      A “public history” long denigrated and dismissed by most academic historians.

      See next paragraph….

    • Comment on Acts on 25 February 2018

      You might want to take a look at an old but very useful piece by Jack Tchen on the dialogic museum that really models this kind of generosity: John Kuo Wei Tchen, “Creating a Dialogic Museum: The Chinatown History Museum Experiment,” in Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture, edited by Ivan Karp, Christine Mullen Kreamer, and Steven D. Lavine (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992) 289-91.

    • Comment on Listening on 25 February 2018

      As a follow-up to Alan’s comment, the public history community has been struggling with this asymmetry for the last several decades as older curators and historians move from the mode of purveying expert knowledge to entering into dialogue. For the most part, it feels as if the move to dialogue and openness is ascendant, yet the struggle continues.

      For an excellent summary: Adair, Bill, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski, eds. Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. 1 edition. Philadelphia: Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011.

    • Comment on Beyond Naive Reading on 25 February 2018

      I wonder if there is something useful in Ron Grele’s very early definition of the role of public historians here. Writing in 1981 in The Public Historian in a piece that laid out the goals and commitments of public history, he proposed that “the task of the public historian, broadly defined, should be to help members of the public do their own history and to aid them in understanding their role in shaping and interpreting events. Sometimes this merely means helping to bring to the front the information, understanding, and consciousness that is already there. More often it means a much more painstaking process of confronting old interpretations, removing layer upon layer of ideology and obfuscation, and countering the effects of spectacularlized media-made instant history.” (Ronald J. Grele, “Whose Public? Whose History? What is the Goal of Public History?“ The Public Historian, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Winter, 1981).)

      This approach seems to leave room for the empathetic engagement while also opening space for hard work. But, the thing that I think it makes most clear, and resonates nicely with the work you are doing, is that all of this work requires us to be willing to slow down and dwell in the space of engagement. An op-ed can’t carry that burden. Dialogue is the only way, and it’s extraordinarily difficult.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 25 February 2018

      It’s probably also useful to grapple with the fact that making work open doesn’t immediately guarantee public engagement. Engagement requires an invitation.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 25 February 2018

      Of course, the anonymity required of most pre-publication review work also helps resistance to crediting it.

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 25 February 2018

      In my field, the notion of “translating” has taken on a sheen of condescension toward the public — the question “how do we translate this work for the public” comes with the assumption that the public couldn’t possibly understand it on their own.

      Whether or not this is true is one question, but the other pernicious attitude that accompanies “translation” is the stance of academic historians that “translating” isn’t valid scholarly work. It assumes that the in-discipline arguing is the real work, and the next step of transformation is just extra. In reality, public history and public humanities isn’t about “translating” academic work, but rather engaging with the public to grapple with important historical or literary or philosophical issues. It is the work itself, not something that can be managed by pandoc.

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 25 February 2018


    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 25 February 2018

      This is exactly it. The only way that invitations to engagement will be accepted is if they are addressed to specific publics.

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 25 February 2018

      Hence the issue with “translate” in history dept evaluation.

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 25 February 2018

      I think this is the heart of it, and I’d love to see it articulated this clearly up front.

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 25 February 2018

      It’ll be important to cite ASHP as partner on this work.

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 25 February 2018

      Mia Ridge’s work on community sourcing and cultural heritage work might be useful here: http://www.miaridge.com/my-phd-research.

    • Comment on Public and Private Goods on 25 February 2018

      A little dose of Audrey Watters might be good here — on the profit model for ed. tech corps.

    • Comment on Community on 25 February 2018

      This is the thing. This is the whole ballgame.

  • Sheila Brennan

    • Comment on 4. Working in Public on 1 March 2018

      For this section will you consider including other scholarly work that doesn’t look like a traditional scholarly article or monograph, particularly since it is about different types of publicly-engaged scholarship? I don’t mean to draw you away from a focused scope.  You mention blogging, which is writing, but you haven’t mentioned digital projects as a means for communicating with fellow scholars, with different publics, or refer to other types of public scholarship that occur in public physical spaces, like museum exhibitions or community history projects.

    • Comment on 4. Working in Public on 1 March 2018

      [ I mean to steer us away from a sense of the public’s singularity. I do not mean that our work needs to address or engage everyone, at all times; rather, different aspects of our work might reach different publics at different moments. ]

      Thank you, yes! Being honest about audiences is necessary and also respectful. By throwing out the notion of “the public,” it is possible to see and know real people engaging with, collaborating on, the work.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 3 March 2018

      [Given this failure to communicate, we see no harm in keeping our work closed off from the public, arguing that we’re only writing for a small group of specialists anyhow. So why would public access matter?]

      Yes, this is right, when we are talking about the forms of scholarship that many academics are used to writing and publishing it, it’s easy to say, this is only for “us.”  I think Barbara makes an excellent point about how the stakes are different for different scholars who work and publish openly about topics of race and gender, in particular. For me, this paragraph also pushes at the how question is not only about access to the words, the product, but how can we change the product, the words, the form, to something that might be more accessible and interesting to someone outside of our field.  You can’t necessarily push out the academic journal article and expect non-academics to read and enjoy it. Some people might, of course, but the point is the form and the approach should necessarily be different because the audience and potential reach is different.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 3 March 2018

      I might also add that for those of us who are contingent, and/or paid through sponsored research/grant funding, often much of our writing and peer reviewing labor occurs during time not compensated by our employers. But, some of us remain committed to publishing openly and publicly, because it is our values, not because we are actually compensated, or, frankly, rewarded, for doing that type of work.

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 3 March 2018

      [The ways we define the notion of the peer, unsurprisingly, has profound consequences not just for determining whom we consider under that label but also who considers themselves to be a part of that category]

      One example of this can be seen in the ways that National Postal Museum seeks to bring together philatelists, stamp collectors, and academics together with their annual Blount Symposium. This is meant to challenge the notion of peers. Also, in publishing selected papers from the conference, the papers undergo blind peer review from experts who may be hobbyist collectors and/or PhDs in history or communications. They also have done a very good job of relying on the specialist knowledge from collectors in contributing to their online digital collections and exhibitions.

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 3 March 2018

      [to the public but the liberal arts as well: not just tools for production, but tools for living

      Can you clarify what you mean here? I may be misunderstanding, but it seems like this exists (perhaps its at the regional publics?) I see universities offering all kinds of courses and certificates in the evenings, for different professionals, and interested persons to register and audit courses.  Another example at GMU, is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which is an extension program for retirees, offering all kinds of courses and lectures including humanities, arts, social sciences, et al.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 4 March 2018

      Agreed with everything above.

      If this is going to be a community enterprise, the entire university and college community must be involved. I have recently found myself in a situation where the faculty leading is working to demolish community

    • Comment on Possibilities on 5 March 2018

      And through modeling, and working intentionally towards these goals, universities can offer an alternative pathway for the rest of American society to follow?

  • Steve Brier

    • Comment on The Liberal Arts on 20 February 2018

      I think it’s important here to draw some distinctions between public and private universities. Politicians mostly talk about public institutions when they talk about workforce preparation. It’s not that the privates are entirely immune to that approach. Rather, their rhetoric on the issue of job preparation is decidedly less utilitarian, based on the older liberal arts model and mission that defined the 19th century colleges and universities. The publics, on the other hand, because they rely on public funding (though a good deal less than they used to) have to function within a more clearly cost/benefit framework to justify their existence.

    • Comment on Generous Thinking on 4 March 2018

      Your point about public history is well taken, Kathleen. The stories in that sub-field are legion (and have been for three decades now) about how traditional historians dismiss out of hand the very idea that public history has a place at the scholarly table. Our own History PhD program at the Graduate Center is a prime example of that scholarly myopia.

    • Comment on Public Engagement on 4 March 2018

      The important issue of whose labor is valued and valuable and how that labor is compensated is a long and contentious one in the academic world, made much more so by the dramatic growth of contingent labor within the academy over the past 30 years. Putting on my Marxian hat for the moment (which is never far from my head), I would argue that the nature of academic exploitation requires a collective response by all workers laboring within academic institutions. The problem of exploitation of academic labor is not going to be solved by professional organizations or even the good intentions of individual academics. It’s a question of finding the necessary countervailing power to the blunt the efforts of administrators and the business interests that still control so much of what happens in universities, public and private. and are actively trying to reshape (and subvert) the academic mission. Academics need unions (not associations)–and preferably ones organized on a broad, not narrow craft, basis–to fight for the kinds of changes that Mike Fabricant and I called for in Austerity Blues.

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 4 March 2018

      Thanks for adding that correction, Sharon. I was about to make the same point, only a bit more vigorously!

    • Comment on Public Scholarship on 4 March 2018

      I very much like your idea of “a humanities and social science extension program.” Public universities were not simply created to convey “practical knowledge” (e.g. science) to citizens but also laboratories for teaching the broad liberal arts and that, in the process, transmitted notions of democratic citizenship and critical thinking. They were intended to be “a humanities and social science extension program,” in your felicitous phrase, really from the outset (or at least in the post-WWII period when public university systems dramatically expanded with state support). Reading the 1946-47 Truman (Zook) Commission reports offers a clearer sense of how the nation embraced those broader ideals for public higher ed until the exigencies of the Cold War and anti-communism destroyed or at least seriously blunted it.

    • Comment on 5. The University on 4 March 2018

      I don’t think Crow and Dabar are a good model for helping us discover the best path forward for public higher education. Crow reminds me of a technologically adept version of Clark Kerr, who uses a kind of glib style to mask what is his fervent embrace of technological solutions to the austerity politics and policies that govern the state of Arizona and its public universities.

    • Comment on Community on 4 March 2018

      Or think about the union sponsored schools and study circles that the ILGWU offered its workers and their families in the post WWI era in NYC. Or the freedom schools that came out of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, both in the South and in the North.

    • Comment on Possibilities on 4 March 2018

      The problem with the Wisconsin Idea as a model is the same as the general problem with Progressivism (the early 20th century movement): Both relied on a top-down model driven by notions of communicating expertise to individuals rather than building a sense of community empowerment.

  • Suzanne Churchill

    • Comment on Public Intellectuals on 15 January 2020

      This chapter makes me think about scholarly conferences in the humanities—a forum where we gather as a discourse community to speak in a specialized language that you argue we can and should use with one another. But I’ve always marveled at the way humanists (particularly English professors) read aloud “papers” written in recondite prose, usually at a fast clip to stay nominally close to their time limits. My colleagues in the sciences and social sciences are astounded that we tolerate such dry, inaccessible styles of oral delivery. We would never get away with doing so in the classroom, so why do we subject each other to it? It may be that our most sophisticated arguments about literary language depend on very precise, complex language to express them. But sometimes that specialized language seems more a form of self-protection and a marker of prestige than a mode of effective communication.

      In this chapter, you talk about scholars code switching to communicate their ideas to various publics in writing. What if we also reimagined the scholarly conference as a forum in which we speak not only to each other but also seek to reach broader publics who reside in the cities where we typically gather?

      There are other good models for sharing scholarship, from David Earle’s now defunct 1925 Virtual Newstand, to Amanda Visconti’s now archived Infinite Ulysses (http://infiniteulysses.com/), to William Maxwell’s FBEyes digital archives http://digital.wustl.edu/fbeyes/.

      When we as scholars think beyond the print formats of the scholarly monograph, article, or conference paper, we may be able to more readily imagine and realize forms of knowledge sharing that various publics will want to engage with and participate in.


    • Comment on General Comments on 13 March 2018

      Your project is most interesting and I write to encourage and support its full expression. As a colleague who has devoted considerable time and attention to the public good mission of higher education, I think your book could be enhanced considerably by reference to the extensive body of work that addresses faculty work and the public (or more accurately, common) good. There are many scholars who have written on this aspect of the work of faculty, notably Ira Harkavy and Matthew Hartley at Penn, John Saltmarsh at UMass Boston, Bob Brongle and Julie Hatcher at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Gene Rice at AAC&U, and so on. With others, Bringle, for example, edited an excellent volume on the ‘university as citizen” that could serve as a foundation for the argument on generosity. In particular, I would draw your attention to the more recent work of Genevieve Shaker, associate professor at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Her edited book on Faculty Work and the Public Good: Philanthropy, Engagement, and Academic Professionalism contains a number of relevant essays by prominent scholars. I have been privileged to work with her on several other relevant projects, including two white papers commissioned by the TIAA Institute: “The Public Good, Productivity and Purpose: New Economic Models for Higher Education” and “The Public Good, Productivity, and Faculty Work: Individual Effort and Social Value.” She also edited a special volume of Higher Education Research Communication on Higher Education,Community Engagement, and the Global Public Good, which contains a number of relevant essays by scholars form the US and abroad. There is considerable overlap between your project and Shaker’s work which I think you will find adds depth and breadth to the argument you are advancing regarding generosity and the work of faculty. I hope you might find these suggestions of use. Best wishes for your book and the ideas you are stimulating.

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