May 18, 2018 | Dickens heard his characters speak. Woolf heard birds singing in Greek. The treatment for hearing voices has long been: ignore them. What if we listened instead?... more »

May 17, 2018 | Is an intellectual’s responsibility to think, or to enact a political argument? The question once distinguished little magazines from think tanks, but that has changed... more »

May 16, 2018 | Travel writing is a genre prone to indulgence but also capable of carrying considerable weight. Patrick Leigh Fermor was a master at managing that tension... more »

May 15, 2018 | Think of genius not as an isolated individual, but as the spirit of circumstance. Genius is contingent — precarious, rare, magical... more »

May 14, 2018 | How Victorian essayists used tact to come up with a creative rather than controlling, playful rather than violent way of handling not only other people but also the world and its objects... more »

May 12, 2018 | “The evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Spinoza.” At the age of 23, the future philosopher was expelled from his Jewish community. What had he done?... more »

May 11, 2018 | Chekhov, Beckett, Woolf, Poe — all childless. Thomas Mann had kids but locked himself in his room and forbade them to disturb him. Are kids kryptonite to writers?... more »

May 10, 2018 | Dostoevsky, broke. He ducked landlords, always lost at roulette, and pawned his wife’s dowry and their clothing. One project dominated his thinking: The Idiot... more »

May 9, 2018 | Derided by Dadaists and Surrealists and hijacked by contemporary narcissism, beauty is an idea that's been up and down. What does it mean today?... more »

May 8, 2018 | Timothy Snyder is one of our foremost historians of evil. He also personifies a certain paranoid style that has taken hold of liberals... more »

May 7, 2018 | Much of the work we do has no social value, and we hate doing it. Then there’s higher education, where the problem is acute. David Graeber on the bullshitization of academic life... more »

May 5, 2018 | The Nobel Prize for Literature is beset by scandal. But this has nothing to do with sex. The scandal is that the prize ever had any credibility at all... more »

May 4, 2018 | Who doesn't love to beat up on literary theory? It's justified, but it's not the reason undergraduates aren't getting the education they deserve... more »

May 3, 2018 | The Kuhn cult. Admiration for the philosopher is misplaced, says Errol Morris. Kuhn's thinking is unoriginal. Worse, it's an assault on truth... more »

May 2, 2018 | Poems that hide in plain sight. Famous works, anthologized, widely read, become so encrusted with criticism it’s hard to see them anew... more »

May 1, 2018 | Pity the poor pun. Reviled for its smirking stupidity, its ubiquity in advertising and talk-show banter, the wordplay deserves better... more »

April 30, 2018 | Wallace Thurman: editor, novelist, playwright. “A strangely brilliant Black boy who had read everything," said Langston Hughes, "and whose critical mind could find something wrong with everything he read”... more »

April 28, 2018 | What Frida Kahlo is to Mexico, Julia de Burgos is to Puerto Rico. Except that de Burgos isn't well known to the rest of the world. Why not?... more »

April 27, 2018 | How blank are our slates? Hobbes and Rousseau believed in the existence of human nature, but today’s philosophers are skeptical. Biology suggests an answer... more »

April 26, 2018 | Before the sum total of human knowledge exploded, it was possible to know everything. The last man to do so was Sabine Baring-Gould... more »

April 25, 2018 | At 30, Elizabeth Jennings was a celebrated poet. At 40, she lived in poverty, a shabby eccentric haunting Oxford cafes. What went wrong?... more »

April 24, 2018 | Eros in the academy. Intellectual magnetism often shades into erotic attraction. That's always been true of students and professors... more »

April 23, 2018 | Death and the meaning of life. Have you thought about being composted or cremated? Perhaps donating your body to science? Why we distract ourselves from the fact that we are physical beings... more »

April 21, 2018 | The field of complexity science tackles questions like: Why are there 10,000 species of birds, but only 5,000 species of mammals? A key insight: Scale matters... more »

April 20, 2018 | “Poetry makes nothing happen,” thought Auden. But properly understood, books are a type of magic: “To write is to sell a ticket to escape, not from the truth but into it.”... more »

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