The Miranda-Obama Collaboration (From Hamilton to Puerto Rico)

On March 14, President Barack Obama welcomed the company of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton to a special White House performance.  In his introductory remarks, Obama celebrated Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop rendering of Alexander Hamilton’s “quintessentially American story,” and quickly identified the reason why the show has become a “cultural phenomenon.”  “In each brilliantly crafted song,” said the president, “we hear the debates that shaped our nation, and we hear the debates that are still shaping our nation.” Shifting to the same playful tone that has characterized his other recent public appearances, Obama even staked a claim to his own role in getting the show off the ground.  He … [Read more...]

Not All Humans Are Haters: A Response to Slate’s Rebecca Schuman

Editor's Note: The author recently received his PhD in Comparative Literature.  Our bad for not updating his bio last time around. Last Wednesday I published a piece on this website about the disdain with which many left-leaning mainstream journalists increasingly treat academic work. Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman immediately responded to the piece in anger, first excoriating me for spelling her name wrong (the error was quickly corrected), and then claiming that I don't have the credentials to write about such topics because I am still only a graduate student. On Friday, she put up a post on her blog "inspired" by the exchange, "Grad Students: I'M TRYING TO HELP YOU, YOU IDIOTS," in … [Read more...]

Journalists vs. Academia: The Case of William Deresiewicz and Lawrence Buell’s The Dream of the Great American Novel

Everybody seems to have a problem with academics these days.  We've known for a long time that the American right hates us for our intellectual elitism and armchair radicalism, but now the mainstream left-leaning media has also acquired a taste for the game.  A number of recent articles and op-eds in newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic have taken humanities professors to task for everything from their "tin-eared arrogance" (Ron Rosenbaum) to their "bat-shit analysis" (Rebecca Schuman), for being "too sociological" (editors of N+1) and for not paying enough attention to contemporary society (Nicholas Kristoff).  We are condemned for our tenured loafers … [Read more...]

The Spanish Roots of the 99%

On September 19th, 2011, Luis Moreno-Caballud and Begoña Santa-Cecilia returned to their apartment after three days of intense discussions and assemblies in New York City’s Zuccotti Park.  As members of Occupy Wall Street’s original Outreach Committee, they were frustrated by what he had seen in the park since the beginning of the occupation on September 17th.  They had imagined that the encampment in the heart of Wall Street would be something like the acampadas they had seen in Spain earlier that year, large open tent camps in public plazas where diverse groups of people had congregated.  Yet it still wasn’t happening.  Zuccotti Park was ringed by police vans, protestors in bandannas … [Read more...]