"More than the academic, the autodidact, or the amateur, the polymath is the figure in whom three crucial developments in literature’s modern history as a discipline and a profession converge. The first is the increasingly specialized organization of intellectual labor. The second, which is related to the first, is the decline of classical and vernacular language acquisition. The third is the feminization of language education. The three developments structure one of the greatest (and most delightful) experimental novels of the twenty-first century, Helen DeWitt's The Last Samurai. Its philological aesthetic conjures up the fantasy of an educational system that would join together what professionalization has separated: language and literature; art and craft; cognitive labor and manual labor; technical expertise and aesthetic judgment."
Merve Emre is a contributing writer at The New Yorker and the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America, The Ferrante Letters, and The Personality Brokers. She is the editor of Once and Future Feminist, The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway, and The Norton Modern Library Mrs. Dalloway. She is finishing a book titled Post-Discipline: Literature, Professionalism, and the Crisis of the Humanities and writing a book called Love and Other Useless Pursuits. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Review of Books, Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, American Literary History, PMLA, and elsewhere. Her many honors include a Philip Leverhulme Prize, the Robert B. Silvers Prize for Literary Criticism, and the National Book Critics Circle’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.She is a 22-23 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the Shapiro Center at Wesleyan University.