Thursday, March 12, 2009

Louis Menand

Though readers of the New Yorker might identify him as a gifted book critic and stylish essayist—his pieces are 2004 National Magazine Award finalists in both categories—professor of English and American literature and language Louis Menand considers himself an "intellectual historian. I’m interested in where ideas come from, and the influence of one writer on another." His book The Metaphysical Club absorbed 10 years ("It was fun," he says), and won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for history. It shows how Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey launched pragmatism and moved "American thought into the modern world." Menand does "a version of American studies," he says. "But nothing before the nineteenth century." Known as "Luke" since childhood (his eponymous father taught political science at MIT), Menand earned a degree in creative writing from Pomona College in 1973, then spent one year at Harvard Law School. "I didn’t have the personality to be a lawyer," he says. "I don’t like to argue." Instead, he earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia, then taught at Princeton and CUNY before coming to Harvard last fall. Menand teaches courses on the Jameses (Henry, William, and Alice), and on the art and thought of the Cold War period from 1945 to 1965, the subject of his next book. With his wife, Emily, and two adolescent sons in Manhattan, he commutes between there and Beacon Hill. Menand’s elegant prose doesn’t emerge from revision: "I don’t write drafts," he explains. "My habit is to write one draft, very deliberately." Will there someday be a novel, a screenplay? "Ha!" he says. "I wish." (bio taken here)

A conversation (interview) between Louis Menand and Michael Bernstein:

*Also, click here for a lecture by Louis Menand regarding his Pulizer Prize winning book The Metaphysical Club

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Father George Coyne

Professor Coyne completed his bachelor's degree in mathematics and his licentiate in philosophy at Fordham University, New York City, in 1958. He carried out a spectrophotometric study of the lunar surface for the completion of his doctorate in astronomy at Georgetown University in 1962. He spent the summer of 1963 doing research at Harvard University, the summer of 1964 as a National Science Foundation lecturer at the University of Scranton, and the summer of 1965 as visiting research professor at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (UA LPL).

A member of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) since the age of 18, he completed a licentiate in sacred theology at Woodstock College, Woodstock, Maryland, and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1965. Coyne was visiting assistant professor at the UA LPL in 1966-67 and 1968-69, and visiting astronomer at the Vatican Observatory in 1967-68. (bio taken here)

Richard Dawkins and Father George Coyne discuss various topics related to science and religion:

Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer is an editor at large for Seed Magazine. He's also written for The New Yorker, Nature, the Boston Globe and is a contributer to Radio Lab and Scientific American Mind. He's the author of Proust Was A Neuroscientist. His new book is How We Decide.

Click Here for a conversation between Jonah Lehrer and Christopher Lydon