I grew up in rural, conservative, Adams County, Pennsylvania. I moved to urban, liberal, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Much of my activity as a writer, editor, and teacher has been a working-out of the cultural tensions between the two Americas. Every Fury on Earth collected some of my essays in that direction. Likewise, I brought before the public new editions of orphaned books by James Agee and Dwight Macdonald, as well as assembled a new collection, The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills. I’m writing a biography of Mills (1916-1962), the Texas-born sociologist who coined the term “public intellectual.” I’m working, too, on a family memoir, entitled “Nobody Talks.” It’s about growing up in the domestic shadow of the Vietnam War. This web page presents a selection of essays, interviews, and lectures. For a complete curriculum vitae, please contact me.
Founder & President, lingua franca media, inc.
2017 - Present
I created this nonprofit foundation several months after the U.S. presidential election of 2016 as an instrument to explore some of the ironies and conundrums of contemporary movements for social change. Embracing the traditional model of the research institute as a “university without students,” Lingua Franca Media identifies, develops, and supports public intellectuals, provides them with a habitat, and pushes their ideas into the world through books, magazines, audio and video, fellowships, and forums.
editor-in-chief, The baffler
When offered an opportunity to take over “the journal that blunts the cutting edge,” I moved its headquarters from Chicago to Cambridge, Massachusetts. There I created an independent, nonprofit foundation to superintend a new publishing operation. As President of its Board of Directors. I managed intellectual property, negotiated major contracts, recruited staff, opened offices in Harvard Square and Manhattan, and raised funds. As Editor-in-Chief, I commissioned art, fiction, poetry, and criticism. I edited 13 print issues (numbers 19 to 31) plus daily online content, and led a nationwide events program. Some of the fruits of these labors appeared in a book I co-edited, No Future for You: Salvos from The Baffler.
Visiting Assistant Professor, BOSTON COLLEGE
I held several part-time teaching positions in the Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences. As Visiting Assistant Professor of History, I taught the department’s year-long survey course in American history, which ranged in subject area from the seventeenth century to the twentieth. As Visiting Assistant Professor in the Honors Program, I taught small, discussion-based seminars on philosophies of dreaming and theories of biography as a mode of cultural exploration. As Visiting Scholar in the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, a research institute on campus, I contributed to and participated in a variety of public programming.
Lecturer on Social STudies, Harvard University
For a number of years I taught half-time in the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, one of Harvard College’s two undergraduate, interdisciplinary, honors concentrations. I gave its yearlong sophomore seminar in European social theory, Hobbes to Habermas. I also taught junior-level tutorials in American intellectual history, advised senior theses on a range of subjects in European and American history, and led freshman seminars.
The People’s Republic of Zuckerstan, The Baffler (2014)
Gettysburg Regress, The New Republic (2009)
Everybody Must Get Stoned, New York Observer (2007)
James Agee, the Anarchist Sublime, Gettysburg Review (2007)
The Deciders, New York Times (2006)
What Happened to Sex Scandals?, Journal of American History (2000)
The Big Discourse, The Nation (2000)
On politics, Artist Taxi Driver (2016)
On real estate and innovation, Radio Open Source (2015)
On magazines, Columbia Journalism Review (2013)
On history and biography, Identity Theory (2012)
On academic life, Inside Higher Ed (2008)
A World Without Passports, Keynote Lecture, Slovene Sociological Association, Slovenia (2017)
The State We Are In, w/ Armin Nessehi, Goethe-Institut Boston (2016)
The Story of America’s Literary Underground, City Club of San Diego (2016)
C. Wright Mills’s Imagination, Columbia University (2015)
On Cotton Tenants, Jimmy Carter Library, Atlanta, Georgia (2013)
Best American Essays: 25th anniversary, The Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA (2010)
Notes on the American Unconscious, Haslam Scholars Lecture, University of Tennessee (2009)