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Since 1998, Arts & Letters Daily has linked to more than 17,000 articles, book reviews and essays. Consider supporting us. »
Nov. 14, 2018

Articles of Note

How a niche publication for evolutionary psychologists tested the limits of iconoclasm on gender, race and intelligence... more »


New Books

What caused Nietzsche’s insanity? The usual theories — syphilis, seeing a horse being whipped — don’t hold up... more »


Essays & Opinions

"It remains startling to me how little many men have to do to earn intellectual authority," says Jill Lepore, "and how much more women have to do"... more »


Nov. 13, 2018

Articles of Note

Dickens died before putting the final touches on The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Theories abound as to his intent for Drood, but can we know for sure?... more »


New Books

Automata of antiquity. Mythic Crete was the Silicon Valley of the ancient world, home of the cryptic maze, manned flight, self-guided arrows... more »


Essays & Opinions

The American Memoir tells a recurring story of personal responsibility and freedom from history. As Christopher J. Lebron explains, it is a lie... more »


Nov. 12, 2018

Articles of Note

Yuval Noah Harari's prophecies might have made him toxic in Silicon Valley. Instead the dystopian futurist is the darling of the tech elite... more »


New Books

Tragedy and religion. Disease killed her son; her husband fell off a mountain. "No one escapes terrible loss," says Elaine Pagels... more »


Essays & Opinions

Difficult books are difficult in different ways. Some are just plain bad. But readability is not always good. The case for difficult books... more »


Nov. 10, 2018

Articles of Note

Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1516, contained the first fantasy map in a work of fiction. It was hardly the last... more »


New Books

Hermann Hesse was intent on alienating his parents. He smoked, read Turgenev with a revolver, and wrote bad poetry... more »


Essays & Opinions

Calling bullshit has a venerable intellectual pedigree. And why not? Bullshitters get the kudos without the work... more »


Nov. 9, 2018

Articles of Note

Canadian fiction is often cloying and safe. What explains the absence of the socially ambitious Great Canadian Novel?... more »


New Books

The Enlightenment definitively and rigidly shapes modern society. But the idea of all-encompassing rationality is a mirage... more »


Essays & Opinions

Wars of conquest have declined sharply over the past seven decades. Could a treaty signed in 1928 be the cause?... more »


Nov. 8, 2018

Articles of Note

Yes, nearly every great thinker of the past was sexist or racist or both. But that doesn't mean you can't admire them... more »


New Books

The unlikely odyssey of Sergei Shchukin: How a Russian textile magnate became one of the most important patrons of the Parisian avant-garde... more »


Essays & Opinions

Art, before the age of mechanical reproduction. The four extant original manuscripts of Old English poetry are a reminder of the yawning void of history... more »


Nov. 7, 2018

Articles of Note

Nero wanted to kill his mother, but how? Poison wouldn’t work, weapons were too obvious, a defective boat somehow failed to sink... more »


New Books

The two Sylvia Plaths. How to reconcile her cheery letters — cooking, acquiring a hunky husband — with a disenchanting domestic life?... more »


Essays & Opinions

When Donald Hall turned 80, he’d stopped writing poetry. He'd lost 60 pounds. He was ill and depressed. Then he rediscovered prose... more »


Nov. 6, 2018

Articles of Note

The first "bottom-up" history of the world resides in an Austrian salt mine. "It's a global project — and its history is written by everyone"... more »


New Books

The Beast of Beverly Hills. Architectural Digest made a fortune by placing a good bet: Americans would drool over celebrity, money, and power... more »


Essays & Opinions

A golden age of English literature began under a draconian monarchy. For Thomas Wyatt, this meant collaborating with — and falling victim to — tyrants... more »


Nov. 5, 2018

Articles of Note

For 30 years, an unpublished manuscript about slaves and sailors in the Caribbean has been an underground sensation. Why is it reaching print only now?... more »


New Books

Life on the lecture circuit. Frederick Douglass’s moral crusade entailed exhausting rail journeys, hostile mobs, and time away from his dysfunctional family... more »


Essays & Opinions

The whitewashing of antiquity. Fascists have long looked to the ancient world as a source of ideology and pride. They are abetted by a generation of scholars... more »


Nov. 3, 2018

Articles of Note

Before his Modernist masterpieces, the architect Philip Johnson devoted his talents to restoring Hitler’s reputation. Was he a Nazi spy?... more »


New Books

The many Karl Marxes: He is relentlessly reinterpreted, analyzed, medicalized, flattered, and diminished. Why can't we stop talking about him?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Francis Perey’s eureka moment had come. Unfortunately, the physicist’s landmark paper was “maddeningly repetitious philosophical froth”... more »


Nov. 2, 2018

Articles of Note

The most productive and worst botanist in history. Constantine Rafinesque described 6,000 “new” plant species. Many were well-known weeds... more »


New Books

Saul Bellow's youthful Trotskyism had, by the mid-‘60s, given way to liberalism. Then he wrote the first neoconservative novel, Mr. Sammler’s Planet... more »


Essays & Opinions

Who would have thought that n+1, largely founded by men, would in time become the world’s least boring journal of feminist theory?... more »


Nov. 1, 2018

Articles of Note

Tales from a publishing family. Jane Austen was upset with a printing delay. And Charles Darwin was not amenable to making On the Origin of Species solely about pigeons... more »


New Books

The cloaked fiend. Vampires, seen philosophically, represent “black illumination” and “blasphemous life.” They are a dark, epistemic riddle... more »


Essays & Opinions

The art world is a place of cravenness and tropospheric wealth, beset by toxic rot and junkie-like behavior. Yet it can still produce good work... more »


Oct. 31, 2018

Articles of Note

The Better Angels of Our Nature, Bowling Alone, The New Jim Crow: What's the most influential book of the past 20 years?... more »


New Books

The appeal of Stoic philosophy to both ancient Romans and today’s therapy-chasing Americans is unsurprising. But darkness is at the heart of Stoicism... more »


Essays & Opinions

Beyond dark and stormy nights. Gothic literature is more than candles and curses. Its chief concerns are terror, the sublime, and the uncanny... more »


Oct. 30, 2018

Articles of Note

Prison camps, dystopia, terrorism, intelligentsia: Russian history has been a godsend for literature. And for political language as well... more »


New Books

"By one estimate," says Carl Zimmer, "genealogy has now become the second-most-popular search topic on the internet. It is outranked only by porn"... more »


Essays & Opinions

True artistic freedom comes from not caring about quality, métier, or meaning. Magritte found it when he set those all aside to make a joke... more »


Oct. 29, 2018

Articles of Note

We live in an age of epistemological mayhem. Bruno Latour, a contemporary philosopher, anticipated it or helped cause it. Or both... more »


New Books

A character study of God. Literary criticism is a valuable way to understand religious texts. But do the same methods work for the Bible and Quran?... more »


Essays & Opinions

Claude Debussy, a "very, very strange man," was an acutely literary composer. His music, heavily influenced by poetry, is easy to love but hard to explain... more »


Oct. 27, 2018

Articles of Note

A Simone Weil revival is underway. She was strange, intelligent, and idiosyncratic, but her life tells us much about ourselves... more »


New Books

For Jill Lepore, history is about how we know what we know (or think we do), and what to make of the gap between evidence and truth... more »


Essays & Opinions

The Swedish Academy’s decision to take a year off from awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature brings to a close more than a century of foolishness... more »


Oct. 26, 2018

Articles of Note

Ursula K. Le Guin did not appreciate being labeled a science-fiction writer: “I’m a novelist and poet. Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole”... more »


New Books

His mother was his muse. Philip Larkin wrote home with terrifying frequency but didn’t have much to say beyond the trivial... more »


Oct. 25, 2018

Articles of Note

Death of a bookman. Philip Dosse was a brilliant, eccentric, tyrant of a publisher. Then his empire of arts magazines failed... more »


New Books

Hauntings, haints, and wraiths of every stripe and disposition appear in today’s literary fiction. But what to make of literature’s spectral moment?... more »


Essays & Opinions

The workings of the multimillion-dollar machine that publishes academic journals are complex. They're also implausible and outrageous... more »


Oct. 24, 2018

Articles of Note

This desire for unanimity permeates the literary world. One casualty: the insistence on accuracy by the “Translation Police.” We need them still... more »


New Books

Lionel Trilling did not care to be a critic or to be thought of as one. He always seemed to want to be somewhere else, doing something else... more »


Essays & Opinions

The opponents of political correctness are not a pitiable collection of angry old white men. They are people of all ages and all colors protective of their liberties... more »


Oct. 23, 2018

Articles of Note

Martin Duberman, godfather of gay studies, was warned by a therapist in 1955 about "the hopelessness of homosexual life." Now 88, he still feels damaged... more »


New Books

Writers and their fathers. In the space between what Joyce knew about his father, a violent drunk, and what Joyce felt about him, the author forged his style... more »


Essays & Opinions

“He was a boy raised on a river.” Is there anything new to say about Mark Twain? In a slew of new books, scholars try and fail... more »


Oct. 22, 2018

Articles of Note

Russell Kirk was more littérateur than leader. But just think how different things might be had he, not William F. Buckley Jr., been the public face of conservativism... more »


New Books

It’s tempting to think that enchantment ended with the Enlightenment. But what of Isaac Newton’s alchemy, the Frankfurt School’s occult leanings, Americans’ belief in demonic possession?... more »


Essays & Opinions

An orthodoxy has taken hold of intellectual, cultural, and academic life. Its hallmarks: moral preening, lazy attitudinizing, and grim-faced virtue-signaling. The remedy: Marxists against wokeness... more »


Oct. 20, 2018

Articles of Note

Francis Fukuyama's instinctively dialectical habit of mind is at once precisely what America needs and what is precisely being ousted from the discourse... more »


New Books

A strange first job. After Oxford, Anthony Powell joined perhaps the only publishing house run by someone who hated books and considered authors “a natural enemy”... more »


Essays & Opinions

"The university has nurtured many partisan causes to which its members can devote themselves, but there seem to be few partisans of the university itself left"... more »


Oct. 19, 2018

Articles of Note

In medieval texts, the planning and execution of a war might take up a paragraph. In modern writing, much less happens. How thinking supplanted action in literature... more »


New Books

The literature of identity can be self-obsessed, isolating, and overwhelmingly aggrieved. But it can also rally us to the cause of individual freedom... more »


Essays & Opinions

What happens when our writers and thinkers express themselves through Facebook instead of on the page? Imagine Herzog in the era of the status update... more »


Oct. 18, 2018

Articles of Note

Manure, wood shavings, hot peanuts, greasepaint, popcorn, burning sugar, sweat, despair: There's nothing like the smell of the circus... more »


New Books

Cy Twombly fell for Robert Rauschenberg, an Italian heiress, and, reportedly, his own assistant. His art, like his love life, was inscrutable... more »


Essays & Opinions

Precision "pervades our lives entirely, comprehensively, wholly," says Simon Winchester. But does the abstract concept have a precise history? Yes. It begins in 1776... more »


Oct. 17, 2018

Articles of Note

Sotheby's and spectacle. Banksy’s autoshredding stunt reinforces how contemporary art is not so much about art but the documentation of an event... more »


New Books

George Scialabba is a mind out of time. His temper — a radical who demonstrates the virtues of conservatism — is the very opposite of what passes for serious thought these days... more »


Essays & Opinions

The pernicious social dynamics of the internet. We overshare about our personal lives and fail to understand those of others. Narcissism spreads; empathy vanishes... more »


Oct. 16, 2018

Articles of Note

Descriptions of the future are hopelessly tied to the gadgets of today. Ideas, not technology, drive the biggest historical changes... more »


New Books

Gandhi: Behind the cuddly icon was a relentlessly counterintuitive thinker — self-sacrifice over self-interest, obligations over rights, dying over killing... more »


Essays & Opinions

What is the point of a bookish life? It's not to become knowledgeable or clever, and certainly not to become learned. It is to become wiser... more »


Oct. 15, 2018

Articles of Note

Steven Pinker believes that we take the Enlightenment’s gifts for granted; Homi Bhabha believes that we must calculate the cost of those gifts. A debate... more »


New Books

The Iliad and Odyssey shaped behavior in the Greek world. How so? One example: they tarnished the reputation of daytime sex for well over a millennium... more »


Essays & Opinions

When his aged father and newborn son died within a few years of each other, William James took an interest in "ghosts and clairvoyances and raps and messages from spirits"... more »


Oct. 13, 2018

Articles of Note

Kandinsky has long been seen as the father of abstract painting. But Hilma af Klint predated him. Her art was informed by seances — what the spirits said, she did... more »


New Books

Unambiguous identities – and the politics of identity – may be illusions. But when they are widely accepted, illusions become very powerful social facts... more »


Essays & Opinions

Women do the lion’s share of the book reading, editing, agenting, and buying. Still, we live in a literary culture that ignores women... more »


Oct. 12, 2018

Articles of Note

The New York Intellectuals changed the system, and the system changed them: a story of hollow affirmation, fading honor, and flamboyant decay... more »


New Books

Life has sped up. We ruthlessly divide our time into efficient units. We even walk faster than we used to. Time to slow down... more »


Essays & Opinions

What was the Frankfurt School? Twentieth-century Europe had exposed civilization’s dark impulses. Did the new reality demand a new style of critique?... more »


Oct. 11, 2018

Articles of Note

William Hazlitt’s style, in the early 19th century, was strikingly modern. So were his challenges as a freelance writer: urgent deadlines and financial struggle... more »


New Books

Work: The Greeks reviled it; the Judeo-Christian tradition thought it could lead to redemption. We think it’s simply what one does... more »


Essays & Opinions

Are you charming? (Hint: If you think you are, you’re probably not.) But what is charm? Easier to determine what it isn't... more »