March 1, 2016 | What constitutes a swear word? Why doesn't it function like other words? The answer requires distinguishing it from a slur... more »


Feb. 29, 2016 | George Orwell died alone. But in his last days he was visited by friends, some dating back to his days at Eton. Many had ties to the CIA... more »


Feb. 27, 2016 | How to write a manifesto. You may disagree with the message of the 1909 “Manifesto of Futurism,” but rhetorically it’s an exemplar of its medium... more »


Feb. 26, 2016 | Against academic pomposity. Peter Dreier, a left-wing academic, is fed up with the abstract theorizing and impenetrable prose of left-wing academics... more »


Feb. 25, 2016 | Umberto Eco was a semiologist, anthropologist, literary critic, publisher, novelist – but above all, a historian railing against modernism... more »


Feb. 24, 2016 | In the clubby world of New York publishing, much has changed since Alfred Knopf published Thomas Mann. But there are constants: ego, insecurity, irrational exuberance... more »


Feb. 23, 2016 | What we eat and why are as much psychological phenomena as physical ones. Digesting the great conundrum of body, brain, nutrition, taste, and flavor... more »


Feb. 22, 2016 | Henry James died in 1916. Almost immediately the battle to control his reputation -- and keep secret his complex sexuality - was underway... more »


Feb. 20, 2016 | To read the world. In 15 years, Michael A. Orthofer has read and reviewed 3,687 books from 100 countries, originally published in 68 languages... more »


Feb. 19, 2016 | Brian Wood spent seven years among hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, studying what they ate and how they got it. He also learned about naturefaking... more »


Feb. 18, 2016 | Digesting Knausgaard. An author both heralded and derided is sucked down the alimentary canal of academic literary criticism... more »


Feb. 17, 2016 | Consider the personal life of Robert Trivers, evolutionary biologist: the ganja, the time in a Jamaican prison, the afternoon drinks shared with a lizard... more »


Feb. 16, 2016 | Genius has distinctions: Scientific genius is different from literary or painterly genius. Celebrity, however, is more predictable... more »


Feb. 15, 2016 | The long-maligned Bad Quarto version of Hamlet, first published in 1603, reveals Shakespeare's evolution as an artist... more »


Feb. 13, 2016 | Thoreau and mortality. His brother’s death drove him to science — even ornithology — in an ontological quest... more »


Feb. 12, 2016 | The future belongs to automated, error-free prose, no stylistic vampirism, clichéd characters, or shopworn narrative devices... more »


Feb. 11, 2016 | Spurned by academe, W.E.B. Du Bois found a more important cause: “High on the ramparts of this blistering hell of life ... I sit and see the Truth”... more »


Feb. 10, 2016 | For six years, scholars dissected Mein Kampf sentence by sentence. The result spans 2,000 pages and 3,500 footnotes. It looks like the Talmud... more »


Feb. 9, 2016 | We speak of being consumed by envy but filled with gratitude. Oliver Sacks approached death with poignancy, stoicism -- and gratitude... more »


Feb. 8, 2016 | Robert Lowell in love. He was a depressive, philandering alcoholic who treated women terribly. Yet he saw them as intellectual equals... more »


Feb. 6, 2016 | Psychologists set out to provide moral guidance for society, but they have proven morally suspect themselves. It’s not easy to outsource ethical reflection... more »


Feb. 5, 2016 | Liberal democracy is so widely admired that we conflate liberalism and democracy. But democracy can be an illiberal train wreck... more »


Feb. 4, 2016 | Joan Didion is our Mother of Sorrows, our Saint Joan. Only she isn't. She’s cool-eyed and coldblooded. That's her genius... more »


Feb. 3, 2016 | "Pimp my muse." Is anything so transparently self-conscious, self-undermining, self-mocking as a video book trailer for literary fiction?... more »


Feb. 2, 2016 | So the great magazine story is dead, killed by the Internet? Nonsense. Magazines have been dying for as long as there have been magazines... more »


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