ABSTRACT

In an essay that addresses many of the factors that mitigate against productive conversation among American academics, Jane Tompkins and Gerald Graff ask “Can We Talk?” as a titular question and then speak about their fears and hopes in a series of written exchanges. Jane is skeptical from the outset:

No, not very well. Too many things get in the way. Pride […] and envy, for example. Academic people are afraid they

might make a mistake, or not have all of the evidence they need, or not look smart or have all of the good arguments on their side; so they keep quiet. They’re afraid to risk what they really think for fear they’ll get shot down.