What We’re Reading

What We’re Reading: August, Part 1

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Regular readers of the blog will have noticed the (temporary) disappearance of our “What We’re Reading” feature, which used to run every Friday. Starting today, we’ll be replacing our weekly link round-ups with monthly reading recommendations from our editors. These longer-form recommendations will allow our editors to share some of the why, as well as the what, of what we’re reading. Here is part one, part two will be published next Saturday.

Spencer

Self-parody that I am, I have invited John Calvin to accompany me back from Geneva, in the form of his commentaries on Paul’s Epistles to the Romans and the Thessalonians. Calvin composed one of the greatest pieces of systematic theology ever written in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, an achievement that has obscured the crucial fact, to quote Bruce Gordon, that the reformer “never taught theology as a separate discipline: he taught scripture” (300). The commentaries are texts of superlative erudition—filled with careful discussions of variant readings and the opinions of previous exegetes—and of polemical vitriol (“No words can express how foul is the abomination of the Papists…” [407]). All just as one would expect from the pugnacious theological architect of reformed Protestantism. The commentary on Romans, in particular, is something of a magnum opus, “a work that radically transformed Protestant theology” (Gordon 103). But not every note is scholarly or savage: “whatever may happen, we must stand firm in the belief that God, who once in His love embraced us, never ceases to care for us” (186). Of the correction of others’ faults he writes, quite movingly, “if we want to be of service, gentleness and restraint are necessary so that those who are reproved may still realize that they are loved” (422). Love is an apt word: Calvin loved Paul, whose prophetic mission he embraced as his own, and he loved the Bible, the revealed Word of God whose very existence was a miracle—these loves fill every page of his commentaries. It has been nothing short of wonderful this summer to discover the loving Calvin.

Nuala

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Olivier Rieppel, Phylogenetic Systems: Haeckel to Hennig (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2016).

As I grapple with the concept of time(s) in modern biology I return to Olivier Rieppel’s Phylogenetic Systematics: Haeckel to Hennig. Rieppel, an evolutionary zoologist, maps the development of modern phylogenetic systematics. He covers 100 years, from the German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel to Willi Hennig, the German founder of modern cladistics, as biologists vacillate between materialism and idealism to find a methodology to uncover nature in its “real” form. Rieppel reconstructs the origins of many contemporary big questions that have haunted the discipline since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of the Species (1859). Is evolution the basis of comparative anatomy, or idealistic morphology? What morphological characters need to be elevated to understand an organism’s history? How do we use characters to reconstruct a tree? Are all characters equal? Rippel’s impressive cannon of German biological literature is the major strength of the book. Rieppel also offers a perspective on German biology during the Third Reich, a welcome addition to a literature more generally focussed on medicine and the atomic bomb. The author argues that idealistic morphology and phylogenetic systematics represented two antagonistic ideological traditions, empiricist-positivist and organicist-holistic, and critically evaluates the impact and influence of Nazism on evolutionary biology. Side by side, I read Brent D. Mishler’s What are Species? as one always needs to balance those charismatic zoologists perspective. Mishler, an evolutionary botanist, argues that the multitude of single species concepts needs to be abandoned for a more fluid, pluralistic concept of species.  Whilst this has been happening in contemporary practice it has yet to reach consensus formally within the biological community. These books leave me contemplating time, its measurability, its complexity and the work done to tame time on evolutionary trees.

Cynthia

Edna Lewis published The Taste of Country Cooking in 1976. In the very first paragraph of the book, Lewis informs us: “I grew up in Freetown, Virginia, a community of farming people. It wasn’t really a town. The name was adopted because the first residents had all been freed from chattel slavery and they wanted to be known as a town of Free People.” The book, a hybrid between a memoir and a cookbook, is both a historical document and a commentary on a moment in history. Structured as a series of seasonal menus, the book takes us through the rhythms of life in Freetown, where the bonds (and pleasures) of family and community were not taken lightly, for slavery–and emancipation–were both still held in living memory.

Her memories of Freetown are beautiful and tender, but never saccharine. After all, it is a book that includes the menu and recipes for an Emancipation Day Dinner. “My grandmother,” Lewis wrote, “had been a brick mason as a slave–purchased for the sum of $950 by a rich landowner.” The Emancipation Day dinner included a Guinea fowl casserole, wild rice and wild grapes, and a simple plum tart. We learn what the residents of Freetown might have enjoyed for a midday dinner during the wheat harvest, what might have been served for dinner after a Sunday Revival, and what went into packing a picnic basket for a day at the horse races. Lewis gives us that other history, the one written by the body, on the land. In an interview with the New York Times, Judith Jones (who also worked with Julia Child on Mastering the Art of French Cooking) recounted that “when they were working on the book together, Jones noticed that there wasn’t a menu for Thanksgiving. She asked Lewis about it, who said, quietly: ‘‘We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. We celebrated Emancipation Day.’’ And so she wrote a menu for that, leaving it to the reader to figure out why.”

Pranav

Since the end of my research trip to England, I have gradually been working through my rather long list of readings not directly related to my own research. Though most of my time has been taken up with Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman’s epic novel about the Second World War, I have recently read Noah Millstone’s excellent Past & Present article ‘Seeing Like a Statesman in Early Stuart England.’ Millstone, currently based at the University of Birmingham, argues that early Stuart politics was characterized by a specific form of political thinking which he describes as ‘politic.’ It relied on decoding hidden intentions and was obsessed with secrecy and intrigue. Since simple inference could be misleading, it was deemed necessary to use a number of hermeneutic techniques that allowed one ‘to unveil the true, hidden causes behind events.’ (82).

What makes Millstone’s research and argument so impressive is his insistence that this mode of thinking cannot be understood only through printed treatises written by elite actors. He has combed through a vast amount of manuscript material that allows him to understand how ‘politic’ thinking, best thought of as a technique of interpretation rather than as an ideology, pervaded all levels of English society. Millstone is also very good at explaining the wider implications of his argument. He suggests that ‘politic’ thinking implies that there was such a thing as a ‘distinctly early modern form of the political.’ (84) Historians, therefore, should no longer think of politics as a transhistorical category that necessarily retains some common features across time and space.

Summer Reading: Part I

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Book of Hours, 1480-1490, Victoria & Albert Museum. Photo Courtesy of Britain Loves Wikipedia.

Here is the first installment of some of the books that the Blog’s editors have lined up for summer. From art history to critical theory, from fiction to poetry, we’ve got you covered if you’re looking for something to pick up during the academic off season. Look out next weekend for the second installment!

Brendan

I got hit by a car this year. After surgery, after a month of Netflix and couch, after I had weaned myself off the pain pills, I slowly began to piece myself together again. I picked up an old favorite, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a book I’ve returned to again and again throughout my life. The book follows a fin de siècle everyman, Hans Castorp, as he spends seven years of his early adulthood in a TB sanatorium. The book is filled with characters who are allegories standing for this-or-that Big Thing: militarism, liberalism, extremism, nihilism, sex, death, bodily pleasure. The book ends with Castorp disappearing into the mass of young men in the trenches of the First World War. Castorp may or may not have been sick; but Europe certainly was.

I’ve come to appreciate different things about The Magic Mountain with every reading. My first I treated the book like a puzzle, proud of myself for each allegory I managed to identify. Later, I came to appreciate the book as a narration of the First World War. This latest reading, my body still bruised, my bone still knitting back together, still bound to the Barcalounger in my living room, I came to appreciate the Magic Mountain as a novel about sickness. Virginia Woolf wondered in On Being Ill why “illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.” Illness is uncomfortable. It is boring. Not much happens when you’re ill. So sickness is dealt with in fiction usually invisibly: the bones heal in the spaces between chapters. We get better, slowly. Yet in The Magic Mountain, sickness was ruminated on, lingered over, discussed, understood as its own form of experience. This comforted me. How differently time passed on that Barcalounger! Months which would have otherwise been filled with activity, instead passed by like minutes. And here I read Hans Castorp feeling the same way. Laying on his chair during the rest cure, letting his mind wander, thinking about the peculiar way time passed while he was ill, wondering whether the stuff inside him was healthy or invisibly diseased, wondering about what it all meant to be sick.

 

Spencer

Besides research-related adventures and a foolhardy scheme to read the entirety of John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, my reading list this summer is drawn from the books that have lain in my house unread for far too long. Here are three of those hitherto-neglected titles:

 

Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower (1995). Described by its author as “a novel of sorts,” The Blue Flower retells the early life of the poet and philosopher Novalis, his puzzling engagement to twelve-year-old Sophie von Kühn, and the beginnings of what would become German Romanticism. This was the last work of Penelope Fitzgerald, whose subtle wit and profound insight into the peculiarities of human relationships remain criminally under-appreciated.

 

Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004). My blurb was going to say, “Dueling magicians in the Napoleonic Wars—need I say more?” But then I discovered a fact that will prove an even greater enticement to readers of JHIBlog: footnotes! Clarke has constructed a baroque edifice of fictitious scholarship upon which her story rests—and, truly, what self-respecting library could be without John Segundus’s A Complete Description of Dr. Pale’s fairy-servants, their Names, Histories, Characters and the Services they performed for Him (Thomas Burnham: Northampton, 1799)?

 

Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1819). Sir Walter Scott’s iconic historical romance, to which we owe the familiar tale of the doughty Richard the Lionheart, the dastardly King John, and the honest thief, Robin Hood. On a personal note, the “Dedicatory Epistle” to Ivanhoe is addressed to a (spiritual) ancestor of mine, the Reverend Dr. Jonas Dryasdust, FAS.

 

Cynthia

 

Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room — this is the book to tuck into your carry-on bag. You’ll speed through it so you can get to the ending, but once you get there, you’ll want to read the whole book all over again. You won’t even notice that your flight is delayed, or your luggage still hasn’t arrived on the carousel. I’m not going to tell you what the book is about (you can cheat and read the reviews if you want). When you get to the end, and find yourself meditating on questions of fate and agency, not sure if you’re looking into darkness or light, remember to thank me for this recommendation.

 

Lucie Brock-Broido, A Hunter, The Master Letters, Trouble in Mind, Stay IllusionI am re-reading Brock-Broido’s oeuvre this summer. Brock-Broido passed away this past March. She was only 61. Her language followed the diction and syntax of another time–but what was that time? Was it the deep past, or some future yet to come? Brock-Broido’s poetry was always beautiful, in a way that flirted with the decorative. Her best work veered away from mere beauty, aching towards something like the sublime.

 

Kelly Jones, South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s — Jones tells a “hidden history of blackness” of 20th-century California. African Americans, as well as members of the Latinx and Asian Pacific Islander communities, have traditionally been excluded from the story of modernism in California. Jones tells the history of the African American art community “south of Pico” in Los Angeles, embedding well-known artists such as Bettye Saar and Noah Purifoy within the complicated historical contexts of both Los Angeles and California in the second half of the 20th century. This book changed how I think of modern and contemporary American art. It will change how you think, too.

What We’re Reading: Week of 26th March

Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

 

Brendan:

Cecilia D’Anastasio, Dungeons And Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women (Kotaku)

Jia Tolentino, The Very Unnerving Existence of Teen Boss, A Magazine for Girls (New Yorker)

Tanya Basu, Meet the Interstitum (Daily Beast)

Niko Maragos, The Body In Painlessness (New Inquiry)

 

Eric:

Asad Haider, “A New Practice of Politics: Althusser and Marxist Philosophy” (Verso)

Erica Johnson, “White Creole Identity on Trial: The Haitian Revolution and Refugees in Louisiana” (Age of Revolutions)

Ben Reynolds “Some Problems in the Theory of Imperialism” (Fragments)

Priya Satia, “The Whitesplaining of History is Over” (Chronicle), which is relevant to explaining this.

 

Derek:

Benjamin E. Park, “The Revolutionary Roots of America’s Religious Nationalism” (Politics and Religion)

Walter Johnson, “Guns in the Family” (Boston Review)

Jenna Tonn, “Women’s Work in Natural History Museums” (Lady Science)

 

AJ

Zach Dorfman, “The Disappeared” (Foreign Policy)

Margaret Renkl, “Easter Is Calling Me Back to the Church” (The New York Times)

Luc Sante, “The Kinks: Something Else” (Pitchfork)

Michael Taylor, “Living in limbo: Indonesia’s refugees face uncertain future” (Reuters)

 

Kristin

Edward Cavanough, “The Mountains: TImor Leste’s Blessing and Curse” (The Diplomat)

Sarah Zhang, “Scientists Still Don’t Know Exactly Why Knuckles Crack” (The Atlantic)

Krzysztof Iwanek, “How Marvel Failed to Promote Seoul and Busan” (The Diplomat)

 

Spencer:

Max Rodenbeck, “A Mighty Wind” (NYRB)

Michael Prodger, “Why 1932 was Picasso’s year of erotic torment” (New Statesman)

Kate Webb, “Angela Carter and Wilson Harris” (TLS)

Jennifer Wilson, “Floating in the Air” (The Nation)

What We’re Reading: Week of 19th March

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Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

 

Eric:

Michael C. Behrent, “Age of Emancipation” (Dissent)

Bronwen Everill, “Demarginalizing West Africa in the Age of Revolutions” (AoR)

Pankaj Mishra, “Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism” (NYRdaily)

Quinn Slobodian, “Making Sense of Neoliberalism” (HUPblog)

Amia Srinivasan, “Does Anyone Have the Right to Sex?” (LRB).

 

Cynthia

March is women’s history month. The National Museum of Women in the Arts launched the #5womenartists social media campaign in 2016. The campaign asks: “Can you name 5 artists? Can you name 5 women artists? Can you name 5 women artists of color?”

To see what users are currently sharing, plug the #5womenartists hashtag into the search bar on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Now that we’re about halfway through the month, there’s quite a bit to see.

I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Tuesday night for the Met’s 12th annual “Evening Celebrating Women.” One of the women celebrated that evening was Mariët Westermann, who reminded the (mostly female) audience that when she was a student, almost all of the professors and curators she encountered were men, while most of her fellow graduate students were women. Things are changing–though the gender gap continues to exist at the top levels of museum (and art world) leadership, as reported by this 2017 Association of Art Museum Directors study. 48% of art museum directorships are held by women, and the salary disadvantage for women directors continues to hold true (female museum directors make 73 cents for every dollar made by a male director, which is actually below average for women artists, who make 81 cents for every dollar made by a male artist).

I’ve thought a lot about these issues–especially in the wake of #metoo and #notsurprised, and the general drift of things–and thought particularly long and hard about how to go beyond the usual encomiums.

Coincidentally, this event fell on the heels of Armory Week. Art Basel / UBS also released Clare McAndrew’s “The Art Market 2018.”  If you are a keen watcher of art markets, McAndrew’s report won’t surprise you. It is a tale of 2 markets — the “haves” and everyone else. The art fair circuit lays that all out, right there–encomiums won’t get us to where we need to be, in terms of equality, and neither will good energy, nor buzz. Structures and institutions need to change.

 

A.J.

Shannon Connellan, “Ai Weiwei Makes Bold Statement About the Refugee Crisis with Giant Inflatable Boat” (Mashable)

A ChinaFile Conversation, “What Is the Significance of China’s #MeToo Movement?” (ChinaFile)

Bogdan Gherasim, “First Sustainable Lego Bricks Will be Launched in 2018” (Lego.com)

Molly Gottschalk, “These Drawings Show How Pop Culture Has Changed the Way We See UFOs” (Artsy)

                 

Brendan:

Reid McCarter, Astrid Budgor and Ed Smith, “Video Game Guns Don’t Need to be Fun to Be Interesting” (Waypoint)

Pauk Ford, “Facebook Is Why We Need a Digital Protection Agency” (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Tasmin Shaw, “Beware the Big Five” (NYRB)

Linda Colley, “Can History Help?” (LRB)

 

Derek:

Matt Young, “Stop looking for one war story to make sense of all wars” (Lithub)

Jill Lepore, “The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson” (New Yorker)

David S. Reynolds, “Fine Specimens” (NYRB)

Britta Lokting, “The Portlandia Effect” (Vulture)

 

Nuala:

Sandip Patel, Two-pore channels open up. (Nature)

David P. Barash. It’s Time to Make Human-Chimp Hybrids. (Nautilus)

Jacey Fortin, She Was the Only Woman in a Photo of 38 Scientists, and Now She’s Been Identified. (New York TImes)

Andrew McConnell Stott, Stage Light. (Lapham’s Quarterly)

Carolina Diettrich, Mallet de Lima, and Anita Göndör, Circadian organization of the Genome. (Science)

 

Sarah:

Charisse Burden-Stelly, “The Absence of Political Economy in African Diaspora Studies,” (Black Perspectives)

Eric Foner, “I just get my pistol and shoot him right down,” (LRB)

Jeremy Harding, “Report from Sirius B,” (LRB)

Louisa Lim, “Policing the Contour Lines,” (LARB)

Sumanth Subramanian, “How Balkrishna Doshi Bent Le Corbusier’s Modernism to the Needs of India,” (New Yorker)

 

Spencer:

Colm Tóibín, “Desolation Row” (NYRB)

Antonia Quirke, “Devastatingly Milton” (New Statesman)

Peter Nagy, “TV’s Radical, Bisexual Comic-Book Antihero” (The Atlantic)

Michael Fischer, “How Much Easier to Hate” (Guernica Magazine)

What We’re Reading: Week of 12th March

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Some reading gathered for you from around the web by members of the JHIBlog team. Let us know what else has caught your eye this week in the comments!

Kristin:

Mary Beard, “Sex and Death in the Classical World” (New Statesman)

Jonathan Carey, “The Africans Who Called Tudor England Home” (Atlas Obscura)

Graeme Smith and Louisa Lim, “Policing the Contour Lines: China’s Cartographic Obsession” (Chinoiresie, The Little Red Podcast)

 

Derek:

Doreen St. Felix, “The National Geographic Twins and the Falsehood of our Post-racial Future” (New Yorker)

Martin Jay, “A History of Alienation” (Aeon)

Andrew Dole, “Could there be another Billy Graham?” (The Conversation)

 

Spencer:

Amy Murrell Taylor, “The historian who admired slavers” (TLS)

Josephine Quinn “Caesar Bloody Caesar” (NYRB)

Becca Rothfeld, “A Day at a Time” (The Nation)

Kyla Marshell, interview with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Guardian)

What We’re Reading: Week of 5th March

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Here’s what our editorial team has been reading this week—let us know what you think and what you’ve been reading!

Brendan:

Tim Rogan, Why Amartya Sen remains the century’s great critic of capitalism (Aeon)

Jamie Fisher, The Left-Handed Kid (LRB)

Adam Roberts, Till Tomorrow (New Atlantis)

 

Sarah:

Heather Bowen-Struyk and Norma Field, ““Art as a Weapon”: Japanese Proletarian Literature on the Centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution,” (The Asia-Pacific Journal)

Anne Enright, “The Genesis of Blame,” (LRB)

Jiayang Fan, “Can Wine Transform China’s Countryside?” (New Yorker)

Anne Mette Lundtofte, “The Kim Wall Murder Trial,” (New Yorker)

Manisha Sinha, “Today’s Eerie Echoes of the Civil War,” (NYRB)

 

Derek:

Marta Figlerowicz, “The Disillusionment of Post-Soviet Europe” (Boston Review)

Cassidy Faust, “7 Activists of Color You Should Read This International Women’s Day” (LitHub)

Allison Keyes, “Two Museum Directors Say It’s Time to Tell the Unvarnished History of the U.S.” (Smithsonian)

 

Spence:

Paola Bertucci, “It Wasn’t Just Philosophers Like Diderot Who Invented the Enlightenment” (History News Network)

David A. Bell, “The PowerPoint Philosophe” (The Nation)

Ian Campbell Ross, “Alas, Poor YORICK!” (Public Domain Review)

James Campbell, “Jimmy is Everywhere” (TLS)

Dana Fishkinn, “Magic and Science in Medieval Ashkenaz” (Marginalia)

What We’re Reading: Week of 26th February

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Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

Cynthia:

What is the purpose of art criticism?

This question has been on my mind for several weeks, ever since I read Ben Davis’s “State of the Art Culture, IV: Why the Art World as We Know It is Ending.” In this piece, Davis argues that art criticism is rapidly changing. Pointing to parallel shifts in fashion, he writes, “If the main point of culture writing is just what Renata Adler once disparagingly called the “consumer service” function—“this is okay, this is not okay, this is vile, this resembles that, this is good indeed, this is unspeakable”—then getting attractive people to show up and show off for their many followers may actually be preferable, from an institutional point of view, than critical appraisal.”

In this world, where does the critic fit?

Davis points to a number of publications that are “trying to innovate” in this new art world/ecosystem. Tellingly, two of the new initiative are sponsored by for-profit entities—the Gagosian Gallery and Art Agency, Partners. In this context, art criticism, or what Davis calls “culture writing,” has been fully assimilated into commerce. Here, the purpose of art criticism seems to be performing Adler’s “necessary consumer service,” offering “a notice that the work exists, and where it can be bought, found, or attended; a set of adjectives appearing to set forth an opinion of some sort, but amounting really to a yes vote or a no vote; and a somewhat nonjudgmental, factual description or account,” perhaps also contextualizing the work in the broader history of art.

More and more, art criticism also provides another essential consumer service—placing the work in question within the art market, helping the reader come to economic, as well as aesthetic, judgments.

But is this economic dimension of art criticism truly something novel to our age? Or have economic judgments always been a part of art criticism’s purpose?

Dave Hickey believes that the biggest shift has been the art writer’s complete absorption into the art market. In an interview with Sheila Heti, Hickey described the change this way: “[Art magazines] want touting. In twenty years we’ve gone from a totally academicized art world to a totally commercialized art world, and in neither case is criticism a function. We’re all supposed to be positive about art. Nobody plays defense! I mean, my job, to a certain extent, is to be in the net. My job is to mow stuff down.”

This seems, at least to me, too dark a vision. I don’t want to argue too strongly for art’s economic exceptionalism (though David Beech is happy to do so in Art and Value—incidentally, this is probably the only academic book I’ve ever read that features an endorsement by the artist Jeff Wall). In any case, economic value seems to be just one of art’s selling points, if we can believe the 2017 UBS Investor Watch Pulse Report’s claim that collectors are “driven by passion, not profit.”

We might locate the origins of art criticism—at least, as it is practiced in the Western tradition—in the Greek concept of ekphrasis, in the practice of describing a work—and its experience—to another subject. Art criticism is necessarily intersubjective. Thomas Crow described the process:“Faced with a mute work of art, any interested observer enters into a process of translation, making sense of it by some form of paraphrase in thought or words. No one assumes any such substitution to be adequate to the original object in need of explanation; rather, the purpose of the exercise is to offer a vantage point from which salient aspects of the object can be mapped. Going from there entails further translations or substitutions to capture aspects and features of the object missed by earlier ones. These successive approximations accumulate until seriously diminishing returns set in, at which point the object should be nearly as intelligible as it can be.”

Jed Perl describes the process—and the relationship of the writer to the work—in slightly different terms: “What we want in criticism is a particular person confronting things. And, over a period of time as you read that critic, you begin to have a sense of where that person is coming from. I’ve had people say insightful things to me about my sensibility which they’ve deduced not from knowing me personally but from reading me over the years. When I’m sitting down to write a piece of criticism, the first question is, “What did I think and feel about it?””

From here, the writer moves to the interpretive and critical task, though of course these strands (description, interpretation, criticism) are not easy to disentangle. For most writers, they happen all at once. T. J. Clark strikes me as one of the best examples of this practice. Everything happens all at once in his writing–though I wonder if he would take kindly to having his writing filed under the rubric of “criticism”? David Salle brings the intelligence of a practicing artist to his criticism, an ability to inhabit the various ways of making—and knowing—deployed by each artist, an intelligence that shapes the experience of looking into pointed, precise judgments. See, for example, this paragraph on Laura Owens.

In all of these models of criticism, the work of criticism mediates between the universal and the particular. The critic’s work is grounded in a specific, individual, particular body, and yet in the work of writing, the critic must transcend that particularity, and yet not float so far and so free that the work of criticism becomes a litany of banalities.

Of course, a cynic might say that these qualitative judgments and valuations merely mask the quantitative ones—and in a capitalistic society, those quantitative ones are the ones that matter. Perhaps UBS had it wrong. It’s both passion and profit—but mostly profit, all the way down.

 

Brendan:

Reply All,, “The World’s Most Expensive Free Watch” (Gimlet Media)

Adam Tooze, “A Modern Greek Tragedy”  (NYRB)

Doreen St. Félix “The Otherworldly Concept Albums of Janelle Monáe” (New Yorker)

Nick Richardson, “Even What Doesn’t Happen is Epic” (LRB)

Matthew Engel, “Malta: An Island of Secrets and Lies” (New Statesman)

 

Sarah:

Hilston Als, “The Color of Humanity,” (New Yorker)

Angus Dalton, “Blood on the Pavement: an interview with novelist and 78er Jeremy Fisher,” (Overland)

Pankaj Mishra, “Why do White People Like What I Write?” (LRB)

Samuel Moyn, “Mark Lilla and the Crisis of Liberalism,” (Boston Review)

Jacqueline Rose, “I am a knife,” (LRB)

 

Eric:

Maria Rosa Menocal, “Writing Without Footnotes: The Role of the Medievalist in Contemporary Intellectual Life [2001]”.

Frank Pasquale “Strange Elegies” (Commonweal).

Elaine Showalter, “Imagining Violence: “The Power” of Feminist Fantasy” (NYRB).

 

Derek:

Edward Thornton, “Two’s a crowd” (Aeon)

Anthony Gottlieb, “The Ghost and the Princess” (Lapham’s Quarterly)

Sophie Putka, “Stuck on the Chaise Lounge” (Lady Science)

 

Kristin:

In honor of the season, Happy Holi to our readers!

Victoria Finlay, “The Meaning Behind the Many Colors of India’s Holi Festival”  (Smithsonian)

Paul Laudicina, “Holi, Inclusive Growth, and India’s Future” (Forbes)

Krzysztof Iwanek, “Amul: the Pun-dits of Indian Advertising” (Diplomat)

William Souder, “The Fantastic Beasts of John James Audubon’s Little-Known Book on Mammals” (Smithsonian)

 

Spencer:

Steve Paulson, “The Critical Zone of Science and Politics: An Interview with Bruno Latour” (LARB)

Shalom Auslander, “Opposite of Modern” (TLS)

John Banville, “The Impossibility of Being Oscar” (NYRB)

Deepanjana Pal, “How Bollywood’s Sridevi Should Be Remembered” (The Atlantic)

What We’re Reading: Week of 19th February

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Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

 

Sarah:

Heather Agyepong, “The Forgotten Story of the Women Behind the Black British Panthers,” (The Debrief)

Tina Cartwright, “Whodunnit to whom? A case for language preservation,” (overland)

Pierre Challier, “Patrick Weil, historien, <<Il faut des procédures communes avec nos voisins»” (Ladepeche.fr)

Pamela E. Klassen, “When Secularism Fails Women,” (Public Books)

Thania Sanchez, “More of the same? Human Rights in an Age of Inequality,” (LawfareBlog)

 

Eric:

Online Forum: W.E.B. Du Bois @ 150” (Black Perspectives).

Greg Afinogenov, “Ice Age: Society as checkpoint” (N+1).

Hugo Drochon, “France’s Machiavellian Moment: Then and Now” (Tocqueville21).

Magali Della Sudda, “L’Europe des anti-genre” (Viedesidées).

 

Derek:

Priya Satia, “Guns and the British Empire” (Aeon)

William Howarth, “Reading Thoreau at 200” (The American Scholar)

Walter Johnson, “To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice” (Boston Review)

Thomas Meaney, “A Celebrity Philosopher Explains the Populist Insurgency” (New Yorker)

 

Spencer:

Anna Deavere Smith, “Ghost Whisperers” (NYRB)

Regina Marler, “In the Cauldron at Midnight” (NYRB)

Oliver Moody, “The Oddness of Isaac Newton” (TLS)

Brian Cummings, “Naked Luther” (Marginalia)

Christopher Turner, “Cinematic Airs” (Cabinet)

What We’re Reading: Week of 12th February

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For those who’ve already raced through the latest issue of the Journal of the History of Ideas and are still in need of intellectual history, here’s what our editorial board has been reading this week:

Kristin:

Some Valentine’s themed reading:

William Jankowiak, Shelly Volsche, and Justin R. Garcia, “The Half of the World That Doesn’t Make Out” (Sapiens)

A fiery debate for those interested in military strategy, links to oppositional pieces included:

Adam N. Weinstein, ““No, We Can’t Kill Our Way to Victory Despite What 2 Misguided Lieutenant Colonels Might Think” (Task & Purpose)

Franz-Stefan Gady, “Has the US Military Really Lost ‘The Art of Killing’?” (Diplomat)

Marina Koren, “What Color Is a Tennis Ball?” (Atlantic)

 

Derek:

Carol J. Adams, “The Hamburger: An American Lyric” (The Paris Review)

Anton Martinho-Truswell, “To automate is human” (Aeon)

Jennifer Hassan, “Meet Cheddar Man” (Washington Post)

Lisa Bitel, “The ‘real’ St. Valentine was no patron of love” (The Conversation)

 

Eric:

Hisham Aidi “L’anti-orientalisme ambigu de Juan Goytisolo” (Orient XXI).

Ibram X. Kendi “The Soul of W.E.B. Du Bois” (The Paris Review).

Adam Tooze, “Democracy’s Twenty-First-Century Histories” (AdamTooze).

Quinn Slobodian, “Neoliberalism’s Populist Bastards” (Public Seminar)

 

Spencer:

Francis Gooding, “Feathered, Furred or Coloured” (LRB)

Thomas Morris, “Circle of Life(TLS)

Amanda Dennis, “Life Writing(LARB)

Jason DeParle, “When Government Drew the Color Line” (NYRB)

Dan Piepenbring, “The Enthralling, Anxious World of Vladimir Nabokov’s Dreams(New Yorker)

What We’re Reading: Week of 5th February

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Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

Yitzchak:

David P. Goldman, “A Sea of Blood at the Met: Race theory, Aryan purity, and a Jewish purge in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’” (Tablet)

Jia Tolentino, “The Mesmerizing Spectacle of North Korea’s “Army of Beauties” at the Winter Olympics” (New Yorker)

Don Piepenbring, “The Enthralling, Anxious World of Vladimir Nabokov’s Dreams” (New Yorker)

Ian Bostridge, “God’s Own Music” (NYRB)

 

Sarah:

Jill Lepore, “The Strange and Twisted Life of “Frankenstein,” (New Yorker)

Josephine Livingstone, “Losing the Twentieth Century,” (New Republic)

Andrew Rice, “The Fight to be a Muslim in America,” (Guardian Longreads)

Robert Wood, “On Guilty Pleasure: A Response to Reading Joyce Carol Oates,” (overland)

 

Kristin:

Amanda Giracca, ““Consider the Rooster” (Aeon)

Shaan Amin, “The Dark Side of the Comics That Redefined Hinduism” (The Atlantic)

Laura Spinney, “How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Revolutionized Public Health” (Smithsonian)

 

Spencer: 

Terence Tiller, “Political Prisoner(TLS)

Ian Bostrige, “God’s Own Music(NYRB)

Caroline Crampton, “Caroline of Ansbach(New Statesman)

Allison C. Meier, “Illustrating Carnival(Public Domain Review)

Robert Cremins, “Ishiguro’s Orphans” (LARB)