Hot Takes: Cultural Criticism in the Digital Age


The twenty-first century has seen a new and exciting wave of cultural criticism, and along with it a new wave of public intellectuals. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Jia Tolentino, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Livingstone, Hanif Abdurraqib-at their best, writers like these aspire to the sort of indispensability on political, social, and artistic matters that their forebears like Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, and James Baldwin had at midcentury. But these voices are unique because they emerged through and alongside a specifically online critical sphere, a space betwixt and between the comments section and the little magazine. This is the space of viral tweets and threads, "hot takes" and "think-pieces." It's a space of potentially greater democratization and diversity even as it is an opportunity for bigots and trolls. These writers are beholden to their networks, but those networks are far wider, more idiosyncratic and inclusive and incendiary-more unstable-than anything buttressing the vaunted public intellectuals of the past. This course examines the cultural critics of the contemporary moment in context of the critical space they opened and now occupy. We'll begin with a quick history of the "public intellectual" from the eighteenth century to the present before we log on. The rise and fall of Gawker, Grantland, and The Awl; The New Republic's controversial digital pivot; the feminist communities of The Hairpin and The Toast; the conservative "intellectual dark web"; the message boards of the early 2000s; the emergence of semi-academic sites like the Los Angeles Review of Books; the blogs and tumblrs and livejournals that nurtured the talents and provocateurs that we now find indispensable or unavoidable. We will dissect their style, understand their theory and practice, engage with their subjects, and investigate the way their writing has intersected with and propelled social media movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and #OscarsSoWhite. And we will consider the
Course Attributes: EN H; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM

Section 01

Hot Takes: Cultural Criticism in the Digital Age
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