Irving Browne, Iconoclasm and Whitewash. New York, 1886. Illustrated by the author. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

“Grangerization” Made Beautiful Books Even Better

But the eighteenth-century readerly hobby angered critics, who saw it as a “monstrous practice.”
Robert Hayden

Robert Hayden’s Relatable Fatigue

There’s a constant attention to the burdens of history in Robert Hayden’s poems. Even amid the beauties of life, the ghosts of the past linger.
The front and back cover of an edition of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by Marguerite Young

Sick of Streaming? Try This Really Long Cult Novel

Marguerite Young's Miss MacIntosh, My Darling is a dense fusion of poetry and prose. One critic says it's unjustifiably forgotten.
Bernadette Mayer

Everyday Life, Revisited—with Bernadette Mayer’s Memory

In the poet’s work, the small and ordinary rise to the level of heroic adventures. If we value human life, then we should value what makes up a life.
A depiction of cholera by Robert Seymour

Disease Theory in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man

Shelley's third novel, about the sole survivor of a global plague, draws on the now-outdated miasma theory of disease.
The title page of Life and confession of Ann Walters, the female murderess

How “Female Fiends” Challenged Victorian Ideals

At a time when questions about women's rights in marriage roiled society, women readers took to the pages of cheap books about husband-murdering wives.
The Decameron by John William Waterhouse

Boccaccio’s Medicine

In the Decameron of Boccaccio, friends tell one another stories of love to while away the hours of quarantine.
A portrait of Emily Dickinson in front of an evolutionary illustration

How Emily Dickinson Wrestled with Darwinism

The current vogue for the Amherst poet needs to give credit to the way she readily examined her childhood ideas about fixed and immutable truth.
Two face masks in front of some text about the COVID-19 virus

When Language Goes Viral

How do innocuous words become insidious in the face of a public health emergency?
A Reading from Homer by Lawrence Alma Tadema, 1885

How Do We Know That Epic Poems Were Recited from Memory?

Scholars once doubted that pre-literate peoples could ever have composed and recited poems as long as the Odyssey. Milman Parry changed that.