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Politicians, stop saying mass shootings are tragedies unless you’re going to do what literary critics do with tragedies: actually interpret them.

“This was a horrible tragedy:” perhaps the most common thing we hear after each new incident that adds to the alarming trend of mass shootings in the United States. Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, Umpqua, Las Vegas, and Parkland are only the most notable communities whose names have come to symbolize the phenomenon. Their “tragic” quality is the reason, some politicians say, we shouldn’t “politicize the tragedy” – we shouldn’t refer to it in arguments about policies for the good of the nation. More… “Something Is Rotten in the United States of America”

Jeffrey R. Wilson is a faculty member in the Writing Program at Harvard University, where he teaches the Why Shakespeare? section of the university’s first-year writing course. Focused on intersections of Renaissance literature and modern sociology, his work has appeared in academic journals such as ShakespeareLaw and the Humanities, and Crime, Media, Cultureas well as public venues such as National Public RadioThe Chronicle of Higher EducationAcademe, CounterPunch, and Shakespeare and Contemporary TheoryHe is on Twitter @DrJeffreyWilson.

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Should the federal government subsidize the arts? I have pondered the question ever since 1989, when, with many other residents of Washington, D.C., I went to see an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s obscene photographs which had been cancelled by the Corcoran Exhibit for fear of having federal funds cut off by enraged congressional conservatives. At the entrance to the exhibit, which was hosted instead by the Washington Project for the Arts, a group was collecting signatures for a petition saying that all American artists had the right to taxpayer subsidies, with no strings attached. I offered my signature, but only on condition that the petition organizers in turn provide me with another petition, attesting that I was an American artist and thus entitled to taxpayer money. My offer was not taken up. More… “Should Taxpayers Subsidize the Arts?”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

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Michael Lind’s call for the abolition of the social sciences and his vision of a future university in which the humanities and sciences are housed in separate facilities that turn their backs on each other is a sad indictment of the state of American education. That such a proposition could even be entertained demonstrates the failures of our discipline-based silos, our relentless competition for resources, and our ossified structures of knowledge. But this cleaving of science from humanities is based on a deep misunderstanding not only of the social sciences, but also of the sciences as a whole and their relation to the arts and humanities.
More… “Abolish the Walls”

Mimi Sheller, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and founding Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University. She is author and co-editor of nine books, including most recently Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity; The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities; and Mobility and Locative Media. She is currently President of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility, founding co-editor of the journal Mobilities, and Associate Editor of Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies. E-mail her at mimi.sheller@drexel.edu.
Dan Schimmel, BFA (1989) University of California, Berkeley, MA (1996) and MFA (1997) University of Iowa, is an artist based in Philadelphia and born in Missouri. He has exhibited work at the Delaware Art Museum, Susquehanna Art Museum, Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, Allentown Art Museum, and State Museum of Pennsylvania. For ten years he was Director and Curator of Exhibitions at the Esther Klein Gallery in Philadelphia, and from 2010-2013 was the founding Director of Breadboard, an art, science and technology program at the University City Science Center. Email him at dan.schimmel@gmail.com.

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The latest public discussion about the fate of literary criticism features The Literary Darwinists. With articles appearing in The Boston Globe, The Chronicle, The Nation and elsewhere, there’s a certain buzz. Literary Darwinists are reacting to the rather pitiful — and undisputed — state in which literary criticism finds itself. Particularly within the academy, literary studies is floundering as a discipline without a clear sense of how to move forward. A good deal of what’s written is such convoluted nonsense that reading it amounts to self punishment. The critic William Deresiewicz recently wrote an article in which he concluded: “The real story of academic literary criticism today is that the profession is, however slowly, dying.”

Enter the Literary Darwinists, ready to get serious. People who call themselves Darwinists can always, if nothing else, be counted on for their… More…

I’ve just returned from Oxford, England, where everything is twice as expensive as it is here, where the weather is crappy and most of the food tastes like boiled cardboard. That said, I still want to take a room in one of those lopsided little houses built in the 12th century and stay for the rest of my life. It’s something I’ve felt fleetingly during previous visits to Europe, but, this time, the feeling was more pronounced. At Oxford, I had the sense of being truly in Western Civilization, with the added poignancy that this might be a last and dying outpost.

 

As everyone knows, Western civilization has its faults — which I will return to discuss later — but it’s hard to think ill of it when you stride through the cobbled streets of Oxford. There you… More…