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Lost in Thought

The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

Zena Hitz



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Princeton University Pres
24 August 2021
An invitation to readers from every walk of life to rediscover the impractical splendours of a life of learning.

In an overloaded, superficial, technological world, in which almost everything and everybody is judged by its usefulness, where can we turn for escape, lasting pleasure, contemplation, or connection to others? While many forms of leisure meet these needs, Zena Hitz writes, few experiences are so fulfilling as the inner life, whether that of a bookworm, an amateur astronomer, a birdwatcher, or someone who takes a deep interest in one of countless other subjects. Drawing on inspiring examples, from Socrates and Augustine to Malcolm X and Elena Ferrante, and from films to Hitz’s own experiences as someone who walked away from elite university life in search of greater fulfilment, Lost in Thought is a passionate and timely reminder that a rich life is a life rich in thought.

Today, when even the humanities are often defended only for their economic or political usefulness, Hitz says our intellectual lives are valuable not despite but because of their practical uselessness. And while anyone can have an intellectual life, she encourages academics in particular to get back in touch with the desire to learn for its own sake, and calls on universities to return to the person-to-person transmission of the habits of mind and heart that bring out the best in us.

Reminding us of who we once were and who we might become, Lost in Thought is a moving account of why renewing our inner lives is fundamental to preserving our humanity.
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 203mm,  Width: 133mm, 
ISBN:   9780691229195
ISBN 10:   0691229198
Pages:   240
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Zena Hitz is a Tutor in the great books program at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, where she also lives. She has a PhD in ancient philosophy from Princeton University and studies and teaches across the liberal arts. Website: Twitter @zenahitz

Reviews for Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

Zena Hitz, Winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, The Dallas Institute Seminary Coop's Notable Books for 2020 [In Lost in Thought] Hitz is asking the right questions. . . . The question at its heart is disarmingly simple and deeply engaging: What should we do with ourselves. ---Jonathan Marks, Wall Street Journal [An] amazing book. * MC Hammer on Twitter * [Lost in Thought] proved a salutary reminder for me, and may for other readers as well, that we should try to make at least a little space . . . for the contemplative learning that drew us into the life of the mind. ---James M. Lang, Chronicle of Higher Eduation An inspirational attestation of the ability of intellectual activity to dignify oppressed lives. . . . Much of this book is beautiful. ---Sophie Duncan, Literary Review Zena Hitz's Lost in Thought offers a passionate and powerful defense of pure intellectualism and the intrinsic value of the intellectual life. ---Steven Mintz, Inside Higher Ed Hitz's memoir is profoundly affecting as she describes how academic life made her lose her love of learning before, finally, she found a meaningful path. ---Joe Humphreys, Irish Times [Lost in Thought is] full of wonder, full of the joyful smiles of somebody who's been saved, or saved herself, from empty toils of ledger-sheet learning. In her good-natured way, Hitz chastises the increasing commodification of intellectual endeavor. . . . This is a book to savor in your quietest reading nook. Which is very much the point. ---Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Review Everyone who cares about colleges and universities and their place in American life should read it. [Lost in Thought] confronts familiar and abiding questions about intellectual inquiry in an utterly engaging and profound way. . . . [A] wonderful book. ---Flagg Taylor, National Review In her rich and rewarding book Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life, Professor Zena Hitz argues that the goal of education is not the status or privileges it confers upon us, or even the valuable life skills it demands that we acquire. In line with classical pagan and Christian traditions, she argues that we have a natural desire to understand the world outside of us, and that a true education carefully cultivates this natural love of learning and helps to bring it to its full maturity. . . . [A] rich, timely book, a book educators and students alike would do well to read. ---Jennifer A. Frey, Classical Learning Test blog Lost in Thought [is] an examination of conscience or a manual for discernment for those who care about the intellectual life . . . Lost in Thought is the strongest case for the humanities to appear in years. ---Nathaniel Peters, Public Discourse [Zena Hitz's] account is persuasive, not least because it is personal. ---Peter Costello, Irish Catholic Lost in Thought is a rhetorical case for the loveliness of learning for its own sake . . . insightful. ---Pavlos Papadopoulos, Part autobiography, part defense of impractical intellectualism, and part cultural lament, Lost in Thought forces us to contemplate the ways in which we might salvage thoughtfulness-perhaps not through our universities but in spite of them . . . elegant . . . Hitz's book is a valuable opportunity. ---Charles McNamara, Commonweal Very well written and referenced, this book is a reminder that pursuit of the intellectual life, broadly understood, can be of great benefit to individuals and society. * Choice * [An] important book in which [Hitz] reminds us that the humanities are about humanity, and essentially about cultivating an inner life. * Paradigm Explorer * One of the most interesting volumes I've read this year . . . Lost in Thought mounts a direct challenge to anyone who would collapse contemplative work into a mere prelude to political action, gainful employment, or any other utilitarian pursuit. The development of one's 'contemplative side,' for lack of a better term, is an end in itself. And for Hitz, it is the cultivation of this distinctly human faculty that lays the groundwork for enduring joy and flourishing, even in the midst of dire personal circumstances. ---John Ehrett, Patheos [Lost in Thought] is best understood as a kind of intellectual pilgrim's progress: taking us on a tour of the temptations and misunderstandings that prevent us from achieving our nature as thinking beings . . . an absorbing story . . . Lost in Thought helps us to dislodge our dreary preoccupation with transient goods by giving us a glimpse of . . . more lasting satisfactions. ---Jenna Silber Storey, Real Clear Books Lost in Thought [is] a persuasive defense of learning and intellectual life . . . Hitz's breadth of knowledge is on display. ---Aurelian Craiutu, Los Angeles Review of Books The best compliment I can give the author of this excellent book is to note that Lost is Thought itself counts as a perfect example of the elusive thing it tries to capture: splendidly useless yet intrinsically valuable thinking in action. ---Derek van Zoonen, Nexus Instituut [A] lovely . . . meditation . . . [in Lost in Thought] Hitz defends learning for its own sake and takes aim polemically at the canard that such learning is elitist or draws necessary attention away from the properly activist bent of intellectual inquiry . . . accessible [and] jargon-free. ---Matt Dinan, The Hedgehog Review Zena Hitz's wonderful book presents a different and refreshing take on these issues. Focusing on what it means to love learning and learning for learning's sake, she shows us how intellectual activity is part of human flourishing and is essential to our fulfilment. ---Joana Correa Monteiro, Forma De Vida

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