I am an editor at Commonweal magazine. My writing has appeared in the New York Times, Hedgehog Review, Aeon, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other places. You can find links to pieces below. Harvard University Press published my book on Walter Benjamin and Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Fall of Language, in 2019. For more about my academic work, see my academia.edu page.


Review of You and Your Profile: Identity After Authenticity by Hans-Georg Mueller and Paul J. D'Ambrosio.

Screenshot 2021-07-01 154256.png

What we’ve witnessed of late is a tightening of this union between the bureaucratic logic of institutions and the pseudo-liberatory logic of affluent students and young people. 


A significant chunk of our lives involves gaping at screens, finger hovering over the send button, weighing our options, strategizing, obsessing over what will happen next. 


In a little-watched 1947 comedy, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, directed by Preston Sturges, the title character, an accountant, takes shelter against the bureaucratic drudgery of his existence with a literal wall of clichés. 


The key to Trump's success is an ability to import into politics a concept of authenticity that comes straight from reality TV and new media.

Stern-small-banner (1).jpg

“Even true things shouted from loudspeakers start to sound like lies.” So reads a loose translation of a line from Italian novelist Leonardo Sciascia. The pandemic has made it easy to see what he meant.

Screenshot 2021-05-12 104948.png

We spend our youth trying to figure out who we are; our later years trying to stay true to ourselves; and the time in-between in crisis about whether we are who we thought we were.

Screenshot 2021-04-23 154426.png

Human beings are brazen animals. We have lifted ourselves out of the world – or we think we have – and now gaze back upon it detached, like researchers examining a focus group through one-way glass. 

Screenshot 2021-04-24 103754.png

The virtue of analogies for Wittgenstein consists in “changing our way of seeing.”

Screenshot 2021-04-24 113122.png

Perhaps it should not strike us as a surprise that, as we take technology-aided excursions from our medium-sized home into the worlds of the tiny and the distant, we become perplexed.

Screenshot 2022-01-03 140502.png

 Walter Benjamin viewed fascism as an attempt to mobilize the public in such a way that it could express a desire for a different kind of society, with “changed property relations,” while leaving those relations intact. When you want expression without effect, you get aesthetics.

Screenshot 2021-04-23 093706.png

“Something once expressed, however absurd, fortuitous or wrong it may be, because it has been once said, so tyrannizes the sayer as his property that he can never have done with it.” 

Screenshot 2021-04-23 164445.png

We have ceased to pursue convenience for what it does for us and now pursue it for its own sake. 

Screenshot 2021-04-24 105918.png

The feuilleton section became a battleground over the meaning of modernity. The controversy it generated prefigured present-day concerns about the deterioration of attention and the media’s role in shaping—or, as Walter Benjamin suggested, generating—public opinion.


Language not only captures experience, it conditions it. It sets expectations for experience and gives shape to it as it happens.