Expanding the American Mind
Books and the Popularization of Knowledge
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Table of Contents
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Like any historian, I owe a great deal to librarians, especially those at Arizona State University, the Columbia Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Library, and the Library of Congress. I am also grateful to supportive colleagues at Arizona State University and to my students, especially my research assistant, Paul Tsimahides. Most of ...
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Francis Bacon knew his books, but he got one thing wrong: knowledge is not power. The control of knowledge is power. In any university office one is surrounded by people whose brains are bursting with knowledge yet who have no ...
Chapter 1: Non: The Prefix That Changes What—and How—We Read
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When you walk into most public libraries, you come to the Great Divide: fiction is on one side of the building, nonfiction on the other. We all know what fiction is—novels, short stories, works of the imagination. But nonfiction is harder to define because it is everything else, encompassing many different subjects, purposes, and even genres. How can you define a...
Chapter 2: A Brief History of Popularization
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Serious nonfiction is commonly called popularization, popular science, popular history, and the like. These words, although useful until recently, are now imprecise because, beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, the borders between the popular and the scholarly shifted. The word popularization is also somewhat loaded with negative connotations. (It could be worse, ...
Chapter 3: A Highly Educated Public
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Since the settling of the American colonies, Americans have valued literacy and education, at least for some members of society. In colonial times, men were far more likely to be literate than women, and whites were far more likely to be literate than Native Americans (most of whose cultural traditions were oral and who did not have written languages) or ...
Chapter 4: From Snow to Sokal
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A major battle in the culture wars of postwar academe began when C. P. Snow, a scientist and novelist, delivered the Rede Lecture at Cambridge University in 1959. more than fifty years later the title of its first part, “The Two Cultures,” remains part of the vocabulary of every educated person. The differences between the sciences and the humanities continue to be ...
Chapter 5: Academic Philanthropists
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John Allen Paulos, a prolific popularizer, once took his colleagues to task: “Mathematicians who don’t deign to communicate their subject to a wider audience are a little like multimillionaires who don’t contribute anything to charity.”1 His colleagues might defend themselves with a number of explanations: academics are not rewarded for writing popularizations; current ...
Chapter 6: Writing to Be Read
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It’s eight o’clock in the evening, and you have just settled into a comfortable chair with a paperback: In the early-morning hours of May 16, 1968, Ivy Hodge awoke in her flat on the eighteenth floor of Ronan Point Tower. She had moved into the newly constructed block of apartments in Canning Town, east of London ...
Chapter 7: From Author to Reader
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Editors and publishers are often described as gatekeepers, and to aspiring authors this metaphor evokes images of the troll under the bridge who will not let you pass unless you know the magic word, or perhaps the bouncer at a trendy club. To an editor, though, the word has a different meaning. Editors do control the quality of what they publish, but they must open ...
Chapter 8: Why We Read
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Reading is a mystery. Sales figures, opinion polls, and library circulation statistics collectively tell us something about who reads and what they read, but they shed little light on why people read or what they experience as they read. Theories abound, offered by disciplines ranging from literary theory to clinical psychology, each supported by credible evidence and most consistent ...
Afterword: Popularization and the Future of the Book
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The twenty-first century arrived in the middle of the “information age,” at a time when many people were convinced that the book was fast becoming a relic of another era. They reasoned that if you want up-to-the-minute news, stock quotations, treatments for a new disease, or directories to anything from arborists to zoos, the web is better than a bound volume. Others ...
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Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2010