The next time you have a space 15 minutes, treat yourself to the Wingfeather Saga short film on Youtube. It’s a quarter hour of sheer delight. One of the most arresting things about the segment is the way it provides rich, mysterious backgrounds for the characters. The characters live in something like the early-modern Western world, but there are unusual things in this world.Three children go into a city where the guards are all poisonous lizards. Dragons dance at sunset in the sea,… Read more

Study of the sacramental in early modern English poetry has become a cottage industry in literary scholarship. Kimberley Johnson isn’t satisfied with the direction this scholarship has taken, and in her Made Flesh, she offers a corrective. Much of the scholarship has focused on sacramental, especially Eucharistic, doctrine as it is expressed in lyric poetry. Scholars try to determine if the poet is Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, Puritan, or something else. This isn’t poetics, though. It doesn’t describe the relationship… Read more

What is sacrifice for? Many ancient cultures thought that animal offers fed the gods. The situation is more ambiguous for ancient Greeks. As Charles Stocking points out in his Politics of Sacrifice in Early Greek Myth and Poetry, the only explicit evidence for the notion that sacrifice is food for gods comes from comedy (e.g., Aristophanes’s Birds, in which birds prevent sacrificial smoke from getting to the gods). In texts that claim to describe the origin of sacrifice (Hesiod’s Theogony;… Read more

In a TLS review of several recent books on China, Gavin Jacobson highlights the role of geography and history in the formation of contemporary Chinese politics. Geography first: “China is enclosed within 14,000 miles of land borders and a 9,000-mile sea edge. Twenty countries lie next to it, including peer powers, like Russia and India, and smaller, yet historically turbulent states such as North Korea.” China is boxed in on all sides. Then history: “In the 1920s . . …. Read more

In an essay in the Economic Journal (117 [2007] 146-73), Robert Sugden and Luigino Bruni describe how “psychology was removed from economics, and how it might be brought back.” The development of behavior economics provides a starting point for them to examine the “Pareto turn,” the work of Vilfredo Pareto that “eliminated psychological concepts from economics by basing economic theory on principles of rational choice.” Pareto was attempting to dislodge the psychological models of classical economics, in an effort to establish economics as… Read more

In a long and stimulating piece in the New Atlantis, Samuel Matlack explores the role of metaphor in contemporary physics, especially with regard to the challenges of translating the mathematical formulae of theory into popular writing. Have we, he asks, transcended the need for poetry in our explanations of physical reality? At several points in the article, he argues for a distinction between the language needed for science and the language needed to express our actual experience of the world…. Read more

In a discussion of a First Things article about Christian colleges by Carl Trueman, Rod Dreher writes: Sometimes I hear Christians saying things along the lines of, ‘Bring it on! The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church!’ etc. These are the kind of romantics who in a different context would gas on about the cleansing power of war. They have no idea what persecution is like, and what it can do to Christian communities. In the… Read more

Edward Luce (Retreat of Western Liberalism) notes that in 1750, India and China account for “three-quarters of the world’s manufactures.” The East’s dominance collapsed over the following centuries: “On the eve of the First World War their share had dropped to just 7.5 per cent. Economic historians called it the Age of Divergence.” The shift of manufacturing from East to West directly affected the lives of workers: “In 1820, Britain had a per-capita income of $2000 in today’s prices. That… Read more

Way back in 1997, Peter Berkowitz published a review of David Walsh’s The Growth of the Liberal Soul. It’s a notable title, since one of the charges of post-liberals is that liberalism has no soul. But Walsh’s thesis is worth revisiting now that there is widespread questioning of the liberal project. Berkowitz sums up part of Walsh’s explanation of the “existential appeal” of liberalism. That appeals is rooted in: “liberal tradition’s ability to give political expression to the principle or… Read more

Mention the “public,” and you’re liable to be greeted with lamentation and hand-wringing. Citizenship isn’t what it used to be. No one participates in public events any more. Once upon a time, we were active citizens. Now we bowl alone and we participate in public life only as passive spectators. Democracy is dying, if it’s not already dead. Ari Adut’s Reign of Appearances argues, bracingly, that the lamentation and hand-wringing is misplaced. It arises from a fundamental misunderstanding of the… Read more

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