Almost thirty years ago, Russell Jacoby defined public intellectuals as “writers and thinkers who address a general and educated audience.” Yet from Rousseau to Jacoby, the public intellectual has been perceived to operate most effectively outside the power elite, including the university system. More recently, Mark Greif stated that publications such as The Partisan Review were perceived as exemplifying “a bygone world” of “intellectually exacting argument standing in opposition to the university, because it was addressed to a broad, unacademic readership.” Yet Noah Berlatsky countered that such democratization of the public intellectual “is, explicitly, imaginary.” Most public intellectuals have tended to be men, white, and often affiliated with elite institutions. Looking to the past, present, or future, questions to consider for this panel might include: How democratic and egalitarian is the public intellectual? How does the academy or other elite institutions foster or hinder a democratic ideal? How might gender, class, race, affiliation, nationality, or culture create or dismantle boundaries? How might the medium affect the message, considering print, television, and digital ages? How might the forms in which intellectuals appeal to the public illuminate the boundaries of race, class, or status that intellectuals often attempt to address?
This guaranteed session explores the real and imagined boundaries of the public intellectual, including the form, method, or medium in which the public intellectual operates, both intersecting with or distinct from the academy and power elite.
All periods/global perspectives welcome. 300-word abstracts by March 15; David Bahr (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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