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The genius of jargon

Marjorie Garber is the queen of US cultural studies. She knows everything and nothing about culture

When I was an editor at Harper’s magazine in New York, I would regularly receive essays from academics hoping to communicate to a wider public. More often than not I was pleasantly surprised by their eloquence and accessibility. Most of these writers knew how to wear their learning lightly, and their essays were a testament to the proposition that clear thinking and good writing are as likely to be found within the university walls as beyond them.

Occasionally the results were not so happy. In particular, I remember a piece by an ambitious young scholar whose prose, he assured me,…

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