Christopher Benfey is Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke. He is the author, most recently, of Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay. (December 2013)
American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell by Deborah Solomon
Ten White Geese by Gerbrand Bakker, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer
The Tribunal: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid edited by John Stauffer and Zoe Trodd
Home by Toni Morrison
Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life by Natalie Dykstra
My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Volume I, 1915–1933 edited by Sarah Greenough
Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 13, 2011–January 2, 2012
Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction edited by Barbara Haskell, with essays by Barbara Haskell, Barbara Buhler Lynes, Bruce Robertson, and Elizabeth Hutton Turner, and contributions by Sasha Nicholas
Alfred Stieglitz: A Legacy of Light by Katherine Hoffman
Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America by David S. Reynolds
John La Farge’s Second Paradise: Voyages in the South Seas, 1890–1891 an exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, October 19, 2010–January 2, 2011; and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, January 22–March 27, 2011
Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War by Peter H. Wood
Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries by Helen Vendler
On Whitman by C.K. Williams
Three American Poets: Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Herman Melville by William C. Spengemann
Song of Myself and Other Poems by Walt Whitman, selected and introduced by Robert Hass
Knickerbocker: The Myth Behind New York by Elizabeth L. Bradley
Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877–1920 by Jackson Lears
Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx by Elaine Showalter
Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life: The Public Years by Charles Capper
Margaret Fuller: Wandering Pilgrim by Meg McGavran Murray
The Collected Prose of Robert Frost edited by Mark Richardson
Fall of Frost by Brian Hall
Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher by Peter J. Stanlis, with an introduction by Timothy Steele
Melville: The Making of the Poet by Hershel Parker
Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine by Robert Milder
Eakins Revealed: The Secret Life of an American Artist by Henry Adams
The Revenge of Thomas Eakins by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick
Portrait: The Life of Thomas Eakins by William S. McFeely
Emma Lazarus by Esther Schor
Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems edited by John Hollander
Brookland by Emily Barton
Summer Doorways: A Memoir by W.S. Merwin
Present Company by W.S. Merwin
The March by E.L. Doctorow
The American Classics: A Personal Essay by Denis Donoghue.
Poets Thinking: Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats by Helen Vendler
Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son by John Jeremiah Sullivan
Goya by Robert Hughes
De l’Iliade by Rachel Bespaloff
On the Iliad by Rachel Bespaloff, translated from the Frenchby Mary McCarthy, with an introduction by Hermann Broch
Lettres à Jean Wahl, 1937–1947 by Rachel Bespaloff, edited by Monique Jutrin
The Iliad or The Poem of Force by Simone Weil, translated from the French by Mary McCarthy
My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson by Alfred Habegger
Okakura Tenshin and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston October 23, 1999-March 26, 2000. an exhibition at Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Nagoya, Japan,, Catalog of the exhibition edited by Saeko Yamawaki, by Nobuko Sakamoto, by Makiko Yamada, by Hitomi Sato
The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition edited by R.W. Franklin
Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson’s Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson edited by Ellen Louise Hart, by Martha Nell Smith
The Emily Dickinson Handbook edited by Gudrun Grabher, by Roland Hagenbüchle, by Cristanne Miller
Stephen Crane: Prose and Poetry edited by J.C. Levenson
The Correspondence of Stephen Crane edited by Stanley Wertheim, edited by Paul Sorrentino
Emily Dickinson by Cynthia Griffin Wolff
Letters to Bab by Sherwood Anderson, edited by William A. Sutton
Kit Brandon by Sherwood Anderson
Randall Jarrell’s Letters: An Autobiographical and Literary Selection edited by Mary Jarrell
The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion by Leo Steinberg
The best sequences in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave are not history lessons. They are, instead, visually ambiguous and open-ended.
There are countless poems about dreams, of course, and even some, like Poe’s, about dreams within dreams. Rarer are those poems, or other literary inventions, in which the actual words arise in the dream, to be recorded by the writer upon waking.
Seamus Heaney used to say that the poetry-writing hours of a poet’s day were the easy part; it was what to do with the rest of the day that was a challenge.
“Everything in the world exists to end up in a book.” How quaint of Mallarmé! Everything in the world exists to end.
Margaret Fuller was known to perform the ancient form of divination in which a passage of Virgil selected at random is assumed to reveal what lies ahead. I thought I might follow Fuller’s lead, and greet the spring by serendipitously dipping into a trusted book for guidance.
Everyone seems to have kept scrapbooks during the nineteenth century. Like a Twitter account or a Facebook wall, scrapbooks filled with clippings gave the illusion of bringing order to the torrent of newsprint that threatened to overwhelm readers.
Wolves have not been welcome in our woods for a very long time. Among the first laws instituted by the Puritan settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 was a bounty on wolves, which Roger Williams, who fled the colony for its religious intolerance, referred to as “a fierce, bloodsucking persecutor.”
Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is in love with European allusions. What might have started as a way of explaining Christoph Waltz’s German accent (he’s an immigrant, etc.) seems to have spread into the plot.
I have no idea what Clint Eastwood had in mind when he dragged an empty chair up to the stage at the Republican Convention in Tampa last August. But I was thinking of that empty chair in Tampa as I watched Tuesday’s presidential debate at Hofstra University. Who do we want in the president’s chair, making decisions when the next crisis—and we know there will be a next crisis, and a next—erupts? An Oval Office occupied by Romney would suffer from a different kind of vacancy, a void of ideas or convictions, a sketchy foreign policy based on China-bashing and pandering to his old pal Bibi. That’s the empty chair that keeps me awake at night.
It is hard to watch the verbal sparring between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, the candidates in this fall’s closely watched Massachusetts Senate race for the “Kennedy seat,” without recalling the classic 1949 Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn vehicle Adam’s Rib.
There was reason to expect some personal revelations when the musician and writer Patti Smith took the stage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Friday evening in early December. She was there to talk about Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and indefatigable promoter of modern art whom O’Keeffe married in 1924. An exhibition upstairs in the Tisch Galleries—showcasing the works of art that O’Keeffe had selected from Stieglitz’s private collection and given to the Met in 1949, including some of his erotic photographic portraits of O’Keeffe herself—was the immediate occasion for Smith’s appearance, along with the publication of the first volume of letters by O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, which Smith carried onto the stage like a bible, festooned with yellow Post-it notes.
My wife and I have two sons, aged eighteen and twenty-two. Both have registered for the Selective Service, as the law requires. We don’t have a clear idea of Tommy’s or Nicholas’s views regarding military service; we hope that circumstances won’t force us to find out. None of us knows any men or women currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are someone else’s children. During the Civil War, in contrast, the mangling of young bodies was evident to all. Three million volunteers armed with advanced rifles, and firing at one another at point-blank range, fought on battlefields often not far from their own homes. American writers, many of whom had children in the war, were not insulated from the carnage.
The remarkable medical photographs of the Civil War surgeon-photographer Reed Bontecou—now published in their entirety for the first time and recently shown at The Robert Anderson gallery in New York—bring us closer still.
We’re feeling vulnerable and surly these days in western Massachusetts, as the leaves turn yellow, the Red Sox fade, and winter looms. Our corridor of New England along the Connecticut River endured, during the summer months, a ruinous tornado in Springfield, an earthquake, of all things, and Hurricane Irene, which knocked out roads and historic covered bridges in our hill towns and across neighboring Vermont, and left a lot of people homeless and adrift. We don’t see much of Mitt Romney, our ex-governor, in these troubled times. Then again, we never did.
When I was a child growing up in a drab college town in Indiana, our family received an annual New Year’s visit from a vivid woman named Erika Strauss. The high point of Erika’s visit to our house was the old European New Year’s ritual known as “Bleigiessen,” or lead-pouring.
Although his “big-assed pots” have entered many museum collections (a show of his work will open at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans in January), Mark Hewitt insists on calling himself a “functional” potter, a maker of pots for use, as opposed to the “studio” or art potters whose work is intended for display.
It would be difficult to describe the sheer strangeness, for me, of driving down from Amherst last month to pay tribute to Emily Dickinson in the Bronx.