Culture and Icons

Culture and Icons

It was not long ago that very few readers had heard of Michael Eric Dyson. However, during the past five years Dyson has been an intellectual whirlwind. His writings have appeared in many national journals, he has published two books, appeared on Oprah, testified before Congress, and delivered many, many lectures both in this country and abroad. Articles in the New Yorker, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Atlantic Monthly have called him one of our nation’s most prominent public intellectuals.

But one has not been exposed to the Michael Dyson experience until one has heard him speak. His rhetorical flourishes have left many audiences gasping, for Dyson is able to integrate the polysyllabic vernacular of academic philosophy with the cadences of black urban speech. At his best, Dyson harnesses his verbal mastery in engaging discussions. From the reports of others, Dyson at his worst can appear to be more fluff than substance. (I, for one, have rarely seen Dyson when he wasn’t in top form.)

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