Class acts

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Virtually zero linguistic content in this story (unless you count the tie between language and other aspects of presentation of self), though it's an ACADEMIC story, and the Language Loggers all have academic associations (we're in the academy or in associated technological fields or participate in the Industry of the Intellect in some other way).

(If you feel cheated by this failure to follow the Language Log charter, as you understand it, then apply for a refund of your fees — we guarantee full money back — by submitting the relevant forms to our local planning department, on Alpha Centauri.)

On to the story, from the NYT Magazine of Sunday 21 September, where the Style section (pp. 88-91) is a fashion spread ("Class Acts") featuring professors. On-line slide show here.

How did this come to be? Well, the magazine was doing one of its topical issues ("It's All About Teaching", in this case), in which it does its best to have everything in the issue relate to the topic. There are stories about Barack Obama's teaching methods and about Daniel Shapiro (Harvard) teaching people to negotiate, and more, and all the columns are connected to teaching in some way: Virginia Heffernan's media column is about online lecturers, William Safire's language column about campus slang, Randy Cohen's ethics column about ethical conflicts for professors, Rob Walker's consumer column about a corporate-sponsored marketing course, Daphne Beal's food column about cooking learned during a junior year in Nepal, and so on.

Then there's the professorial fashion spread ("These professors make academia look good"), with photographs by Christopher Kim of six academics (three women, three men, ranging in age and style of dress): Wendy Steiner (English, Penn), Willard Spiegelman (English, Southern Methodist), Lisa Randall (physics, Harvard), Ken Miller (biology, Brown), Annalisa Crandall (mathematics, Franklin and Marshall), and Michael Taussig (anthropology, Columbia). Taussig, who says that his job

is an exercise in "cross fertilizing" ideas among science, art, storytelling and criticism: "It's ultimately impossible to collapse these distinctions"

is probably the closest to linguistics.

The professors were photographed in clothing they would actually wear in class — except for cultural critic Wendy Steiner, who admitted:

I'm wearing clothes that no professor would dare wear in the classrooom.

[Added 9/27, on distant Language Log relevance: Mark Liberman notes that he co-taught a course with Wendy Steiner back in 1999: Humanities 100, "Human Nature".]

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