The Symphonic Subject: Beethoven, Hegel, Adorno

Through the writings of Adorno, finding echoes of Hegel in the music of Beethoven


We have never been inside: Peter Sloterdijk's "In the World Interior of Capital"

Did the violent history of European exploration culminate in greater freedom or bland decadence?


Nigeria beyond Bombs and Ebola

Drilling beneath recent headlines of violence and terrorism in Nigeria, one finds a country bursting with energy, life, and hospitality.


The Kitchen Sisters and I

What happens to history when it is looked at from the perspective of the kitchen table? Russian history is seen in a new light when one explores Soviet kitchens and their practices of communal dining.


The Heroic Age of Spenser Studies: Roche after Fifty Years

How to account for the lasting influence of a fifty-year old work of literary criticism? Thomas P. Roche, Jr.'s book, The Kindly Flame, encourages readers to make their own meaning out of Spenser's Faerie Queene.


Scholar's Tales

"Equality or Dignity?" Christopher Warley explores the tension at the heart of Erich Auerbach's work alongside recent biographies of Derrida and Spenser.


Real Life Poetry Top Ten

Writing on the border of life and text, poet Joseph Lease suggests "the only way to be honest is to be haunted."


American Dreams in China: Challenges of the Transnational University

American Dreams in China (2013) is a Chinese film about upward mobility that will feel familiar to most Americans.

Tableaux Morts: Execution, Cinema, and Galvanistic Fantasies

On the conjoining of cinematography and electrocution in execution films.

Striating Difference: From "Ceremonies and Customs" to World Religions

How might a closer look at images of religious diversity since the eighteenth century upend our understanding of modern pluralism?


Lukács and the Mockingjay

How important is Katniss Everdeen, really, to the uprising in Panem?


Close Reading as Genre

Just what is that infamous thing, a close reading?

From the Vital to the Social

A closer look at the origins and structure of "synthesized life" at the heart of biopolitics.

Aristocratic Women on Love

On the losing, now elapsed, and ultimately monarchist case in the struggle over love, learning, and femininity that raged from Revolution to Restoration.


WhatsApp with Friendship?

Hurrah for friendship. This was one of the messages behind the heart-stopping price of close to 19 billion dollars Facebook offered for WhatsApp, the new instant messaging service.


Psychology and Classifications of the Sciences

How psychology’s gradual emergence as an autonomous field concerned with the production of knowledge also tells an important story about the systematic ordering of the sciences more generally.


Decolonizing Self

A polyphonic blog-poem—in English and Georgian—about decolonizing one's self.


Mistakes Were Made, or The Language of Rescinding

“You never know exactly what’s going on there”: the old adage about other peoples’ marriages applies equally to the academic job market.

The King’s Two Daughters

How the University of Paris was represented as “the daughter of the king,” when actual royal daughters were excluded from the right to rule.


Para-Library Science at the NYPL

In Roland Emmerich’s schlocky disaster film The Day After Tomorrow (2004), a tsunami swamps the New York Public Library and enables some ham-handed scenarios about the fate of books after an environmental apocalypse.


Making Sport of Signs and Similitudes

For my last post on Cervantes and his “invention of fiction” before handing in my finished manuscript, I wanted to return to one of the most influential interpretations of his work in the twentieth century: that of Michel Foucault.


In Sickness and in Health

Elizabeth Bishop’s most impactful letter of the summer of 1947 was the first substantive one she ever wrote to Robert Lowell.


Winnie’s Penelope: On Solitude and the Comfort of Strangers

I just finished reading a fascinating appetizer to John Carlin’s new book on Nelson Mandela, Knowing Mandela.


Lafcadio Hearn: Global Before Globalization

How could a man born on a Greek island in 1869 be a household name in Japan today?

The Plastic Self and the Prescription of Psychology

How the advent of the "new psychology" in the late 19th century comes to shape and name the individual as the privileged site for sociocultural diagnosis and intervention.


Reference Works, Poetically

Why would anyone read a reference work cover-to-cover?


Omnivorousness, Elite Taste, Literary Scholarship

Let’s talk about quantitative literary history and where you can find the best tacos al pastor.

Late Style(s): The Ageism of the Singular

Generalizations about late style suffer from the same limitations as contemporary narratives of aging because of their shared, reductive rhetoric of progress, peak, and decline.


The Shock of the Modern

The discovery of being culturally late is a profound human experience.


Utopia and the reality of literary study

Is there anything more tedious than the facile distinction between university study and the “real world”?


Ghostlier demarcations

A book that furnishes no quotations is no book—it is a plaything. Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it. How frequently the mere purchase of a book is mistaken for the appropriation of its contents.


What the ASA Boycott Actually Says About Academic Freedom

Some of you may have been following the recent matter of the ASA’s vote for an academic boycott of Israel. I was involved in that discussion and favor the boycott, but my blog today will not try to convince you or lobby you.


I Can, Therefore I Shall: Identifications from the Novel to Facebook

Is there something to be said for looking at Facebook as one of a long genealogy of modes of reader/viewer identification?


’If u don’t know who Mandela is, please shut up!’: Victims of Enchantment and the Reign of Emblems

Some months ago when news of Mandela’s illness began to trickle into the media I decided to try and ensure that my 12-year-old knew something about the great man beyond the coverage to be found on the news.


Remembering Paul Alpers

The Spenser Review has run an issue remembering Paul Alpers, who sadly passed away last May, and I am one of the six contributors. I have a great fear (I hope I’m wrong) that Alpers is not so well known to those new to the profession of criticism. He was a giant, and is very much missed.


Remembrance Day and the Case of the $400,000,000 Poem

I like to think of John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" as the $400,000,000 poem, and not just because its first stanza has appeared on the back of the Canadian $10 bank note—a fact that, all by itself, makes McCrae's World War I-era verse one of the most widely circulated poems in history.


Optimized Health

Reaction to the roll-out of has taken many predictable forms, among them the false equation whereby Grand Tech Failure = Evidence of the Unconstitutionality of the Affordable Care Act itself.


Living, loving, and party-going in Shakespeare

Plays have to end, but no one so well as Shakespeare understood how to use them to offer the hospitality of time, the interim of friendship.


1942-2013 = LOU REED = ∞

Lou Reed cared about art long after he could have stopped caring. Art is what drove him and fueled his work, what inspired him and made him so inspiring. And in this cultural moment where fame and page views often trump all other claims to attention, that is huge.