Absent Minds (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
In Absent Minds Stefan Collini examines a puzzle that has occupied cultural commentators for more than a century. Why is it that Britain no longer seems to have any intellectuals? In fact, has Britain ever had any intellectuals? If it did, what happened to them? From the outset Collini’s intention is to dispel this myth of absence, but, as he points out, to do so is to raise a new set of questions. Why do people so badly want to believe in the nonexistence of British intellectuals, and why has this concern persisted over the years? As Collini observes, there is a “rich tradition of debate about the question of intellectuals,” which suggests that the issue has been a regular cause of anxiety.
Collini argues that the denial of the existence of intellectuals, or of a clearly identifiable intellectual community, is a prominent aspect of national self-definition within Britain. Furthermore, those who might be identified as intellectuals are quick to disown the title, suggesting that while it might apply to others, it does not apply to them. Ultimately, the understanding seems to be that intellectuals are a species not native to Britain but instead a foreign import, and thus to be regarded with suspicion. Collini’s intention is to demonstrate that this perception is false and to show that Britain does possess its own indigenous intellectuals and always has, no matter how reluctant they might be to embrace the title.
(The entire section is 1705 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
The Nation 282, no. 21 (May 29, 2006): 53-57.
New Criterion 25, no. 1 (September, 2006): 52-57.
New Statesman 135, no. 4786 (April 3, 2006): 50-51.
The Spectator 300, no. 9269 (April 1, 2006): 57-58.
The Times Literary Supplement, April 14, 2006, pp. 3-4.
(The entire section is 27 words.)