Samuel Moyn looks suspiciously like a teenager. The impression is momentarily belied by his impressive résumé: At the age of 45, Moyn is teaching his first semester as a professor of history and law at Yale University, following appointments at Harvard and Columbia. Moreover, even for an adult scholar, Moyn has well-informed views on a startling diversity of topics. Slumped across a chair in jeans and Converse in his Harvard law office last winter, he ricocheted from the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (the topic of Moyn’s dissertation and first book) to theories of political economy — something Moyn has devoted more attention to since the 2008 financial crisis — to Jonathan Littell’s 2009 novel The Kindly Ones, which Moyn called “intentionally sickening and an unquestionably brilliant success” in a review for The Nation.
On the other hand, Moyn has a social-media habit rivaling that of most teenagers.
“It’s more important for you to see Moyn’s Facebook page than the interior of his house,” says Thomas Meaney, a former student of Moyn’s at Columbia. “He basically lives there. It’s like he publishes his own magazine.”