Humanities

Who Was Ben Hecht?

Adina Hoffman— Ben Hecht was “a genius,” Jean-Luc Godard declared in 1968. “He invented 80 percent of what is used in Hollywood movies today.” He “wrote stories—and he made history,” proclaimed Menachem Begin four years earlier, at Hecht’s standing room-only Manhattan funeral. When Hecht was still alive, and invariably kicking,

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Ghostcatching

Emily Coates and Sarah Demers — Physics and dance share the singular problem of our universe: time moves in one direction. Events that occur can never be repeated exactly. A detector captures the collision of two black holes as an abnormal frequency—a cosmic blip, like the notation for a billion-year-old

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From Automatic Writing to Artificial Intelligence: On Translating Can Xue’s Fiction

Annelise Finegan Wasmoen— Across interviews and essays, the experimental writer Can Xue characterizes her fiction in two ways that speak to what are also questions about translation: as, at once, the embodied performance of freedom, and, at the same time, as an automatic process predicated by a logic or mechanism.

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David Garrick and the Club

Leo Damrosch— When I got the idea of telling the story of a famous eighteenth-century club that called itself simply “the Club,” I knew that there were incredibly rich resources in the writings of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Edmund Burke, Edward Gibbon, and the rest – as well as fascinating

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She Didn’t Start It: Jane Ellen Panton, a Victorian Marie Kondo

Sarah Bilston— Marie Kondo seems to be everywhere these days. Home-dwellers across the planet debate whether the objects in their home “spark joy” and throw out those that don’t — after thanking them for their service first, as per a key KonMari™ precept. Kondo’s website proudly asserts “She started it,”

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How Old is the Hebrew Bible?

Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten— The age of the Hebrew Bible is a complicated and controversial topic. For traditionalists, the age of a book is the age of its author – Moses for the Pentateuch, David for the Psalms, Solomon for the Song of Songs, and so on. For modern

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The Correspondence of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin

David Reynolds— For nearly four years, and against all the odds, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin led the most effective alliance in history. Yet they met face-to-face only twice. Instead, the ‘Big Three’ had to communicate through secret telegrams and coded letters. They exchanged more than six hundred messages

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Reading as a Social Activity

Abigail Williams— On 15 April 1802, Dorothy and William Wordsworth took one of the most significant walks in literary history. They set out in blustery weather, across the fells near Ullswater in the Lake District. It was misty and mild, with a strong wind, and the first signs of spring

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Ep. 69 – Ben Hecht

A look at the life of Ben Hecht, screenwriter, reporter, playwright, novelist, and Jewish activist whose influence is still felt today. Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | Soundcloud

The 50th Anniversary of Portnoy’s Complaint

Bernard Avishai— Irving Howe famously said that the cruelest thing one could do with Portnoy’s Complaint was “read it twice.” But why reread it when the first time was unforgettable? Back when the book was published, exactly 50 years ago, I knew people who sat around in coffee shops, student unions,

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