What ever happened with that liberal intellectual "boom" of the 1980s and 1990s? In The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual, Eric Lott--author of the prizewinning Love and Theft--shows that the charter members of the "new left" are suffering from a condition that he has dubbed "boomeritis." Too secure in their university appointments, lecture tours, and book deals, the once rising stars of the liberal elite--including Richard Rorty, Todd Gitlin, Michael Lind, Paul Berman, Greil Marcus, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.--have drifted away from their radical moorings toward the political center. At once a chronicle of recent intellectual life and a polemic against contemporary liberalism's accommodations of the conservative status quo, The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual eviscerates the complacency that has seeped into the politics of the would-be vanguard of American intellectual thought. Lott issues a wake-up call to the great public intellectuals of our day and challenges them to reinvigorate political debate on campus, in their writing, and on the airwaves.
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US Kirkus Review »
In a dense diatribe thick with quotations and allusions, Lott (American Studies/Univ. of Virginia) argues that liberals have flocked away from the left and settled on the center, if not to the right, of the political power line. The author has weighed in on matters of race and culture before, and here he seems determined to mention and/or quote and/or trash everything he's read and heard in the dozen years since the publication of Love and Theft (1993). His thesis-that many "liberals" have moved toward the center-is engaging enough, though fairly patent, and his almost giddy assaults on famous intellectuals are occasionally entertaining. Cornel West, he writes, can be "mealy-mouthed." Lott lacerates politicians, celebrities and Founding Fathers, as well: Bills Clinton and Cosby take some unkind cuts, the former for his "habits of racial condescension," the latter for his "townhouse jive," while Thomas Jefferson is condemned as the philosophical godfather of Strom Thurmond. The author seems incapable of crafting a clear, declarative sentence, and on his holiday tree of prose he strings not lights but anvils and bowling balls. Time and again, the book is weighed down by long quotations from texts he assails and with lists of writers whose opinions he abhors or wishes to ridicule. He alludes too frequently to talks he heard at academic conferences in the 1990s, or essays he read in esoteric journals. Only in his epilogue, a compelling account of labor disputes at the University of Virginia, does Lott appear to be writing for anyone other than himself. Some significant ideas caught in a hopeless tangle of academic jargon and unpruned prose. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Eric Lott
Eric Lott is a Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is the author of the award-winning Love and Theft: Blackface, Minstrelsy, and the American Working Class, which won the 1994 Avery O. Craven Award from OAH, the first annual MLA Prize for a First Book, and the 1994 Outstanding Book on the Subject of Human Rights by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights. Lott's writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Village Voice, The Nation, Transition, and American Quarterly. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.