Humanities

Winter Nights

Francis Spufford— Here comes the winter night. If we were our oldest ancestors, tucked into draughty recesses of caves with blue hands hugged around us as we slept, we’d be dreaming of summer: we’d be using our human freedom to step away from circumstances to wish that all mornings were

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Materialism and the Senses

Terry Eagleton— The early Marx is engaged on an arrestingly original project. No other critic of the system under which he lived had taken it to task for what it does to the human senses. There had been no such phenomenology of capitalism before. In Marx’s view, the capitalist mode

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The Etiquette of Hell

David Bentley Hart— There is, it seems, a very strict etiquette of hell. I don’t mean the manners and mores proper to the establishment itself; I expect those are pretty dreadful, if you’re the fastidious sort. Rather, I mean a set of unwritten rules one is supposed to observe when

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Why Munch Painted

Karl Ove Knausgaard— I knew why Munch painted, I knew it so well that I could articulate it with a single sentence. And it resembles the sentence spoken by the author with his sweater tucked into his trousers. I write because I am going to die.  I paint because I

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Myth vs. Truth: Science and Stories

Anthony Aveni— Trained as an astronomer but now spending most of my time writing about skywatchers in indigenous cultures, I’ve come to think that individuals trained in science tend to pay too little attention to stories of creation other than their own “Big Bang.” They generally regard stories from other

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There Are No Non-Believers

Agustín Fuentes— We all believe. But we are not all religious. Belief is an evolved capacity that incorporates our neurobiology, our behavior, our cultures, our histories, our individual development and experiences. This enables humans to live in the here and now, in the moment, in the material world, and to

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Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution

Yehudah Mirsky— Though he died in 1935, Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook (Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook) still towers in contemporary Israeli politics and Jewish spirituality; neither can properly be understood without him. His controversial life and the colossal body of writing he left behind offer powerful lessons and pose difficult questions.

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Seduced by Characters—Q&A with Alberto Manguel

Yale University Press: What is your earliest memory of connecting deeply with a literary character? How old were you, who was it, and what do you remember feeling at the time? Alberto Manguel: Because I learned to read when I was about four, my earliest remembered stories are those of

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Why Jewish Writers Avoid the “Jewish Writer” Label

Adam Kirsch— Several years ago, I moderated a discussion between two novelists at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. The setting seemed appropriate, since these were Jewish writers who wrote about Jewish characters and themes. But when I asked them if they considered themselves Jewish novelists, both answered emphatically

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America’s Long Jewish History

Jonathan D. Sarna— New Amsterdam, part of the remote Dutch colony of New Netherland in present-day New York State, was among the New World’s most diverse and pluralistic towns. A French Jesuit missionary in 1643 reported that “eighteen different languages” were spoken by local inhabitants of different sects or nations.

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