The University of Chicago News Office
May 12, 1997 Press Contact: Julia Morse
(773) 702-8359

Public Intellectuals: Media hounds or accessible scholars?

The recent “Culture Wars” over diversity and multi-culturalism have been shaped by “public intellectuals” - figures who have one foot in the academy and one in the public realm of media and publishing, often holding both an academic position and a relationship with a mass media outlet such as a magazine.

Some people laud public intellectuals as ambassadors who serve a valuable public function by explaining research in a way that is easily understood. But others complain that professors have no business being media stars. They worry that a move in this direction will compromise the quality of research and teaching.

Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper’s Magazine; Jean Bethke Elshtain, Professor in the University of Chicago Divinity School; Homi Bhabha, University of Chicago Professor in the Humanities; Michael Bérubé, professor at the University of Illinois; and Adolph Reed, professor at Northwestern University, will join other scholars and journalists to address these questions during a two-day symposium on public intellectuals sponsored by the University of Chicago Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH).

“The University of Chicago is known for its public intellectuals, from John Dewey to Susan Sontag to Allan Bloom,” says Gerald Graff, Director of MAPH. “Because of federal higher education cutbacks and the resulting fierce competition among centers of learning, many people now argue that the support of public intellectuals may be the only way for universities to gain enough prominence to prosper.”

The MAPH program, Graff explains, was designed to explore different models of graduate education at a time of rapid change in the academy. It is a training ground for students who go on to serve in a variety of functions inside and outside the academy - as teachers, business leaders, journalists and others.

The symposium, “Public Intellectuals and the Future of Graduate Study,” will be Wednesday, June 11 and Thursday, June 12 in Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St. A complete schedule is on the reverse. All lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, call (773) 834-1203.

Public Intellectuals and the Future of Graduate Study
Wednesday, June 11 and Thursday, June 12
Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St.

Public Intellectuals: Threat or menace?

Wednesday, June 11, 4 p.m.
Moderator: Gerald Graff, University of Chicago

Michael Bérubé, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, English
Joel Snyder, University of Chicago, Art History
Jeffrey Williams, East Carolina University, English; Minnesota Review

Do public intellectuals belong in institutions?

Thursday, June 12, 10 a.m.
Moderator: Lawrence Rothfield, University of Chicago

Ellen Willis, New York University, Journalism; Village Voice
Gerald Graff, University of Chicago, English and Education
Nathan Tarcov, University of Chicago, Social Thought; The Olin Center

Constituencies: To and for whom do public intellectuals speak?

Thursday, June 12, 1 p.m.
Moderator: Andrew Hoberek, University of Chicago

Homi Bhabha, University of Chicago, English
Adolph Reed, Northwestern University, Political Science
Christopher Newfield, University of California, Santa Barbara, English

Public intellectuals and the media

Thursday, June 12, 2:45 p.m.
Moderator: Peter Struck, University of Chicago

Lewis Lapham, Harper’s Magazine
Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago, Divinity School; New Republic
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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