All entries by this author

Whither Canonicity? *

Oct 12th, 2003 | Filed by

Nobody ever said canon formation was easy. Robert McCrum on The List.… Read the rest

Lists Are Always Fun *

Oct 12th, 2003 | Filed by

The Observer offers its list of the best 100 novels.… Read the rest

The Fame Game

Oct 11th, 2003 7:44 pm | By

This column by David Aaronovitch seems apposite to something we were talking about the other day – the cult of celebrity, or in Leo Braudy’s memorable phrase, the frenzy of renown. It’s not just a matter of electing conspicuously unqualified people to powerful jobs on the basis of nothing at all apart from pure Fame, though that’s more than bad enough. It’s also what fame, or perhaps a certain kind of fame, can do to the people who have it.

an American sports sociologist, Jeff Benedict,…had been asked by sports authorities to collect data to contradict the perception that many athletes were committing crimes against women. Benedict interviewed 300 athletes, victims, lawyers, cops and groupies and discovered that, unfortunately, the

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BHL the Anti-anti-American *

Oct 11th, 2003 | Filed by

Bernard-Henri Levy looks at the concurrent rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.… Read the rest

Paradigms U Like

Oct 11th, 2003 | By Ophelia Benson

The hostility to science goes back for millennia. We don’t like brute facts, we don’t like having to check our wishes and hopes against the reality of how the world is. We’ll submit to the necessity for survival purposes, we’ll learn what we need to know of leopards and rabbits, fire and ice, but beyond that we want the right to believe our fantasies. ‘May God us keep/From single vision, and Newton’s sleep!’ said Blake, and Wordsworth agreed: ‘Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;/Our meddling intellect/Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:–We murder to dissect.’

But there is a new kind of animus that has become conventional wisdom in many universities over the past three decades. It goes by the … Read the rest

Public Intellectuals *

Oct 10th, 2003 | Filed by

A Tory squire and a Palestinian exile, but both thought academics should reach a broad public.… Read the rest

Celebrity Equals Entitlement *

Oct 10th, 2003 | Filed by

David Aaronovitch on what footballers and other athletes think of women.… Read the rest

How It’s Done *

Oct 10th, 2003 | Filed by

Add or omit quotation marks, call it ‘superweed’ or ‘wild hybrid’ – it all adds up.… Read the rest

Initiation into Rites of Belief *

Oct 9th, 2003 | Filed by

Erin O’Connor on Helena Echlin’s dysphoria as a graduate student at Yale.… Read the rest


Oct 8th, 2003 10:07 pm | By

One of the things that can make discussion so dull and claustrophobic is limiting it to just one set of frames: left and right. Not everything is about that. Not absolutely everything is political, and then even what is political doesn’t necessarily divide neatly into left and right.

One different frame, one that arranges and sorts things in a way quite different from the left-right docket, is anti-intellectualism. There is plenty of anti-intellectualism on the left as well as the right – and on the right as well as the left. Often they seem to compete with each other over who can raise the lip farthest to sneer at learning or rationality or critical thought.

For me this division often … Read the rest

Such a Good Idea

Oct 8th, 2003 7:47 pm | By

Well, perfect. Absolutely splendid. Good thinking. It’s such a boring unhip vieux jeu Enlightenment kind of idea, to think that people in high office ought to have something to recommend them beyond pure Name Recognition. How silly is that?! What else is there but name recognition?

No, of course. Obviously. Obviously having your picture taken a great many times in rapid succession is simply the ideal qualification for being, say, the president of the United States, the single most powerful human being on the planet, or the governor of California, a state larger than many important countries. After all, presidents and governors get their pictures taken a lot too, so there you are.

Yeah, come on, this is such a … Read the rest

The Public Library of Science *

Oct 8th, 2003 | Filed by

Scientific reasearch should be freely available.… Read the rest

A Carla Sandwich and Disgrace *

Oct 8th, 2003 | Filed by

John Sutherland recommends Coetzee, Roth and Prose novels for understanding of sexual harrassment.… Read the rest

Neil Postman Obituary *

Oct 8th, 2003 | Filed by

NYU media critic, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death and other influential books.… Read the rest

Market-Worship is Ideology Too *

Oct 8th, 2003 | Filed by

Ignoring the differences between government and business is ideology.… Read the rest


Oct 7th, 2003 8:42 pm | By

Our sermon for today is on the text

The religiosity of the recovery movement is evident in its rhetorical appeals to a higher power and in the evangelical fervor of its disciples. When I criticize the movement I am usually accused of being ‘in denial,’ as I might once have been accused of heresy.

That is from Wendy Kaminer’s examination of the ‘recovery’ and self-help movements, I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional. But the reaction she describes is typical of vastly more ‘movements’ and ideological systems than just the self-help variety. In fact it’s probably fairly difficult to find a ‘movement’ or ideology whose adherents don’t resort to that tactic. If someone criticises a set of ideas to which I am … Read the rest

Eagleton and Kermode *

Oct 7th, 2003 | Filed by

‘While Eagleton has always shouted his heresies, Frank Kermode has whispered his doubts.’… Read the rest

Critical Realism Replacing Postmodernism? *

Oct 7th, 2003 | Filed by

‘If postmodernism is indeed dead…Sokal and Bricmont have surely been instrumental in hastening the death-throes.’… Read the rest

How to Evaluate Evidence *

Oct 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Crooked Timber discusses evidence for and against global warming, and how hard it is to know the difference.… Read the rest

Toxins in Organic Maize *

Oct 7th, 2003 | Filed by

No agriculture is ‘natural’ but without it we’ll all starve to death, remember?… Read the rest