Louis Menand

Louis Menand
Photograph by Stu Rosner

Though readers of the New Yorker might identify him as a gifted book critic and stylish essayist—his pieces are 2004 National Magazine Award finalists in both categories—professor of English and American literature and language Louis Menand considers himself an "intellectual historian. I'm interested in where ideas come from, and the influence of one writer on another." His book The Metaphysical Club absorbed 10 years ("It was fun," he says), and won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for history. It shows how Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey launched pragmatism and moved "American thought into the modern world." Menand does "a version of American studies," he says. "But nothing before the nineteenth century." Known as "Luke" since childhood (his eponymous father taught political science at MIT), Menand earned a degree in creative writing from Pomona College in 1973, then spent one year at Harvard Law School. "I didn't have the personality to be a lawyer," he says. "I don't like to argue." Instead, he earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia, then taught at Princeton and CUNY before coming to Harvard last fall. Menand teaches courses on the Jameses (Henry, William, and Alice), and on the art and thought of the Cold War period from 1945 to 1965, the subject of his next book. With his wife, Emily, and two adolescent sons in Manhattan, he commutes between there and Beacon Hill. Menand's elegant prose doesn't emerge from revision: "I don't write drafts," he explains. "My habit is to write one draft, very deliberately." Will there someday be a novel, a screenplay? "Ha!" he says. "I wish."

     

You might also like

Harvard Overhauls Disciplinary Procedures

To cope with violations of University statement on rights and responsibilities

Harvard’s Development Chief Departs

Brian Lee to step down at end of 2024

Immigrant Workers— America’s Engine?

Harvard economist Jason Furman on immigration and the U.S. economy.

Most popular

Mechanical Intelligence and Counterfeit Humanity

Reflections on six decades of relations with computers

Harvard Overhauls Disciplinary Procedures

To cope with violations of University statement on rights and responsibilities

The Placebo Phenomenon

An ingenious researcher finds the real ingredients of “fake” medicine.

More to explore

Relabeling Medical Definitions for Obesity in the United States

For obesity patients, improved treatments and a nuanced understanding of the disease may lead to better health.

How Was Brooklyn Bridge Park Planned?

Michael Van Valkenburgh and the making of Brooklyn Bridge Park

The Mystery Behind an Incan Tunic

Unraveling an Inca masterpiece’s secrets