Spring 2009

Foreword

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Long committed to supporting intellectual life in the nation, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at the beginning of the new century decided to focus new effort on fostering the intellectual development of the next generation of scholars. Accordingly, in 2002 the Visiting Scholars Program began, resulting from the efforts of Chief Executive Officer Leslie Berlowitz. At the beginning, the chancellors or presidents of nine universities and colleges supported the enterprise; that number has now grown to fifty-two. Administrators of these institutions realize, as do concerned scholars at the Academy, the paucity of available resources to sustain the research of those holding new PhDs, who suffer either from academic unemployment or from demanding non-tenured assistant professorships. Several foundations have also provided generous assistance. The accomplishments of the first seven classes of Scholars since their fellowships suggest how valuable their year at the Academy was to them. They have published numerous books, and all of them have achieved appropriate academic or research appointments.

The present issue of Dædalus introduces the work of early-career scholars to a wider audience. Their essays suggest the broad range of interests among their generation. They write of the present and of the past, of problems in public health education and of Civil War atrocities. They take up theoretical issues (for example, “Anti-Intellectualism as Romantic Discourse”) and practical ones (“Rebalancing American Foreign Policy”); vast concerns (“What Does It Mean to Be an American?”) and carefully limited ones (“The Rise and Fall of New Left Urbanism”). Their work derives from several academic disciplines, including anthropology, philosophy, political science, and various forms of history. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of their contributions is the consistently high level of engagement they demonstrate. One index of the scholars’ engagement is the ambition of their enterprises. Whether they deal with policy questions or with more purely academic concerns, they take a large view of their subjects, pondering the implications of what they’re doing. They write responsibly, supporting their arguments with solid information. The essays remind us of what academic rigor can bring to matters of social policy; they illustrate the value of historical perspective on current issues; at their best, they suggest the sheer excitement of thought. They dramatize the promise of a new academic generation.

This issue of Dædalus also recognizes five emerging poets of exceptional promise and distinguished achievement. All are recipients of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’s Poetry Prize, established to honor the memory of longtime Academy Fellow May Sarton, a poet, novelist, and teacher who during her career encouraged the work of young poets. The prizewinners were selected by a group of prominent American poets, all Fellows of the Academy: Paul Muldoon, Carl Phillips, Charles Simic, C. D. Wright, and Adam Zagajewski.