Montaigne and Academics

There’s been some discussion over on Twitter lately about academic writing and accessibility. I touched on the subject in my upcoming (November 2017) book about Montaigne:

Among Montaigne’s many gifts was an ability to translate both ways between all stations. If you’ve spent much time reading academic journals and papers, you’ll assume this gift is not widespread. In fact, this has become one of my more well-ridden hobby horses, and I recently penned up notes toward an essay on the subject, including the line, “How can we be shocked at the rise of proud anti-intellectualism even as the academy engages in terminal auto-obfuscation?” Shortly thereafter, I encountered a Nicholas Kristof column decrying the incomprehensible jargon of academic publishing and felt further validated. I was reading Kristof and nodding in agreement when, as happens in this hyperlinked age, I wandered off into a world where his conclusions were being questioned. This tangent led me to the blog of Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D., where I shortly discovered that in addition to working as an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, she wrote for a number of non-academic publications. That she worked hard to make esoteric but important academic information understandable and accessible. One of her most effective tools? That dreaded civilization-rotter, Twitter. I put my hobby horse out to graze.

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