Sept. 13, 2017 | The Enlightenment emerged from a 150-year “staccato burst” of European philosophy. Why did these thinkers — Hobbes, Descarte, Voltaire, Rousseau — write as they did? ... more »

Sept. 12, 2017 | Over three years, Mozart composed eight piano concertos, three symphonies, and The Marriage of Figaro. He also bought a pet starling. Coincidence?... more »

Sept. 11, 2017 | What happened to the public intellectual? She became a partisan. Hannah Arendt warned about translating philosophical insight into political commitment ... more »

Sept. 9, 2017 | Does what you eat reveal the content of your character? "While extraordinary circumstances produce extraordinary women, food makes them recognizable"... more »

Sept. 8, 2017 | If we were to take a lesson from the Iliad, it would be to resist the seductions of rage. But beware of authors touting lessons from ancient Greeks... more »

Sept. 7, 2017 | The Quran is an allusive text. Precisely that difficult and poetic style, says Sari Nusseibeh, is what makes it a "progenitor of reason"... more »

Sept. 6, 2017 | There is a long and sordid tradition of trying to diminish Darwin by insisting that his ideas are not original. A.N. Wilson is no more successful than his predecessors... more »

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 »

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