curriculum vitae


book reviews

personal writing


external links

museum of
corntemporary art

University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Art History
935 W. Harrison (MC 201)
Chicago, IL 60607



For a writer, finding one's voice is a challenge. There is always the tendency to think of one's self as having a particular sensibility, whether serious, comic, or somewhere in between. For a scholar, the question also arises of how to communicate with different audiences from the popular to the academic. Scholars sometimes feel that writing for a broad public reduces the subtlety of their arguments while journalists and critics are often skeptical of what they believe to be scholarly pretensions. In my career, I have sought to address diverse audiences in a style that varies as little as possible from one to another. I have tried to elevate the intellectual level of public discourse, while also producing clearly written and accessible scholarly work.

My earliest published writings were in the Jester, the humor magazine of Columbia College in New York. At Columbia in the early 1960s, I was a literature and film major. After graduation, I had a variety of jobs, none of which appeared to be leading to a scholarly career. It was in the late 1970s, when I was well into my thirties that I embarked on an academic path that led me to become the first person in the United States with a PhD in design history.

As soon as I began teaching at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall of 1982, I was invited to join a small group of colleagues who were planning to found an academic design journal. Together we created Design Issues, which first appeared in 1984 and is now celebrating its 20th anniversary year. I was the journal's editor for the first three years and have been a co-editor since then. Before entering academia I published several popular books on posters and propaganda and wrote a number of book reviews for Chicago newspapers.

As a scholar, I learned to argue with more depth and subtlety although I remained dedicated to a clear accessible writing style. I had, however, abandoned my humorous voice. It was a number of years after I began to write and edit scholarly books and publish academic papers that I returned to my interest in humor. In the tradition of Kurt Vonnegut's sardonic black wit, I wrote several pieces that lampooned academic subjects and the academic life. It felt good to write humor again and I was now comfortable with it as an alternative to my more sober scholarly endeavors.

As a student I had written some humorous ditties but had never taken poetry seriously. I was disturbed when the Bush administration began to bomb Afghanistan and wrote some poems to protest the action. The poems came to me spontaneously. I published several of them in an anthology but the others on this website appear for the first time.

Between my poems and my academic papers, I am presenting here a range of my personal writing, a good deal of which has been published elsewhere but some of which has had no other outlet. When I walked the length of Sunset Boulevard a few years ago, I wrote an essay about the experience but it never appeared in print. I am pleased to include it here, as it chronicles a unique experience. Other pieces besides the poems, humorous essays, and personal writing include some of my book reviews, lectures, and articles on design. I am not posting anything on the site that has been published in one of my own books, as there is no need for duplication. I would simply refer you to the books themselves, which are listed in my CV. I am not sure what I will add to this site in the future, but for the present, I offer a range of my writings in various genres.

I also invite you to read the description of the Museum of Corntemporary Art, a small private art museum that I direct. Located in my office at the University of Illinois, Chicago, it includes more than 400 items drawn from the heights and dregs of popular culture. All qualify as "corntemporary art" because they reveal something significant about the human experience.

Victor Margolin
Chicago, Illinois
July, 2004