Then and Now
Author Archive

The Dissertation: An Unnecessary Evil?

In a piece recently published in Inside Higher Ed, Christopher Schaberg and Ian Bogost discuss their experiences trying to get academics to write for broader audiences and pinpoint ten particular challenges that academics have in reaching wider audiences.   They are certainly right that academics have challenges reaching a wider audience.  As one who has...

The New Switzerland?

Congress is, or at least should be, busy.  Over the next few months it is supposed to tackle reforms to our health care system and tax code and produce a new budget.  Even if not enacted in their present forms (or outlines) – as I hope not – they are bound reshape our economic lives...

How to Turn Your Dissertation into a Book

I will be conducting a workshop at the University of Zurich for advanced graduate students on turning their dissertations into books publishable by (mainly anglophone) university presses.  It will take place over two full days and is focused primarily on doing the intellectual work necessary to generate the draft of a book proposal.  I am...

And Moses Said Unto the GOP…

The other day Nicholas Kristoff published a satirical take-down of Paul Ryan and his budget priorities in the New York Times.  He imagines a conversation between Ryan and Jesus, in which Ryan pushes back on Jesus’ call to have mercy on those who are poor .  Such mercy, Ryan essentially argues, amounts to a policy...

Tagging the Talmud

This essay is cross-posted at thetalmud.com where it kicks off a series on digital humanities. The other week I attended a workshop called Classical Philology Goes Digital Workshop in Potsdam, Germany.  The major goal of the workshop, which was also tied to the Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities was to further the work of creating and analyzing...

Telling the Story of the Holocaust in Germany. Or Not.

It must be a daunting task to memorialize the Holocaust. The fact is, there is no real way to do this right. No matter how good your representation, in whatever medium, you know that you will face harsh, withering criticism. There is simply no way around this. The Holocaust is too raw and has too...

Evaluating University Teaching

At most colleges and universities, the granting of tenure and promotion is based on achievement in three key areas: scholarship, teaching, and service.  Measuring scholarship and service is not exactly straight-forward, but is still a relatively clear process that usually involves some combination of tallying things up and soliciting input from both external reviewers and...

Paying for College in 1803

When I pay our son’s college tuition I am given a variety of options, from full payment up-front to installment plans, but no matter how I pay I must use U.S. currency.  Which raises the question, before there was a standard U.S. currency, how did students pay their college tuition? I have been reviewing the...

America First

America leads through its values.  A hackneyed phrase if there ever was one and one that I never took seriously until this week. The true meaning of this phrase – and particularly of the key ambiguous words “leads” and “values” – began finally to dawn on me as I followed the ludicrous attempt by Sean...

Digital Preservation

Over the past few years, institutional digital repositories and more broad-based digital “commons” have proliferated.  Many are found at universities (Brown now has one) and sites such as Zenodo and Humanities Commons.  Such platforms serve two purposes.  First, they provide a (relatively) stable environment that can preserve digital data.  Second, they serve as a digital...

Jewish Charity in Antiquity

The online forum Ancient Jew Review recently published three essays on Jewish charity in antiquity, by Alyssa Gray, Gregg Gardner, and Yael Wilfand.  I highly recommend these essays which together provide an excellent introduction to the state of research in this field.  My own response to them was also published here.

Jews and Money: A New Course

Last year I co-taught a class called “Wealth: Religious Approaches” and ran a related workshop, “Jewish Approaches to Wealth and Poverty.”  I am now preparing the sources presented at the workshop for publication and will be teaching a new course based on these previous forays, called “Jews and Money.”  I had originally intended this course...