Empson in the East

From the May 2017 Print Edition

The Face of the Buddhaby william empsonedited by rupert arrowsmithoxford, 208 pages, $49.95 William Empson (1906–1984) was not, as he is frequently said to have been, an “important critic,” but only because there is no such thing. By the same token, neither was he a unicorn, a square circle, . . . . Continue Reading »

From a Vanished Library

From the April 2017 Print Edition

The library in question is not the Great Library of Alexandria, but it is every bit as much a thing of the past, existing now as scarcely a memory—almost legendary, positively Edenic. I think it had been my ambition throughout much of my life to accumulate a collection of books in the ideal, . . . . Continue Reading »

Getting to Larisa

From the January 2017 Print Edition

Plotinus: Myth, Metaphor, and Philosophical Practiceby stephen r. l. clarkuniversity of chicago, 336 pages, $55Probably nothing makes the philosophical texts of antiquity more remote from us in sensibility, or places a more imposing obstacle between the modern scholar and ancient thought, than our . . . . Continue Reading »

Mammon Ascendant

From the June/July 2016 Print Edition

So, there I was, pondering, with an old familiar feeling of perplexity (about which more anon), certain reactions to my reaction to various reactions to the pope’s last encyclical, when it occurred to me that the one thing on which ­Hegelians of every stripe—right or left, theological or . . . . Continue Reading »

The Scholar and the Nymph

From the May 2016 Print Edition

As he stood alone in the immense library of his college a week after Michaelmas term, mourning the arrival of his sixty-fifth birthday and contemplating the mild, pristinely white light pouring in through the high arched windows, the senior scholar reflected that over the years he had added no . . . . Continue Reading »

Roland on the Secret Soul

From the April 2016 Print Edition

I was, it seemed, standing in my garden, gazing through shifting silvery curtains of mist at the muted yellow of a flowering forsythia. Somehow I knew it was only a little past dawn. I might have gone inside after a moment had I not heard the garden gate behind me swinging on its steel hinges and . . . . Continue Reading »

The Dream-Child's Progress

From the April 2016 Print Edition

“He’s dreaming now,” said Tweedledee: “and what do you think he’s dreaming about?”Alice said, “Nobody can guess that.”“Why, about you!” Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. “And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?”“Where I . . . . Continue Reading »

Fie Upon Phi

From the February 2016 Print Edition

A venerable rule of predication is that certain words—or, at least, certain homonymous terms—admit of univocal, equivocal, and analogical acceptations. That is to say, there are times when a term has precisely the same meaning in two or more discrete instances of its use: say, “blue” as . . . . Continue Reading »

Habetis Papam

From the December 2015 Print Edition

Far be it from me—not being a Roman Catholic—to tell Catholics what they should think of their pontiff. But, just as a brief amicus curiae (so to speak), I want to note that I feel a wholly unqualified admiration for Francis; and nothing he has done, said, or written since assuming office has . . . . Continue Reading »