Sept. 5, 2017 | Jane Carlyle was the greatest letter writer of her time. A correspondent of Mill, Darwin, Forster, she is remembered as a genius. But a genius of what?... more »


Sept. 4, 2017 | Chester B. Himes disdained literary conventions. In prison, he reimagined himself as a new kind of "black literary realist." He was largely forgotten, until now... more »


Sept. 2, 2017 | What makes popular-science books popular? The opportunity to measure your comprehension against the best minds. Falling behind is part of the thrill... more »


Sept. 1, 2017 | During the Gilded Age, some rich people dabbled in séances and breakfasted with corpses. Consider the portrait subjects of John Singer Sargent... more »


Aug. 31, 2017 | An octopus is a soft-bodied mollusc with three hearts that beat blue-green blood. It is also remarkably clever... more »


Aug. 30, 2017 | Randall Jarrell thought that Richard Wilbur's poetry didn't go far enough — that he settled for good but not great work. Now 96, has Wilbur put that critique to rest?... more »


Aug. 29, 2017 | Economic equality seems like a very good thing. Too bad it tends to occur only under the most barbaric of conditions... more »


Aug. 28, 2017 | Why do Americans think as they do about sex? Early Christian attitudes toward sin and shame play a role. But religion is only part of the answer ... more »


Aug. 26, 2017 | How books are read is as important as what’s in them. Reading out loud, for instance, was seen as a defense against the "seductive, enervating dangers" of sentimental novels... more »


Aug. 25, 2017 | The personal essay has become an introspective exercise full of pretty phrases that mean nothing. Another type of personal essay is possible... more »


Aug. 24, 2017 | Barthes was killed by a van; Althusser strangled his wife. Could those events be connected? In a new novel, they are... more »


Aug. 23, 2017 | You can judge critics by the intensity of their feelings. Exhibit A: Michael Robbins, who swoons for Taylor Swift and tosses Molotovs at Charles Simic... more »


Aug. 22, 2017 | Her husband tried to commit suicide on their honeymoon, her brother disowned her, and at a ball, no one asked her to dance. George Eliot’s humiliations enriched her writing... more »


Aug. 21, 2017 | Though "post-truth" was coined in 1992, the malady is not new. And postmodernism isn't to blame. The problem isn't about epistemology; it's about identity... more »


Aug. 19, 2017 | Sartre compared human freedom to skiing, but he really meant surfing. The action of imposing our will on the world is like riding a wave... more »


Aug. 18, 2017 | Why do we act the way we do? Go into the weeds of human behavior and you'll arrive at a definitive conclusion: It's complicated... more »


Aug. 17, 2017 | Did Jane Austen weave clues into her novels of her secret, radical politics? No, but her wit and wisdom were radical in and of themselves... more »


Aug. 16, 2017 | Toscanini's quasi-religious consecration to music fueled an obsessive and often miserable struggle to realize his vision of artistic perfection... more »


Aug. 15, 2017 | Secular thought arrived via not just luminaries but also everyday atheists: a cartoonist, a rogue traveling preacher, a teetotaler who ran afoul of obscenity laws ... more »


Aug. 14, 2017 | The words “boring” and “interesting” didn't exist in English until the 1800s. Now we're inundated with Big Think on the topic. What's behind the "boredom boom"?... more »


Aug. 12, 2017 | How did a young woman from Pennsylvania become a world expert on sexual mores? Exploring Margaret Mead's sexual awakening... more »


Aug. 11, 2017 | “‘Hardness’ has not been in our century a quality much admired in women," wrote Joan Didion. Yet she was among a cadre of women renowned for the unemotional clarity of her writing... more »


Aug. 10, 2017 | In 1931, a concrete structure was erected on the banks of the Moscow River. To roam its halls is to confront the horror, strangeness, and pathos of the Russian Revolution... more »


Aug. 9, 2017 | The birth of the modern museum allowed Victorian painters to imitate their forebears. Yet art didn’t descend into pastiche and appropriation... more »


Aug. 8, 2017 | Why do people who advocate the selfless communal life create such emotional havoc around themselves? The question consumed Sonya Tolstoy... more »


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