Poster for Thinking Publicly Lecturer and Workshop

Jon Baskin – Founding Editor of The Point, Associate Director of the MA Program in Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism a the New School, New York, and author of Ordinary Unhappiness: The Therapeutic Fiction of David Foster Wallace (Stanford UP, 2019).

When we founded the The in 2008, we assumed that the chief obstacles to getting good essays from academics would have to do with prose style.  In fact the most serious challenges we faced were both more interesting and more intractable.  They had to do not with how academics could write for a public audience, but with why they wanted to.

In this talk, I’ll discuss the two pictures of public writing that continue to predominate among academics who write for the public–we might call them the academic as public expert, and the academic as public pundit–and outline the virtues and limitations of each.

Then I’ll make a case for a third way of imagining the distinct value of the academic in public, who we’ll call the academic as public thinker.

I’ll end by making the case, building on some of Hannah Arendt’s writing on the subject, that in order to become better public writers, we first need to think more carefully about what good it does to write (and think) publicly in the first place.

  • A PAL “Writing Is Thinking” Lecture
    Thursday, February 6, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.
    Reception at 4:30 p.m.
    349 Rubenstein Library


  • A PAL “Writing Is Thinking”  Workshop
    Friday, February 7, 2020, 9:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m.
    This workshop is about how to turn a piece of your academic research into an essay for a public audience. In preparation, I’d like you to send a potential opening paragraph for such a piece, and then a brief outline of how you might imagine structuring the rest of the essay. It can just be a few bullet points describing different sections, or involve more detail, but we’ll be talking more about how you’ve chosen to structure the essay for your reader, than about the argument or ideas. So try to think about the logic of essay not only in terms of what best serves the argument, but also how it can hold the interest of a reader who may have little initial investment in your topic. Please also suggest a (non-academic) publication where you could imagine such a piece being published.If you are accepted into the workshop, please  submit your writing for the workshop  here: (or paste this URL into your browser: <>. Deadline for submissionsTuesday Feb 4 by 10 p.m.To reserve a place in the workshop,  please send an email to and, in which you tell us what your topic / article is going to be about, and why you want to attend (max 1 single spaced page). Don’t forget to include your name, your email, and your department, no later than January 31 by 5 p.m. The workshop is intended for faculty members and graduate students, but we may also accept exceptionally committed undergraduates.

Co-Sponsored by the English Department’s Working Group on Writing and Academic Work