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Celebrating Claire Potter
A farewell note from Jim Miller, Executive Editor of Public Seminar
May 25, 2023
This week I am bidding farewell to Claire Bond Potter, who for the last three years has been my co-executive editor at Public Seminar. More than a colleague, Claire is a friend who has also been a comrade in arms during some challenging times.
Claire is retiring from The New School as well as from her post as co-executive editor of Public Seminar, in part to focus on her own writing.
An academic historian by training, she published her first trade book with Basic in 2020, Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How Alternative Media Hooked Us on Politics and Broke Our Democracy. Besides being a beloved teacher at The New School and, before that, Wesleyan University, Claire was a pioneering blogger, whose “Tenured Radical” column was hosted from 2011 to 2015 at The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Since Claire is staying on as a contributing editor at Public Seminar, you’ll still be seeing her stuff on a regular basis. When she’s not up on our site, you’ll find her on Substack, where her “Political Junkie” newsletter offers incisive commentary on politics, culture and media; or in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Dissent, or Jacobin. She’ll also be working on what is sure to be the definitive biography of Susan Brownmiller, the veteran feminist, activist, and journalist.
As I say farewell to my co-executive editor, we at Public Seminar wanted to treat our readers to our own personal selection of some of Claire’s greatest hits, harvested from the archives of Public Seminar.
With her historical insight and gimlet eye for the absurdities of academia, as well as the horrors of American politics, Claire has a knack for knocking out stories that remain—even as the news cycle moves on—evergreen.
Here are some perennial favorites.
—Jim Miller, Executive Editor of Public Seminar
On JFK’s queer White House: “President John F. Kennedy has become infamous for his vivid, and some might say almost compulsive, heterosexual affairs. But straight men can have a gay side, and JFK’s life was filled with prominent gay men, friendships which open the door to other histories.” (December 13, 2018)
On Joan Didion’s legacy: “Feminists made revolutions. Didion watched revolutions, distilled them, and laid them bare. The two things could not be more different.” (January 26, 2022)
On why women are still second-class citizens: “If you want to help me develop a feminist conspiracy theory, we can start right here: restricting the right to control their own fertility and child-bearing is probably the best way to push women as a class out of well-paid jobs of all kinds and into ill-paid part-time or contractor work.” (Mary 8, 2023)
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In conversation with socialist feminist Nancy Fraser about her recent book, Cannibal Capitalism: “While we should all still be reading Marx, Marx could not anticipate the nature of these twenty-first-century crises.” (May 1, 2023)
On the un-canceling of Philip Roth biographer Blake Bailey: “The little-discussed coda to Bailey’s canceling by Norton was his rapid and largely unremarked-upon, un-canceling. Released from the Norton contract and with a fully produced book in hand, Bailey re-sold the book . . . This has received very little attention from anyone, much less the cancelers or the journalists who covered the cancellation, making Bailey’s roller-coaster ride an interesting insight into how the grassroots popular justice we call ‘cancel culture’ might play out in the future.” (August 25, 2021)
On Phillis Wheatley’s lost years, in a conversation with historian Cornelia H. Dayton: “She didn’t go far from Boston, but a keen-eyed historian glimpsed her in the archive—and that find opens up a door to both the poet’s marriage and the final years of slavery in Massachusetts.” (March 16, 2022)
On conservative culture warriors in New York’s private schools: “The right-wing of the Republican party, which is fond of slogans and not so fond of policy, is goading angry white Americans with the canard that all forms of racial justice are a radical conspiracy to ‘replace’ white people with people of color and immigrants.” (April 20, 2021)
In a Why Now? podcast conversation with historian with Sam Franklin on the cult of creativity: “Although creativity sits at the center of many things we value as Americans—art, inventiveness, problem-solving, and all the culture industries—most people would be hard put to define what creativity is. However, to paraphrase Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart in the 1964 pornography case, Jacobellis v. Ohio, we know it when we see it.” (May 17, 2023)