Dec. 3, 2016 | Thoreau comes down to us as an earnest man committed to worthy causes. We do him a disservice when we fail to get his jokes... more »


Dec. 2, 2016 | Concern about "cultural appropriation" used to be confined to college campuses: Sushi is "disrespectful," yoga complicit in oppression. Now it's spread into the general culture... more »


Dec. 1, 2016 | The time for rococo poetry of ruffles and dessert — of champions of liberalism like Marianne Moore — has waned. What we need now is Yeats... more »


Nov. 30, 2016 | Dangerous lunatic or charming if irresponsible young man? The Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran was, at his core, a connoisseur of failure... more »


Nov. 29, 2016 | Lithographs, stereoscopes, and paintings populated Baudelaire’s Paris. But he revolted against optics, threw off the tyranny of visual omniscience, and embraced shadow... more »


Nov. 28, 2016 | The biggest boon to lexical research in the past decade has been newspaper databases. Among the revelations: Slang is a lot older than previously thought... more »


Nov. 26, 2016 | Is the human mind truly unique? To find out, gather a bunch of dogs in a laboratory. Animal cognition informs human cognition in weird ways... more »


Nov. 25, 2016 | Losing your mind is a strange kind of fetishization. Woolf, Plath, Hemingway, Wallace. How should we think about the relationship between creativity and illness?... more »


Nov. 24, 2016 | Rauschenberg’s studio cost $10 a month and lacked water and heat. Just the place, perhaps, for radically altering our ideas about art... more »


Nov. 23, 2016 | Do fish feel pain? Is it immoral to swat a mosquito? Is it possible to harm a robot? We’re approaching a big historical divide in ethics, one that may take us beyond humanism... more »


Nov. 22, 2016 | The psychology of chicanery. We are all virtuoso novelists of our own identity, and, at times, confabulators. But how to create good stories?... more »


Nov. 21, 2016 | His November election was a surprise. His followers had faith -- in him, of course, but also in the institutions they believed would contain him. Then the war started ... more »


Nov. 19, 2016 | For Norman Mailer, some Salinger stories "seem to have been written for high school girls." It wasn't true, but it was the worst insult he could think of... more »


Nov. 18, 2016 | In romance, waiting has always been the rule. And the rituals of contemporary courtship underscore a related fact: It is always women who wait... more »


Nov. 17, 2016 | There are difficult writers and then there's D.H. Lawrence, for whom callousness was an intellectual catalyst. “You have to have something vicious in you, to be a creative writer”... more »


Nov. 16, 2016 | Jonathan Swift, inveterate joker, rarely laughed late in life. Life was a farce in every sense but the most important one, in that it was tragedy... more »


Nov. 15, 2016 | Bob Dylan was described by one scholar as “the greatest living user of the English language.” But how far do words go in encapsulating his art?... more »


Nov. 14, 2016 | Book reviewing used to be blood sport. But now new titles aren't so much criticized as endorsed, as if every book deserves at least a modest thumbs-up... more »


Nov. 12, 2016 | The world’s visual stimuli overload our senses, and so our beliefs help shape our perceptions. We see what we want to see. Tom Vanderbilt explains... more »


Nov. 11, 2016 | What can Margery Kempe, medieval mystic, teach us about literature today? That our relationship with it can be personal, immediate, physical, emotional, and excessive... more »


Nov. 10, 2016 | In 1940, a French novelist named Léon Werth joined the exodus fleeing the Nazis. He wrote an eyewitness account of his exile. He wrote like a man from the future... more »


Nov. 9, 2016 | Against retranslation. Too many recent academic efforts to update translations treat the texts like museum pieces. Where's the energy and spirit of earlier efforts?... more »


Nov. 8, 2016 | Fabric fails to impress. We shrug at a state-of-the-art raincoat, dress shirt, or pair of tights. But no technology is as powerful as fabric. Virginia Postrel explains... more »


Nov. 7, 2016 | Democracy is flawed: Citizens lack knowledge and judgment. John Stuart Mill proposed giving extra votes to those with university degrees. An idea whose time has come... more »


Nov. 5, 2016 | What is utopianism? For China Miéville, it is neither hope nor optimism, but rather a need for alterity, for “something other than the exhausting social lie”... more »


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