Robert Pogue Harrison is Rosina Pierotti Professor in ­Italian Literature at Stanford. His most recent book is Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age.
 (October 2015)


The Ultimate Reader

Alberto Manguel in his library near Châtellerault, in southwest France, 2007


by Alberto Manguel
When he was sixteen Alberto Manguel met the nearly blind Jorge Luis Borges in the Pygmalion Anglo-German bookshop in Buenos Aires and, from 1964 to 1968, read aloud to him on a weekly basis. The encounter now seems to have been destined, for if there’s anyone alive today who is …

Dante on Trial

Dante recognizing his former teacher Brunetto Latini among the damned; engraving by Gustave Doré for Canto 15 of Dante’s Inferno

Dante and the Limits of the Law

by Justin Steinberg

Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity

by Prue Shaw
When the Black Guelfs seized power in Florence in November 1301 through a coup d’état backed by Pope Boniface VIII, their first order of business was to liquidate their political enemies among the White Guelfs.1 Dante Alighieri, who was away on a diplomatic mission at the time, was one …

Dante: The Most Vivid Version

Domenico di Michelino: Dante Reading from the ‘Divine Comedy,’ 1465


by Dan Brown


by Dante, translated from the Italian by Mary Jo Bang, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher
The mystery of Dante’s Divine Comedy has little to do with the encoded games of hide-and-seek that Dan Brown plays with readers in his best-selling mystery thriller. It has to do instead with the poem’s staying power. How is it possible—after so many centuries of manhandling by commentators, translators, and imitators, after so much use and abuse, selling and soliciting—that the Comedy still has not finished saying what it has to say, giving what it has to give, or withholding what it has to withhold? What is the source of its boundless generosity?

A New Kind of Woman

The Lives of Margaret Fuller

by John Matteson

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

by Megan Marshall
In a letter to James Freeman Clarke in 1833 Margaret Fuller declared, “All biographies…make me sick at heart and make it hard to realize that there is a Heaven.” Our age shows no such distaste. We clamor for biographies, believing that the lives of our thinkers, statesmen, artists, and scientists …

America: The Struggle to Be Reborn

View of the New Mexico desert through the aperture of Charles Ross’s earthwork Star Axis; from the monograph Charles Ross: The Substance of Light, which covers four decades of his work. It includes essays by Thomas McEvilley and Klaus Ottmann, as well as an interview with Ross by Loïc Malle, and has just been published by Radius Books.

The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States

by Mark Fiege, with a foreword by William Cronon
The title of Mark Fiege’s book, The Republic of Nature, seems puzzling. Republics are a form of government in which sovereignty lies with citizens who come together in the public sphere to engage in self-governance through their exercise of free speech and political action. Like virtually every other form of …

The Book From Which Our Literature Springs

Engraving of Adam and Eve from the King James Bible, 1611; the illustration appears in Helen Moore and Julian Reid’s Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible

Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible

by Robert Alter

The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes

translated from the Hebrew and with commentary by Robert Alter
Although it left in its wake a number of excellent books, the fourth centennial of the publication of the King James Bible, or KJB, came and went without any of the high-profile public readings and fanfare that marked the three-hundredth anniversary in 1911. A substantial majority of Americans may still …


Our Animal Hell

Francisco de Zurbarán: Agnus Dei, 1635-1640

We like to think of ourselves as the stewards or even saviors of nature, yet the fact of the matter is that, for the animal world at large, the human race represents nothing less than a natural disaster. This applies to all creatures, from those that we allow to roam “wild” in designated nature preserves to those we cram together on our chicken farms.

The Children of Silicon Valley

A scene from Mike Judge's HBO series Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley does not change the world as much as it changes my way of being in it, or better, of not being in it. It changes the way I think, the way I emote, and the way I interact with others. It corrodes the worldly core of my humanity, leaving me increasingly worldless. Thoreau wrote: “Be it life or death, we crave only reality.” If only that were unconditionally true.