Eric Jarosinski of @NeinQuarterly Talks Twitter, Writing, and Philosophy

Former German Professor Brings #FailedIntellectual Goodwill Tour to Trinity

Hartford, CT, December 8, 2014 – Eric Jarosinki recently left his post as an assistant professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania to do what few academics could imagine making a full-time endeavor: he tweets. He’s turned his tweeting into a remarkably successful venture, amassing almost 100,000 followers in over 100 countries. His work also takes the shape of a newspaper column, a forthcoming book, and his #FailedIntellectual Goodwill Tour, which made its final 2014 stop last week at Trinity.

Though the influence of German philosophers on his work is apparent (his avatar is an image of philosopher Theodor Adorno), he doesn’t call what he does philosophy. Shortly after taking the stage to a banjoist’s rendition of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” Jarosinski said, “I consider what I do to be just writing jokes, and doing it on Twitter. And usually on the bus.”

Eric Jarosinski responds to an audience question read by Julia Goesser Assaiante, lecturer in language and culture studies
Those jokes cover everything from culture and literature to German puns and the difficulties of learning the language (His tip for mastering German adjective endings? “Just try not to describe anything.”) Jarosinski’s writing has been cited as some of the best on the Web by the BBC, the Los Angeles Times, and Rolling Stone.

His Twitter persona shares more with Adorno than just his cartoon likeness. Jarosinski is attempting to revive the aphorism, the concise and memorable form that Adorno favored. He also shares critical theorist Adorno’s negative tone; hence his handle, @NeinQuarterly. Nein. Quarterly is, according to Jarosinki’s Web site, “a critically acclaimed, and non-existent, compendium of utopian negation.”

In her introductory remarks, Julia Goesser Assaiante, lecturer in language and culture studies at Trinity, listed several of the publications in which Jarosinki’s work has appeared, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Der Spiegel, the Wall Street Journal, and others. He also has a regular column in the opinion section of Die Zeit, Germany’s largest newspaper.

Jarosinki finds that his Twitter writing translates well to print. The aphorisms that now appear as 140-characters-or-less tweets actually first appeared in print, in columns not unlike his own. In that sense, Jarosinksi sees his column as the aphorism coming full-circle.

“I’ve been happy to find that the crisis in print media has led to somebody willing to take a chance,” he said of Die Zeit.

Jarosinski’s first book, Nein. A Manifesto, will be released in 2015 in the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Though he recently left academia and proudly boasts of his status as a #FailedIntellectual, he said he hopes to return to teaching one day.

“I would like to teach again. Obviously, what I’m doing now isn’t going to be around forever,” he said.

In the meantime, Jarosinski will continue to take to Twitter to write about philosophy, politics, and culture. That, and “fahrt jokes.”