Jeremy Narby writes, “pigeons appear to be brighter than many people suspect. One recent experiment demonstrated that pigeons can tell the difference between paintings by Van Gogh and Chagall. The birds received training in which they were rewarded for pecking at paintings by Van Gogh but . . . . Continue Reading »

Charles Reznikoff

Seamus Cooney, ed. The Poems of Charles Reznikoff, 1918-1975 . Boston: David R. Godine, 2005. 445 p. I had not heard of Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) when I picked up this volume, but his poetry is a find. Born to Russian Jews in New York City, Reznikoff wrote and published poetry, over many . . . . Continue Reading »

The Oddity of biblical narrative

Gabriel Josipovici summarizes the story of Palti in 1-2 Samuel, the man to whom Saul gives Michal after David is driven into outlawry, and who follows Michal weeping when David demands his first wife back. What is this guy doing here, introduced only to weep and disappear from the text? Josipovici . . . . Continue Reading »

Ocularity and the ancients

A TLS reviewer examines what sounds like a fascinating book on Plato and Aristotle’s appropriation of “theoria” (originally referring to spectators who watch the Olympics and other festivals in a kind of “sacralized spectating”). Along the way, the reviewer comments on . . . . Continue Reading »

Eucharistic meditation, first lent

2 Kings 14:25: Jeroboam restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-Hepher. Not too long ago, Israel was . . . . Continue Reading »

Exhortation, First Sunday of Lent

What is the cross? Originally a Persian invention, crucifixion became a Roman method of execution, reserved for slaves and for the most dangerous political criminals. Josephus described it as the “most wretched of deaths,” as a victim slowly suffocated with the weight of his own body. . . . . Continue Reading »


A man went searching for the beginning of the road he was traveling. He traced his footsteps back the way he had come, until he came to where he started. But the beginning of the road was not a beginning. Something lay on the far side of the road’s beginning, a beginning before the beginning. . . . . Continue Reading »

Foucault on man

Another discarded fragment. Perhaps the best-known of the postmodern theories of the self is that of Michel Foucault. According to Foucault, “man” is an invention of the recent past, of the modern world. Contrary to popular opinion, “man” has not been the subject of . . . . Continue Reading »

Bultmannian irony

Bultmann says that we moderns who can flick on electric lights cannot believe in the dichotomous anthropology of the New Testament, which distinguishes absolutely between the spiritual core of the self and the physical body. Problem is, that’s not the New Testament anthropology. In fact, . . . . Continue Reading »

Structuralism’s nihilism

A discarded fragment from a larger paper. Structuralism arose from the linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure. He distinguished between the langue, the system of a language, and the parole, the particular utterances of a language. There is a circular relationship between them, since no parole . . . . Continue Reading »