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This is a call for papers for a new magazine called Dilettante.

What is a Dilettante, anyways?

Here is one definition:

A person who pursues an art or branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially or frivolously.

An admirer or lover of the fine arts; popularly, an amateur; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge, desultorily, or for amusement only.

from present participle of dilettare, to delight, from Latin dlect re. See delight.

Dilettante Magazine would like to ask, in its content and in its form, why does the word dilettante have a negative connotation? What, we would like to know, is so wrong with being an amateur, a dabbler, or a hobbyist? What, in short, is so bad about being an enthusiast, and why is that word so often coupled with the word “mere?” Dilettante Magazine would like to reclaim the notion of the dilettante from its detractors and attempt to rid it of its erroneously negative connotation.

What is Dilettante Magazine?

Dilettante is a new magazine with articles intended to engender a sense of wonder about the world around one. It is intended as a magazine written for and by curious people, enthusiasts, hobbyists and amateurs; people with a love of ‘neat’ information for its own sake; people who are interested in learning about the things around them, without any goal beyond the pleasure inherent in that learning. Unapologetic geeks who refuse to become too cool to get excited about stuff. I see Dilettante as an un-magazine of sorts; not about selling stuff, not of the moment and with no hipster knowing stance. Decidedy eclectic in content but with a coherent “edutainmental” tone, a collection of whatever interesting things our contributers came up with that issue, all grouped quietly around one rough theme per issue.

What are we looking for?

Basically, edutainment. Non-fiction articles written in an accessible yet intelligent fashion and with an informal tone, but possessing solid content. The topic of your article could be literally anything you are interested in, so long as you can make the subject interesting to others and keep it accessible. We are looking for articles that are interesting and informative, nontechnical in tone, conversational, lacking in professional jargon, non-pretentious, and above all engaging. And if you can include pictures or informational graphics, all the better.

It is difficult to define what I envision for Dilettante in any linear fashion, but this might help: Grass roots, in celebration of curiosity for its own sake, This American Life-esque, cultural histories of everyday things, exposés of things we take for granted, all with a sense of fun. Like Sassy for adults minus the fashion, beauty and boys. Or a Smithsonian Magazine for our generation. Or a very random New Yorker which doesn’t take itself so seriously. Something like that.


Do you have an area of interest, which you find totally fascinating? Something that you research informally or have been waiting for an excuse to research, or perhaps something you know a lot about that most people don’t? Would you be able to write an article on this subject–a subject which might generally make your friends’ eyes glaze over–in a fun, accessible, and informative manner? Could you write an article on The Mills Brothers/Protista/Mayflies/Color Theory/The Saragossa Sea/Horse Models or anything (really, anything!) else and make it interesting and engaging? If so, send it our way. It is Dilettante’s belief that any given object/tradition/specific, when followed down the path it creates, illustrates more than its own superficialities, that the universal is to be found in the particular. And hence, in everything lies an interesting story.

åThere are a variety of approaches you could take. You could interview or research an appropriate person (perhaps a dilettante of note), write about a museum, book, ritual, happening, shop owner, tree, bird, country, bacteria, ocean, habit, holiday, tradition, whatever–the sky’s the limit. The key is finding the hidden stories in your subject and relating your findings in an engaging manner.

We are particularly interested in certain kinds of stories: articles which demystify the things in everyday life which seem inevitable and “just the way things are” (i.e. the Cultural History of everyday life); Places where science and art meet; Interesting Iconoclasts (Edward Gorey, Buckminster Fuller); Surprising background stories of historical figures (ie. Johnny Appleseed, Darwin). Also, if there are any of you who can explain in a conversationally toned article (and you people know who you are!) difficult concepts that we all wonder about but don't have the patience or time to investigate, such as String Theory, gestalt theory, or the Theory of Relativity, please! PLEASE! submit an article!

Need more ideas? Here is an example of how an article might come to be. On a recent walk, my friend Amy and I saw an elderly Asian woman picking something off a ginkgo tree with some tool that we had never seen. What, we wondered, could she be up to? When we got home, we Googled it, and found out that Ginkgo is used as an alternative medicine in Chinese traditions, that this woman had been picking some pod which would then be boiled into a medicinal tea. The other links that randomly turned up were fascinating as well. Turns out, Ginkgo leaves were a major motif in Art Deco design, they are an the oldest extant plant (called "a living fossil"), they are used today for to aid the memory...the list went on and on. And so, I believe, would the list generated by nearly anything you’d take the time to Google (Google, by the way, is the Patron Saint of Dilettante).

For even more ideas, here are some articles under consideration so far for Issue 1; Joseph Smith (Founder of Mormonism), Buckminster Fuller (Utopian Architect Genius and Iconoclast), the death industry, dandies, Matt's Grandfather, the history of the word dilettante, the cultural history of the European Starling, Giant Squid, Australia, and Kraftwerk.

If you are not interested in writing a whole article, perhaps you would like to send in a tidbit–we will have some pages dedicated to interesting factoids which will be just tidbits such as “did you know that the vendors who catered to gold miners made more money that the gold miners themselves?” So basically if you have anything interesting and worth sharing, from a sentence to a little blurb, send it/them along. As many as you can.

I very very much hope you’ll participate.
Joanna Ebenstein

Email me here with any questions whatsoever.