The Crushing Contradictions of the American University

In the weeks following the U.S. presidential election in November, Twitter was aflutter with the suggestion that a Biden-Harris administration could issue an executive order canceling student-loan debt. The responses ranged from the moralizing — “Why should I pay for other peoples’ poor choices?” — to the hortatory — “Higher ed is a right!” — […]

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The Humanities’ Permanent Crisis: An Interview with Jeff Bilbro

A few weeks ago, I spoke with Jeff Bilbro of the Liberating Arts about “The Humanities’ Permanent Crisis.” In a wide-ranging interview, we discussed Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age, the history and future of the humanities, liberal learning, and intellectual life after the university. You can watch on YouTube: Or you can download […]

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Information: Keywords

Just out from Columbia University Press Information: Keywords, edited by Michele Kennerly, Samuel Frederick, and Jonathan Abel. With chapters on algorithm, archive, cognition, index, keyword, and more, this volume has some brilliant scholars, including Katherine Hayles, Dan Rosenberg, Bernard Dionysius Geoghagen, Wolf Kittler, and several more. I wrote the chapter on “Knowledge”: In the “Unreasonable […]

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Text, Data, and the Infrastructure of Knowledge

This spring Andrew Piper and I are teaching a graduate seminar titled “Text, Data, and the Infrastructure of knowledge. Here’s the description: In this seminar, we will consider a broad range of questions concerning the preservation, circulation, reproduction, and interpretation of texts in a digital realm from what we call the historical concerns of philology. […]

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The Page Image

I’ve got a new essay out with Andrew Piper and Mohamed Cheriet titled “The Page Image: Towards a Visual History of Digital Documents.” It was published in the most recent volume of Book History. Here’s a paragraph from the introduction about what we’re trying to do: Our more immediate aim in this essay is to […]

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Permanent Crisis Out March 2021

The catalogue copy and landing page for Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age is up with the University of Chicago Press: The humanities, considered by many as irrelevant for modern careers and hopelessly devoid of funding, seem to be in a perpetual state of crisis, at the mercy of modernizing and technological forces […]

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Information Overload & the Invention of the Modern Research University

On Sunday, June 10, 2012, Helen Dragas, rector of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, announced that President Teresa Sullivan and the board had “mutually agreed” that Sullivan would resign. Citing a “rapidly changing” higher education environment, Dragas insisted that the university had to change, and fast. In the ensuing weeks, Dragas alluded to […]

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The Scholar’s Vocation

In 1908, the first study of Germany’s ‘next generation of academics’ was published, written by the German economist Franz Eulenburg. After 200 pages of line graphs and tables, he concluded that they were neither young nor going anywhere. Although some who taught in Germany’s world-renowned universities enjoyed the freedom presumed to accompany an academic life, […]

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Christian Humanism Is a Wooden Iron

In the brief respite between total wars, most Christian intellectuals in Europe––from Catholics such as Jacques Maritain and Simon Weil to Protestants such as W. H. Auden and C. S. Lewis––professed an allegiance to humanism, as did an array of confessing and non-confessing Communists, Dada-ists, Futurists, liberals, and Marxists. But beyond a general commitment to the human, they tended to agree […]

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