Posts in academia
From Chapter 5: The Seduction of Theory: Excerpt from Springtime for Snowflakes: "Social Justice" and Its Postmodern Parentage

Had my dad understood it, my graduate school enrollment in “Literary and Cultural Theory” would have struck him as tantamount to madness, like self-commitment to an insane asylum. After the Ginsberg apprenticeship, which definitively ended any remaining prospects I had for medical school, he wouldn’t have had tears left to cry…..
So, twelve years after the Ginsberg apprenticeship and after work- ing in broadcast advertising for nine years, by my early thirties, I finally decided to become a literature professor. Read more…

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Chapter 1: Introducing the @antipcnyuprof: Excerpt from Springtime for Snowflakes: "Social Justice" and Its Postmodern Parentage

On September 12, 2016, I established a Twitter account with the name “Deplorable NYU Prof” and the official handle @antipcnyuprof. This Twitter identity – replete with Friedrich Nietzsche avatar – represented a satirical character wielded by a self-proclaimed but anonymous NYU professor apparently gone rogue. As with all satire, the mockery was over-the-top, but the intended effect was serious criticism. The Twitter account allowed me to air views that I felt reluctant to issue under my real name, and to render them without undu circumspection.
As an NYU professor for nine years, I had grown concerned about. recent developments within NYU and academia at large. With greater frequency, screeching mobs and the “no-platforming” of speakers essentially nullified freedom of speech. Speech codes and “bias reporting hotlines” curtailed the expression of entire communities. On matters of gender, sexuality, and identity broadly construed, whole avenues of inquiry were foreclosed on the basis of sacrosanct tenets deemed immune from scrutiny. Freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of inquiry were under attack and in full retreat.

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“Social Justice” and Its Postmodern Parentage

At the moment postmodern theory lay dying in the academy, it bore a child, namely, “social justice.” Social justice gestated within the university as postmodern theory ruled the roost. It was nursed during the Occupy movement and the Obama era. The financial crisis left its hapless followers in search of empowerment. It took root on the internet on social media. But because its parent had taught it that the object world is not real, or else that the world at large was beyond one’s purview, the child of postmodern theory could only change itself, as well as, so it imagined, those who bore signs of its oppressors. In Academic Questions. 31.2. (10 April 2018): 130-139.

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Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, Bias Reporting: The New Micro-techniques of Surveillance and Control

A singular orthodoxy has infiltrated the discursive parameters of U.S. and other universities and colleges. This orthodoxy now constitutes the ethical vocabulary of academia. Adopted from feminism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ theory and practice, the language, doctrines, and mechanisms of this orthodoxy now dominate academia's policies, procedures and handbooks. The terminology has become the vernacular among the swelling ranks of administrators, especially the relatively new cohort of chief diversity officers, directors of diversity, associate provosts of diversity, assistant provosts of diversity, diversity consultants, and so on and so on. I refer not merely to the orthodoxy of "diversity," but in particular to "diversity" initiatives as they are currently administered, using a particular set of policies, procedures, and mechanisms: trigger warnings, safe spaces, bias reporting, and the like.

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Craig on God and Morality

THERE IS AN HISTORICAL DEBATE in philosophy that begins with Plato’s Euthyphro on the relation between the omniscient authority of God and morality. We do not intend to rehash the vast literature on this topic.1 Instead we will concentrate on the arguments given by William Lane Craig, a well-known philosopher of religion whose influence on Christians is considerable. Craig has given a moral argument for the existence of God.2 If he is correct, then non- believers and non-theistic moral theories are inadequate. We regard Craig’s view as invalid and in need of correction. We contend that the argument Craig gives is unsound.

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Science in the Popularis Aura: Opening Statement delivered in defense of the dissertation: “The Publics of Science: Periodicals and the Making of British Science, 1820-1860”

As Thomas Carlyle quipped in 1829 in “Signs of the Times,” in the nineteenth century, “every little sect among us, Unitarians, Utilitarians, Anabaptists, Phrenologists, must have its Periodical, its monthly or quarterly Magazine;-- hanging out, like its windmill, into the popularis aura, to grind meal for the society.” In my dissertation, “The Publics of Science: Periodicals and the Making of British Science, 1820-1860,” I have endeavored to study the “machinery” for the production and dissemination of science in culture—to examine how various sects or publics provided scientific “meal for the society.” Examining several periodicals from early to mid-nineteenth-century Britain, my dissertation is an account of emerging sites for the production, dissemination, negotiation, and appropriation of knowledge amongst various participants—authors, publishers, editors, reviewers, critics, readers and others—as they vied for (and against) cultural authority on the basis of beliefs claimed as “scientific.”  

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From Romantic Catastrophism to Victorian Gradualism: A Reading of Epistemes

Several nineteenth-century scholars have remarked upon the movement from “catastrophism to gradualism” in the transition from Romantic to Victorian culture. They see the shift to gradualism in literature (and society) as the result of the incursion of science and its ideas into cultural realms  (e.g., Cosslett, Culler). While recent writings in the discourse of science and literature studies have complicated this one-way traffic by acknowledging a dialectical flow between cultural realms, such readings are nevertheless situated with reference to C.P. Snow’s “two cultures” paradigm.1 In referring literature to scientific discourse and vice versa, science and literature studies may capture a mutual conditioning of respective cultural spheres, but nevertheless continues to discount a reading of the determinations of both spheres by other important social and political factors.

In order to account for a shift from catastrophism to gradualism, I argue that science and literature must be referred to underlying discursive pressures mediating between cultural spheres. Rather than considering literature as appropriating the idioms of science, and/or vice versa, the social and political significations of competing epistemologies and philosophical positions within and across cultural spheres should be traced to account for changes within cultural representation.



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