Oct. 19, 2016 | The amiability and productivity of Jean Cocteau stemmed from a despairing thought: The world is a misunderstanding... more »


Oct. 18, 2016 | At age 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor started walking across Europe in search of erotic, alcoholic, intellectual, and courageous escapades. He never stopped... more »


Oct. 17, 2016 | Fiction in a time of climate change. John Updike defined the novel as an “individual moral adventure.” Not so for Amitav Ghosh, who thinks a collective aesthetic is needed now... more »


Oct. 15, 2016 | Degas vs. Manet, Matisse vs. Picasso, Pollock vs. de Kooning, Bacon vs. Freud. Other than knives through canvases and sexual intrigue, what makes an artistic rivalry memorable?... more »


Oct. 14, 2016 | Mark Rothko, an underprivileged refugee, was scorned at school. He dropped out of Yale to seek “the dignity and excitement” of the arts... more »


Oct. 13, 2016 | Claude Lévi-Strauss is often lumped with Lacan, Barthes, and Foucault in a structuralist “Gang of Four.” But he wanted little to do with Parisian intellectuals... more »


Oct. 12, 2016 | Evelyn Waugh at war. Despite his sloth, snobbery, gluttony, and alcoholism, he was accepted into a commando unit — for his sense of humor... more »


Oct. 11, 2016 | Confronted by solipsism, philosophers have found meaning in religion, society, love — and in grand schemes for the future of humanity... more »


Oct. 10, 2016 |  Feeling a “need to be extraordinary,” the author Angela Carter set off for Japan. She left her wedding ring in a Tokyo airport ashtray... more »


Oct. 8, 2016 | So Hobbes was an atheist with a gloomy view of human nature? Rousseau believed in a peace-loving “noble savage”? Wrong and wrong. We misunderstand the great philosophers ... more »


Oct. 7, 2016 | John O’Hara, part Wharton, part Fitzgerald, chronicled and envied well-to-do American society. At 65 he asked Yale for an honorary degree. Yale refused... more »


Oct. 6, 2016 | Romantic acolyte, professional doppelgänger, transcendental hack: Thomas De Quincey’s drug addiction may be the least interesting thing about him... more »


Oct. 5, 2016 | An imperious 19th-century philosopher engaged in ad hominem attacks and obscure internecine disputes. Eleven people showed up for his funeral. His name: Karl Marx... more »


Oct. 4, 2016 | The only way is Wessex. Thomas Hardy’s imagined region grew out of his London experiences — dinners, soirees, supervising cemetery reconfigurations... more »


Oct. 3, 2016 | Climate affects art, especially in England: Shelley was fascinated by wind, Wordsworth by clouds, other English poets by persistent dampness.... more »


Oct. 1, 2016 | Oedipal rebellion and the Frankfurt School. Were Adorno, Benjamin, et al. merely sons rebelling against — while depending on — their wealthy fathers?... more »


Sept. 30, 2016 | What's causing literary culture’s decline? According to Cynthia Ozick, it’s neither TV nor the internet but weak literary criticism. “Without the critics, incoherence.”... more »


Sept. 29, 2016 | Shirley Jackson’s biography had uncanny parallels to her fiction. But what can it tell us about an author who wanted to trade in her life and start anew?... more »


Sept. 28, 2016 | When it came to explaining China to America, Pearl S. Buck and H.T. Tsiang seemed on two ends of a spectrum. But they shared a common fate: being ignored... more »


Sept. 27, 2016 | One day in 1953, Henry Molaison lost the ability to form new memories. He existed entirely in the now, which made him history’s most studied man... more »


Sept. 26, 2016 | Literature helps form our beliefs. And while novels can stir outrage, they also provide catharsis, which has the effect of mollifying our politics... more »


Sept. 24, 2016 | When the milieu makes the philosopher. Descartes, Hobbes, and their contemporaries lived through the Scientific Revolution and several wars of religion. Their narratives matter... more »


Sept. 23, 2016 | Beware nostalgia and those promising to restore society to its former greatness. “Hopes can be disappointed," says Mark Lilla. "Nostalgia is irrefutable”... more »


Sept. 22, 2016 | Against everything. In a time of abundance, we impose artificial scarcity. Why? Mark Greif unpacks our elaborate restrictions on food, exercise, sex... more »


Sept. 21, 2016 | 1862 was a low point for Marx. Europe had taken a conservative turn. He was obscure and in poor health. So he pursued a new career: railway clerk... more »


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