We have some queries of our own about why anyone would embark on a project such as this one, but since you’d probably prefer responses to questions you might actually ask, we’ll attempt to answer a few of those. (We can save our existentialist interrogations for a therapist, if we happen to meet one.) Here we go:
1. What’s an excursus and are you even sure it’s a word?
Alright, we know you literary types out there are intimately familiar with excursus and have authored at least a few of your own, but we thought we’d address this for those who have misplaced their membership cards to the order of the literati. Simply put, an excursus (plural: excursus) is a long intellectual digression in a piece of writing. If you’d like a more detailed definition, the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (3rd edition) offers a good one.
2. Wait a second! The site is called Excursus Verses. Does everything here rhyme?
It’s always fun to write a pun, but nothing on earth beats the poetry of Keats. Now that you’ve experienced the extent of our poetic prowess, you’ll be relieved to know the answer, in a word, is “no.” So, will there be any verses? Not literally, but you might say literarily (we promised a pun, and we might as well make it terrible), in that verses are the inspiration for the slightly shorter-than-normal forms of excursus on offer here. If pressed, we’ll admit we also chose the site’s name because “excursus” is one of our favorite words, as it was for David Foster Wallace, and we particularly enjoy the way “excursus verses” rolls right off the tongue (as long as it isn’t stuck in your cheek).
3. What topics do you cover, and in what form?
That’s really two questions, but we like the way they get right to the basics of what we hope to do on the site. As a starting point, we’re writing about the things we know, including higher ed, the humanities, culture, digital innovation, and nonprofit strategy. This may evolve over time, depending on the expertise of our contributors.
One main reason Excursus Verses isn’t a blog in the traditional sense is that our essays and articles find their inspiration in the eloquent excursus of yore: though shorter and less dense than their historical models, as well as averting the complexity of scholarly articles, our excursus are essays that nevertheless seek a certain level of depth and attempt to re-engage in a form of lively written discourse that we hope has a place in the digital age. Whether we succeed is a different matter altogether.
4. How often are new articles published?
That’s another reason Excursus Verses isn’t a blog: we have no intention of abiding by the cardinal rule of proper blogging, which requires daily updates at a minimum. For the time being, we’re publishing items semi-regularly or, if you prefer, not-too-infrequently. Okay, that was vague even for us, so let’s say we’d love to post something at least once a week, but are more realistically aiming for a bi-weekly schedule.
5. Can I subscribe to Excursus Verses?
Absolutely, and we’d be tickled pink if you would! Simply sign up on our Subscription page, and we’ll notify you by email of new items.
And, finally, a bit about us—or I should say “me.” At launch, Excursus Verses is a space for me to share some of my thoughts with (and about) the world at large. I intend to write semi-regularly on topics about which I have some expertise or familiarity.
Recently, I have been working in analysis and strategy for a variety of organizations, after completing a Ph.D. in comparative literature (with a focus on intellectual history). Initial areas of exploration on Excursus Verses will therefore include business strategy, the humanities, and culture. Ater more than a decade teaching at such institutions as Columbia, Princeton and the École Normale Supérieure (France), I am also interested in examining questions relating to higher education specifically, and the improvement of education more broadly.
Drawing on past experiences working for organizations as diverse as the Department of State, the American Red Cross, and Microsoft, some of my other reflections will touch on public policy, philanthropy and nonprofit program development, as well as the role of digital innovations in the varied spheres with which they intersect.
— Benjamin Young
Editor, Excursus Verses