Category: Words

Ordinary People

One fantasy of modernism is telling all there is to tell about the most ordinary of lives. On a train journey from Richmond to Waterloo Station, Virginia Woolf watched “an old lady in the corner ...

When Stuart Hall Was White

I do not recall when I discovered that Stuart Hall was black. Growing up in Britain as neoliberalism first began to take shape under the rule of Margaret …

Shoptalk: Overheard At MLA

Literary scholars say the darndest things, and their comments at this year’s annual Modern Language Association convention in Philadelphia proved no exception to …

#Academoji

“When you just send me a text full of emojis, it is so easy to dismiss you … A panda next to a gun next to a wrapped gift? It makes no sense!” So Ray admonishes Shoshanna’s use of emojis in the ...

Your Prius Is Not Enough

Many of those who voted for Donald Trump were elated by his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. For Trump supporters, environmentalism is a dirty word, and like other policies designed to ...

Atheists in the Pantheon

Atheists, infidels, unbelievers. Humanists, materialists, naturalists. There are a lot of terms for the nonreligious, and many only tell us what people don’t believe. But what do nonbelievers ...

Slavery Was No Opera

“This was no love story,” Nikky Finney cautions us in “Pluck.” The poem from her 1995 collection, Rice, is a repudiation of Hollywood’s insidious fantasies about sex and American slavery. Prompted by …

James Baldwin’s Istanbul

“Baby, I’m broke, I’m sick. I need your help,” James Baldwin said to a friend when he landed in Europe, looking for a place to rest. This time, his European city of choice wasn’t Paris. It was Istanbul. …

Dependent Contractors

“Are you tired of hearing that the 21st century is the century of the entrepreneur?,” asks a Fast Company article. “Well, get used to it,” it continues, “because the jobs are gone, and if it’s ...

The Author with Birds in His Head

Antonio Di Benedetto’s dreamlike, uncategorizable novel Zama was published in English translation for the first time last year, its arrival long awaited by readers ...

Our Migrant World

Within the rhetorical toolbox of contemporary political discourse, the language used to characterize international migration, refugee crises, and border crossings might fairly be called impoverished ...

Is Handwriting History?

Have you got a pen? My answer to such a question, following some clumsy digging in my backpack, is increasingly no. Sometimes, embarrassment giving way to defensiveness, I wonder why anyone bothers ...

The Murder of Theory

Reports of theory’s death have been greatly exaggerated, but new villains keep on attempting its murder. Those who would vanquish abstraction with description, trade jargon for vernacular, and ...