In this fascinating essay, Eric Miller, author of the excellent intellectual biography, Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch, reflects on his experience at the 2011 U.S. Intellectual History Conference. Miller’s perspective is, I think, pretty different from many attendees, which makes this essay that much more interesting. A small sample:
It was most basically a tradition at play, serious play. Even liberal modernity requires earthy sites of institutionalized ritual (think panel+respondent+Q&A, or wine and cheese receptions, or “business meetings”), although the underground suite of grey classrooms we huddled within at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York could hardly be described as “earthy”—dull windowless rooms lit in florescent white and cluttered with wires, screens, and plastic chairs.
The upshot, though, like most of the rest of us, Miller enjoyed himself, thinking that, just perhaps, he found an intellectual community that suits him. For those of you who wish to see if our intellectual community is the right one for you, submit a proposal for this year’s conference.