New Public Intellectuals

  • New York Institute for the Humanities 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor New York, NY, 10003 United States

New Public Intellectuals

A panel conversation with:
Jon BaskinThe Point
Sarah LeonardThe Nation
Nikil Savaln+1

Moderated by Caitlin Zaloom, NYU, Public Books
Organized by John PalattellaThe Nation

Graduate students contribute to many major journals of ideas and politics, both in print and online—a phenomenon that has existed for many years. What is new is the extent to which students are involved in launching and sustaining a host of new publications that are also part of the current renaissance in cultural journalism: n+1The New InquiryJacobin, and The Point, among others. While students wrote for pioneering publications such as Lingua FrancaThe Baffler, and Feed during the last flourishing of a journalism of ideas in the mid- to late 1990s, they didn’t aspire to found publications of their own.

“New Public Intellectuals” will look at the place of graduate students in this current revival and assess their status in relation to the academy and to journalism. Given the precariousness of the job market in both academia and journalism, why do graduate students opt to have a foot in these two realms? What do they see are the benefits, and to what extent do they see their interventions in both realms as correctives? What are their intellectual and journalistic aspirations? How in particular have they been influenced by the shortcomings of graduate study in the humanities, or of scholarship in the humanities more generally, or of ideas journalism?

By lowering the barriers of entry for new publications, the web has been a crucial factor in the current revival and the participation of graduate students in it. But how have expectations for magazines on the web changed over the last decade and in turn shaped the aspirations of these new publications? Can the critical ethos of the “little magazine” survive online, where prestige, if not economic survival, depends the endless chase of more hits and more likes? Can a passion for journalism of ideas about art and politics coexist with this silicon-valley ethos? Or is it this start-up ethos that has given rise to the revival of ideas journalism? Is it possible to have the big thoughts of a little magazine while also getting big?

About the Participants

Jon Baskin is a founding editor of The Point magazine and a PhD candidate in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, on David Foster Wallace and fiction as philosophical therapy, will be completed this spring.

Sarah Leonard is senior editor at The Nation, and co-editor of The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century (Metropolitan, 2016). She is also editor-at-large at Dissent and a contributing editor to The New Inquiry. She also teaches a course on new media at New York University’s Gallatin School.

John Palattella is the literary editor of The Nation. His writing has appeared in The NationThe London Review of BooksThe Guardian, and elsewhere.

Nikil Saval is an editor of n+1 and the author of Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace.

Caitlin Zaloom is Editor in Chief at Public Books and Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU. She is the author of Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London.

Cosponsored by the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, The Nation, and Public Books.

Free and open to the public; RSVP required. To RSVP, please send an email to with the subject “RSVP NEW PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS” and your first and last name in the body of the email.