Humanities

What is Religion?

Richard Holloway— As with many useful words, symbol comes from Greek. It means to bring together things that had come apart, the way you might glue the bits of a broken plate together. Then a symbol became an object that stood for or represented something else. It still had the idea of

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The Historical Assault on the Language of the Deaf

Gerald Shea— Noam Chomsky, giving a lecture in Chicago in 1965, mistakenly defined language as “a specific sound-to-meaning correspondence.” When asked where this left the signed languages of the Deaf, Chomsky revised his definition on the spot, calling language a specific signal to meaning correspondence. The distinction was important, for it was

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ISIS, Christianity, and the Pact of Umar

David J. Wasserstein— When ISIS forces took the Iraqi city of Mosul in the summer of 2014, and later on when they took Raqqa in Syria, they did not kill all the Christians. Instead they made them sign on to a curious set of conditions. Christians were allowed to maintain

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The Limits of Tolerance

Emily Katz Anhalt— The ancient Greeks were open-minded without being tolerant. They didn’t devise the world’s first-ever democracy by tolerating everything. Their unprecedented transition from tribalism to civil society derived from their eagerness to ask questions and their determination to judge others and themselves critically. Open-mindedness and the desire to

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A Conversation Between Patrick Modiano Translators Mark Polizzotti and Damion Searls

On the heels of our publication of Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano’s Such Fine Boys and Sundays in August in English, two of his esteemed translators sat down to discuss Modiano’s idiosyncratic and impressive body of work and the distinct nuances of translating it. It is with great pleasure that we present

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Rethinking American Religion in the Age of Trump

Mark Oppenheimer— When I published Knocking on Heaven’s Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture, in 2003, the field of the 1960s was still relatively under-studied, the field of American religion in the 1960s in particular. Flying somewhat blind, I made the argument that the revolution in American religion in

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#BookLoversDay: Books about Books for Book Lovers

Feed your book cravings with a book about book, it’s International Book Lovers Day! This list features books about reading books, writing books, studying books, and the history of the book format itself. Book yourself some time to book up in a comfy chair and book out. (How many times

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Jenny Diski: On Babyface

Jenny Diski— The great advantage over real live creatures that my Three Bears had in common with Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, aside from not needing to be fed or produce droppings, was neoteny. Mickey and my ursine family looked only glancingly like a mouse or brown bears, and much more like babies.

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Writing and Self-Hatred

Devorah Baum— In his amazingly pleasurable new book, In Writing, psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips describes writing, in his experience, as an “amazing pleasure.” Lucky him. He sits down to write, he says, and the writing just happens—he’s never “trying” to write and meeting some sort of internal resistance or

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Sorkin on the Racing Line

Clive James— Both The Sopranos and Band of Brothers were HBO cable productions, and their collective impact might tend to persuade us that network television was left nowhere. But it’s a law of the arts that a stylistic innovation gets instantly everywhere, like heat or cold; and in fact, even while HBO

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