This issue is devoted to three essays that are more memoir-like than I usually allow myself, though I hope they succeed in reaching larger points than personal biography. The first article concerns my college days at Columbia College and uses my encounters with Charles and Mark Van Doren as entry points into what an elite education accomplishes. The second article refers to my graduate school experiences at Columbia University's Department of Sociology to cast light on a recent brouhaha about scholarship that took place at Columbia. The third article tries to generalize from my teaching experience at a non-elite college to show how education in such places at least has shifted from being a matter of instilling a disciplined reason to a matter of using rhetoric to convey sympathy for both a discipline and for those a discipline may study.
The purpose of this e-journal is to use in tandem the techniques of literary criticism and social structural analysis to illuminate American politics and the various institutions in American society and sometimes matters more global, like religion or war, by turning an eye on the events and objects and performances that are considered art and entertainment, those defined broadly enough to include whatever is covered in newspapers and other media. Another concern is to pick up the texture of social life, both in the United States and in general, through the analysis of those events, objects and performances that are to be found in everyday life.