dental surgery ether painting

19th Century Anesthesia and the Politics of Pain

Many doctors embraced anesthesia, but critics in the medical community protested its use, giving rise to what's known as the “ether controversy.”
Antique illustration of seance session

When Women Channeled the Dead to be Heard

Spiritualism was one of the nineteenth-century's most successful religious innovations, a movement of individuals who yearned for a religion which united mysticism and science.
Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany

Frederick Douglass’s Feud Over Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Journalist, physician, and committed black nationalist Martin Delany took Frederick Douglass to task over, among other things, Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
bored woman

On Embracing Boredom

What does "boredom" even mean? As both a word and a concept, boredom is not a universal phenomenon but a historical construction specific to our times.
Old open book

The Great American Game of Picking the Great American Novel

Arguing about the great American novel was perfect fodder for periodicals in the late 1800s, and it is catnip for a listicle-obsessed internet.
Mario hat Odysseus

Super Mario, Homer’s Odyssey, and the Meaning of Marriage

Nintendo's Mario and Homer's Odysseus have more in common than you might think.
Seven Against Thebes

“Thoughts and Prayers” in Greek Tragedy

With national tragedies now as frequent and predictable as sunrises, no phrase has lost consolatory power more swiftly than “thoughts and prayers.”
Glazed tiles wall of spanish province of Ciudad Real at Plaza de Espana, Seville, Spain

Is Don Quixote to Blame for Modern Movie Reboots?

The culture industry has long repackaged content from the past for the present. Just look at Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote.
Chapel

The Uncertain Future of the Religious Left

The aftermath of the 2016 U.S. election has renewed calls for an empowered coalition of religious liberals. Is there a place for the religious left?
Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison on Race

Ralph Ellison believed fiercely in the American project and in the centrality of black people to it.