Stephen Greenblatt was recently interviewed by the Boston Globe:

“I, like most academics when we write for other academics, expect a very small number of readers who happen to be already engaged in the subject. [When you write for a general audience], you might think you make a huge jump out to a different world. The truth is, though, I never believed that the gap is as big as academics think it is. When I was a freshman in college, someone said in a lecture, ‘It was Descartes, of course, who said that . . . ’ I thought, of course? Who’s Descartes? What do you mean of course? I always resented that particular tone that academics take, that you should already be in the know. I had never heard of Descartes, and there was no reason I should have. The single biggest difference in writing for a narrow academic audience is not simplifying or talking down — I hate all that language. It’s just not true. If you want to mention Descartes, you explain who Descartes is, and you don’t say, ‘Of course.’”

Read more