Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, “Dorothy West’s Paradise:  A Biography of Class and Color” (Rutgers UP, 2012)
One lesson that the ever-present trickster figure in African American folklore teaches is how to use signifying to protect one’s intimate self. A challenge of writing Dorothy West’s life is getting beyond the masks she presents before the ever-prying gaze. To get around the problem, the biographer must think in... Read More
Cynthia Wachtell, “War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914” (LSU Press, 2010)
My favorite book as a teenager (and in fact the only book I ever read as a teenager) was All Quiet on the Western Front. I liked it mostly for the vivid scenes of trench warfare. Teenage boys love that stuff (or at least I did). But even then I... Read More
Charles J. Shields, “And So It Goes. Kurt Vonnegut, A Life” (Henry Holt, 2011)
The public image of Kurt Vonnegut is that of a crusty, irascible old man. Someone with whom one would want to drink, but never ever fall in love. The Vonnegut we meet in Charles J. Shields’s insightful new biography, And So It Goes. Kurt Vonnegut: A Life (Henry Holt, 2011),... Read More
Rosamund Bartlett, “Tolstoy: A Russia Life” (Houghton Mifflin, 2011)
I vividly recall a time in my life–especially my late teens and early twenties–when I thought I could be anyone but had no idea which anyone to be. For this I blame (or credit) my liberal arts education, which convinced me that there was really nothing I couldn’t master but... Read More
Gregory Nagy on Homer’s “Iliad”
In this installment of Faculty Insight, produced in partnership with Harvard University Extension School, ThoughtCast speaks with the esteemed Harvard classicist Gregory Nagy about one of the earliest and greatest legends of all time: Homer’s epic story of the siege of Troy, called “The Iliad.” It’s a story of god-like... Read More