Dr Cassandra Atherton presents at the Public Intellectual Conference: March 31 – April 2, 2016, Boston, MA.
Currently, I’m excited to be preparing for the Public Intellectual Conference at the end of next week. The first time I attended the Harvard Public Intellectual Conference was in 2013 and it’s fair to say I was terrified. The written material stated:
This conference seeks to bring together scholars and researchers in all disciplines whose work focuses on public intellectuals in the 20th and 21st centuries. We hope to engage these issues while moving beyond past debates into new considerations of the role of intellectuals in public life. The conference also seeks to provide a forum for self-reflection by public intellectuals in the past and present.
Only 20 – 25 scholars are selected across the globe and the expectation is that everyone attends all sessions and contributes to discussion after each paper. In 2013, I gave my paper on the public intellectual and jargon, using my interviews with Noam Chomsky, Todd Gitlin, Camille Paglia and Harold Bloom to inform my piece. I’m pleased to say that it went over really well and I was excited to be asked to attend the following year – and every year since. I think the best thing about the conference is the expectation that people are collegial and won’t use the discussion time to try and prove their intellectual superiority – there is a very old but well-known phrase “You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much”. I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case at this conference.
This year, the conference is exploring the connections between public intellectuals and the political sphere. Professor Larry Friedman is the Chair of the conference and generous with his comments and suggestions on all the papers. I know I’ll come away with some exciting ideas and brilliant new friends!