The Art of Thinking in Other People’s Heads

And what is a feuilleton? Introduction The complaint that technology and media have distorted our culture, politics, our very understanding of reality is by now well-worn. They direct us to mere appearances, satisfy (and create) near-narcotic compulsions, splinter communities into defensive cells of mutual incomprehension and disgust, and generally leave us screen-addled and manipulated. These[…]

The Thinker Who Believed in Doing

William James and the philosophy of pragmatism. “Be not afraid of life, believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” “The martial type of character can be bred without fear.” —William James On a late September morning in 1891, William James walked reluctantly to his class in Harvard College’s[…]

Loos, Lewdness, and Literature: 17th-Century Graffiti in Georgian England Public Latrines

This article, Loos, Lewdness, and Literature: Tales from the Boghouse, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ In the early 1730s, a mysterious editor (known only as “Hurlothrumbo”) committed to print a remarkable anthology: transcriptions of the graffiti from England’s public[…]

Inventing ‘America’: The Engravings of Theodore de Bry

Introduction In the center of this image we see a finely-dressed Christopher Columbus with two soldiers. Columbus stands confidently, his left foot forward with his pike planted firmly in the ground, signaling his claim over the land. Behind him to the left, three Spaniards raise a cross in the landscape, symbolizing a declaration of the[…]

Witch Hunt! How Europe’s Witch Mania Came to the New World

Witch hunts in the New World began in Virginia, though Virginia’s alleged witches were imprisoned rather than executed. When I decided to write Poison in the Colony, a historical novel about the Jamestown colony, I was up against a problem. It was 2014 and young readers had made their desires clear: if a book didn’t contain[…]

From Ancient Rome to Hollywood: Witches as Figures of Fun

How Romans overcame their fear of witches by finding them funny. Introduction For centuries, when people thought of witches, they were evil or possessed by evil demons: think of the Salem witch trials or the 16th and 17th-century woodcuts depicting sinister women conjuring demons or flying on broomsticks. These were the sort of women who morphed in[…]