Two Yale professors’ writing is bypassing traditional print media and going straight to the blogosphere.
The Yale English department now has two bloggers-in-residence: Amy Hungerford joined David Bromwich two weeks ago as The Huffington Post’s second Yale English Department faculty blogger. Hungerford writes about contemporary fiction, while Bromwich blogs about his political views.
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In early October, The Huffington Post — an online newspaper established in 2005 by media mogul Arianna Huffington that features articles from actors, athletes, politicians, scientists, writers, entrepreneurs and professors — launched the Books section of its Web site in partnership with the New York Review of Books.
Huffington recruited Hungerford to blog for the Web site after hearing the professor speak on a panel during Family Weekend in October, Hungerford said. Huffington was on campus to visit her daughter Christiana Huffington ’12.
Hungerford accepted the offer because she wanted to enter into a dialogue with readers of the blog, she said.
“The Huffington Post and The New York Review of Books have readerships I’m interested in and conversations I’d like to be a part of, ” Hungerford said in a phone interview.
Hungerford, who in recent years has taught the popular course “The American Novel Since 1945,” published her first blog post last month, titled “Wild Things: The Book of the Film of the Book.” The post reviewed Dave Eggers’s book “The Wild Things,” describing Eggers’ success in making “books into serious play.”
The piece was displayed in the “Featured Books Posts” section of the Web site a few hours after Hungerford had written it, she said.
“Academics write for posterity, and our books go into libraries,” Hungerford said. “But to see the ‘Wild Things’ post appear in this published form shortly after I submitted it was exciting.”
Hungerford’s focus on books in her bloggings stems from more than just scholarly and personal interest: she is also concerned about the short shelf-life of books in today’s competitive publishing industry, she said.
“I read in an earlier Huffington post piece that the time a book has to make a buzz is three weeks from publication to its disappearance,” Hungerford said. “If there’s anything I can do to save a good book from this time window, I will do it.”
Her second post, “Slow Sell, or, Why Professors Matter,” addresses the role professors can play in rescuing good books from the short life-span they have on the marketplace.
Ironically, a short life-span is more commonly the norm for many Huffington Post articles. “Slow Sell, or, Why Professors Matter” debuted on a Tuesday night at the top of the “Featured Books Post” list, but newer posts had pushed it more than 10 spots down on the list by the next night.
But Hungerford is not entirely new to the world of online journalism; in September she published a piece in the online “DoubleX Magazine” titled “A Margaret Atwood Novel with Actual Humans.”
And the English Department is not entirely new to The Huffington Post, either.
Bromwich started writing for the Post after he and Arianna Huffington met by chance in early 2007 and found they had similar political views. Bromwich is a veteran Huffington Post blogger now, with more than 50 posts to date. Unlike Hungerford, Bromwich, who is co-teaching “Lincoln at 200” this semester, blogs about politics. His columns started in mid-2007 during what he described in an e-mail as “critical times in American politics.”
Bromwich’s entries focus on civil liberties, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wrote in an e-mail that he decided to write for The Huffington Post because politicians he respected also participated in the Post’s conversations.
“[The Huffington Post] does a real public service,” Bromwich wrote. “It showed the disaster the Iraq war had turned into, and it was a place where politicians I admired, Russell Feingold and Robert Byrd, were choosing to publish their criticisms of the Bush-Cheney policies.”
None of the five undergraduates interviewed said they knew that Hungerford and Bromwich are blogging, but the students reacted favorably upon learning that Yale professors write for the Huffington Post.
“I think that it’s good that they have beliefs that they’re passionate enough about to want to express,” Kirie Stromberg ’12 said. “The presence of professors on sites like The Huff Post and Slate are going to help improve the sites.”
Katie Odland ’11, who took Hungerford’s “The American Novel since 1945” last semester said she guessed that an energetic professor like Hungerford would make a good blogger.
“Professor Hungerford’s a dynamic lecturer,” Odland said. “I would assume that her writing follows her teaching style. Reviewing and recommending books is what she does for a living, so I don’t have any doubts that her posts would be great.”