Is Anything More American Than Oklahoma! in Oklahoma?

Forget Broadway’s Reopening—The Nation’s Artistic Heartbeat Is at Its Center

If there’s a more rambunctious and promiscuous genre than musical theater, I haven’t met it yet.

Musicals are an everywhere phenomenon. They touch an enormously broad swath of American lives, unapologetically building worlds that don’t yet exist. I see this commitment to the not-yet as an aspiration for the rest of us stuck living in the here-and-now.

I recently wrote a book about musicals, and visited communities in the heartland that were using musical theater to help understand their place in this country. I watched an original musical about Samson and Delilah …

In Defense of the Untranslatable  | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

In Defense of the Untranslatable 

There’s Value in the Mystery When Feelings Exceed the Words We Have to Define Them

As usual, e.e. cummings was on to something. We feel before we think. Words are a process built to describe—to translate—those feelings into thoughts with agreed-upon meanings. So far, so good. But feelings are anything but a …

Genius Alone Doesn’t Advance Big Ideas

World-Changing Thought Depends on the Social Context, Too

Where do big new ideas come from—the kind that break the mold and change how we see the world? As a sociologist, this has long been an interest of mine. …

Mapping Big Thinkers and Their Ideas

Viewing Clusters Over Time Provides Insights into Networks of Influence

To understand where ideas come from and how they evolve over time, sociologist Randall Collins mapped the networks of 3,000 philosophers and mathematicians, a yeoman project that took him on …

How Intimacy Fuels Intellectual Breakthroughs

Canadian Philosopher Charles Taylor’s Friendship With Indian Scholars Has Inspired Bold Ideas for Over 40 Years

It was, fittingly, through Hegel that I first met Charles Taylor in Oxford. In 1977, I began a post-graduate thesis on Hegel. In love with Western Marxism at that time, …