The Nagel Flap: Mind and Cosmos

John H. Zammito

The exasperated tone with which evolutionary scientists, philosophers of science, and others on the side of science and philosophy received Nagel’s book was struck early.

Recovering the Vernacular

Thomas Fitzgerald

Venues now available for many more competing voices, together with the multiplying perspectives of our times—hailed as liberating diversity—serve as dispensation to believe in anything, everything, or nothing.

Sacred Reading

Chad Wellmon

With the rise of humanism and modern critical scholarly practices in subsequent centuries, texts began to be treated as material objects to be fixed and plumbed for meaning.

The Witness of Literature

Alan Jacobs

To the arguments of Huxley and Tyndall against traditional religion, Yeats had no answer until literature and the other arts came to the rescue.

Better Living Through Bibliotherapy

Chad Wellmon and Paul Reitter

Majoring in English, the sales pitch now goes, will help you craft your soul.

No Ordinary Place

Clare Coffey

For some friends of the library, no defense of the stacks is necessary.

The Devil We Know

Elizabeth Bruenig

The devil was understood to be present and industrious, and America’s earliest forebears were quick to suss him out by his evil works.

Tending the Digital Commons

Alan Jacobs

The complexities of social media ought to prompt deep reflection on what we all owe to the future, and how we might discharge this debt.

Virtuosos of Idleness

Charlie Tyson

Our crisis of work is accompanied by a crisis of idleness.

The Lost Art of Dying

Thomas Pfau

Death is experienced as the total absence of meaning and, consequently, as something not to be understood but merely to be managed by drawing on medical ingenuity, pharmaceutical resources, and the (increasingly limited) forbearance of insurance companies.

Good on Paper

Nan Z. Da

Books, reading, and literature cultivate “a way of being in time.”

The Auden Course

Wilfred M. McClay

Who could survive such a feast, let alone digest it?

Trajectory of a Dream

S.D. Chrostowska

Why do dreams, aside from those that prove uncannily prophetic, not befit our biography?

An Ever More Perfect Novel

Tyler Malone

The Great American Novel? Why are we still banging on about that old thing?

You Know This

John Thomason

A neglected hard-boiled novelist wrote on the greatest conspiracy of all.

Under the Sign of Sontag

Charlie Tyson

Could Sontag the woman ever live up to Sontag the persona?

There Is Simply Too Much More to Think About

Robert L. Kehoe III

To feel and give voice to the “more” of our humanity was Saul Bellow’s vocation.

The Book’s the Thing

Pano Kanelos

What is so compelling about a book?

Our Mindless and Our Damned

Antón Barba-Kay

Vampire and zombie stories are stories of a new mass folklore. But they have dreamt themselves into us for specific reasons.


Vanessa Place

If we really wanted to kill the monster, we would give it what it wants.

Inviting Evil In

Paul A. Cantor

We have met the monsters, and they are us.

Season of the Witch

Becca Rothfeld

Today’s witches are no longer experts in the “occult.” Instead, they rush to aid the downtrodden—and to publish their potion recipes in best-selling how-to guides.

Desperately Seeking Mothman

Tara Isabella Burton

At their core, cryptids represent the triumph of the particular over the generic.

What Freud Got Right

Wilfred M. McClay

We might do a better job of living together if we believed that we are meant to do so.

Blood Sports

B.D. McClay

True crime is not quite about watching people die, but it does require an interest in the subject.

A Grand Turk in Washington

Kevin Blankinship

Writing a book about Thomas Jefferson means entering a very crowded field.

In Self-Isolation with The Plague

John Rosenthal

At the beginning of a plague, everyone is implicated.

The Amodernist

Jay Tolson

Péguy’s critical stance toward both broad coalitions made him neither a modernist nor an antimodernist, but something quite distinctive and instructive.

Faulkner as Futurist

Carl Rollyson

For Faulkner, all of time existed as a moment, during which all could be changed: past, present, and future.

How to Cook a Wolf under Lockdown

Laurel Berger

As the crisis wears on, I find myself wondering about the code of hospitality.

Whose Humanities?

Edward Tenner

The humanities may have suddenly mattered more than ever, but their support was also as fragile as it had been for decades.

Heavenly Geometries

Nathan Goldman

Given the gorgeousness of George Eliot’s own prose, her translation’s eloquence comes as no surprise.

The Great Simplifier

Mark Dunbar

If John Brown failed at anything, he failed at saving us from ourselves.

Left Behind

Nancy Isenberg

The trouble with euphemism.

The Strange Undeath of Middlebrow

Phil Christman

Everything that was once considered lowbrow is now triumphant.

Creation: Pro(-) and Con

Kieran Setiya

When you bring children into being, you give them the gift of life, but you also impose on them these terrible costs.

Paul Valéry and the Mechanisms of Modern Tyranny

Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody

All modern forms of government presume an objectification of their citizens.

Toward an Incarnational Aesthetic

Ashley C. Barnes

On locating the sublimity of art within the world and within history.

Lost Together

Matt Dinan

Hunting after the “hidden life of learning,” Zena Hitz defends learning for its own sake.

There’s Nothing Normal about Normal

Noah J. Toly

On the surface, “normal” might seem harmless, charmingly self-deprecating, maybe even endearing.

Art and the Art of Living

Matthew Mutter

The disagreement between modernism and the contemporary discourse of “self-help” is not about whether literature has “therapeutic” capacities.

Notes on Naff

Sean Wyer

 Naffness is not an idea. It is a sensibility.

Principled to a Fault

Becca Rothfeld

On the face of it, Simone Weil is a remarkably poor candidate for domestication.

Through a Monocle, Selectively

Jackson Arn

As a history of art and thought in the Cold War era, The Free World is enthralling but unsatisfying, inevitably so.


Wilfred M. McClay

The meaning of performative in contemporary parlance is almost exactly the opposite of the word’s original meaning.

Is There a Place for Utopia?

S.D. Chrostowska

Consider embracing utopia at once as indeterminate speculation about a qualitatively better future and as a hypothesis, by assuming it to be possible.

The Critic’s Critic

Richard Hughes Gibson

An important part of his legacy is his criticism of the critics.

Stacked Deck

Jonathan Malesic

Substack prompts the question should the people we rely on to inform us be celebrities?

Authenticity in Fashion

Richard Thompson Ford

Concern with authenticity seems to be unique to societies marked by conspicuous racial or ethnic hierarchies.

Chasing Phillis Wheatley

Tara A. Bynum

Learning to read for the possibility or the certainty of laughter in the writings of Phillis Wheatley.

Anything But True Love

Talbot Brewer

Is love so discrete and impregnable that it can subsist in the midst of the most repellent undertakings?

The Fake Book of Negroes

Gerald Early

Black Americans still embrace the exodus story as the defining trope of their collective experience.

My Identity Problem

Alan Shapiro

In the fifties we wanted to assimilate into the mainstream and not stand out even while, behind closed doors, we practiced being Jews, now identity was front and center of what we wanted the world to know about us.

Another City

Charles Mathewes

What does it mean to find ultimate value present in the immanent?

You’re Not the Boss of Me

Rita Koganzon

The liberty of the adult citizen depends on the subordination of the prepolitical child.

Sisyphus Gets a Prescription

Carl Elliott

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the health of the community is essential to the health of the individual.

A Happier Enlightenment

Richard Hughes Gibson

We can’t properly define the Enlightenment without making reference to happiness.

Ecce Homo

Leann Davis Alspaugh

That Edvard Munch never met Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the great missed encounters of the modern age.

With Friends Like These

B.D. McClay

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before.

The Critical Fate of the Major Novel

B.D. McClay

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; even smaller minds complain about the rest of these people.

Nature Writing Gets Personal

James McWilliams

After situating themselves in a “wild” context, both women do what the entire history of nature writing has implicitly instructed them not to do: they bring their emotional backpacks into the landscape.

Sluttery and Shakespeare

B.D. McClay

A translation of English to English presumes that ambiguity of language is always a flaw—but it’s not.

The Hedgehog Recommends

Some spooky stories for Halloween.

Black Oxygen

James McWilliams

Cormac McCarthy gives us 500 pages of idiosyncratic wordplay without even cheap narrative excitement. Who does he think he is? Joyce? Faulkner? Melville? Well, yes.

More Spooky Stories for Halloween

Spooky selections for your Halloween weekend

Scorsese’s Catholic Dilemma

Jeffrey Guhin

The question for Silence is not whether another world exists but how such a recognition should affect our lives here.

In Self-Isolation with The Plague

John Rosenthal

To the relatives of the dead, the plague is here. 


Alan Jacobs

Time to adopt a new hero: Lew Archer, private detective.

Pruning the Mind During a Crisis

Margarita Mooney

Why should anyone focus on the life of the mind when individual and societal survival is threatened? 

The Machine Pauses

Stuart Whatley

It is precisely at such moments of technological dependency that one might consider interrogating one’s relationship with technology more broadly.

Against Projection; For Promise

Alan Jacobs

To make promises, to stand by one words, to be answerable for them, is to open oneself to blame.

The Uniqueness of the Here and Now

Cecile McWilliams

The solitude of sickness is not a waste of time but rather a compression of it, a bundle the size of a pill bottle.

Faulkner as Futurist

Carl Rollyson

Faulkner’s treatment of the past means much for the nature of our future.

How to Cook a Wolf Under Lockdown

Laurel Berger

My quarrel with M.F.K. Fisher was part of a larger quarrel I’ve been having with myself ever since we went to ground in March. 

Our Chekhov Moment

Eric B. Schnurer

Who will emerge as the new elite from this particular moment’s cast of winners and losers?

Alexander Herzen and the Plural World

Alan Jacobs

Herzen won’t stop striving for social transformation with every ounce of energy he has, but also won’t pick up Chernyshevsky’s axe.

Tortoises and Tigers: The Pleasures of a Long Read

Richard Hughes Gibson

Why read long books? Well, if you have to ask…

The Fantasy of Self-Forgiveness

Gordon Marino

We need to preserve a distinction between recognizing our transgressions and resolving to change, on one hand, and imagining that we can forgive ourselves, on the other.

Trump Isn’t Lear. But Maybe Edmund?

Cassandra Nelson

What haunted Edmund was a fear of being second best.

An Appeal for Friction Writing

Richard Hughes Gibson

Our writing process lacks sufficient resistance, hesitation, reconsideration.

Do We Absolutely Disagree?

Alan Jacobs

Well known free speech advocates may not always be free speech absolutists.

Reading Wealth of Nations and Meeting Adam Smith

Richard Hughes Gibson

To measure the Wealth of Nations, you had to inspect the shirts on people’s backs and the shoes on their feet.

Apart of a Community—Or a Part of It

Scott M. Reznick

Reading and interpreting poetry offers a unique way to cultivate ethical knowledge and therefore bears on collective, and not just individual, life.

A New Guild System

Alan Jacobs

What if the more successful political commentators on Substack, or music teachers on YouTube, or masters of the podcast interview, began to teach their craft to others?

More than a Matter of Taste

Joshua Hren

Henry James’s fiction shows how aesthetic misjudgments can be connected to moral vice.

Wordsworth and the Paradox of Self-Writing

Kathryn Hamilton Warren

When I give myself over to the self-writers I love most, I am transformed.

All Eyes on Me

Alan Jacobs

Sometimes irony is a painful awareness of our own absurdity.

Writing a Life

Alan Jacobs

The question I want to ask is simply this: Is the writing of a Life a game that, in our current moment, can be played?

The Idiosyncratic School of Reading

Richard Hughes Gibson

Self-knowledge and pleasure, the Idiosyncratics teach us, go hand in hand through the library.

In the Sideshadows

Richard Hughes Gibson

Everyone contributes to the pandemic, so all bear responsibility.

Why Lecture?

Amy Wright

It’s easy to see how lectures got a bad rap. We have all been subjected to someone who abused the privilege of an audience. 

The Professional-Managerial Novel

Sohale Andrus Mortazavi

Pretending that all workers are the same obscures rather than clarifies the reality of class.

Field Notes of a Sentence Watcher

Richard Hughes Gibson

Taking pleasure in a well-crafted sentence is a good in itself.

Neither This Nor That

Rhoda Feng

We view the concept of “compromise” from all sorts of oblique angles.

A Vision on a Summer Night

Alan Jacobs

Perhaps the older Auden merely wants to have the humility to accept the terms on which agape offers itself.