David A. Bell

Does This Man Deserve Tenure?
September 06, 2010

Marc C. Taylor, the chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia, has enveloped his argument in an overblown, cliché-ridden theoretical framework a

What Can France Teach Us About Botched Immigration Policies?
September 03, 2010

On both sides of the Atlantic, it has been an uncomfortable summer for immigrant groups. Here in the United States there have been the quarrels over the "Ground Zero Mosque," “anchor babies,” and Arizona’s new illegal immigrant bill (not to mention yet more calls for the deportation of our “Muslim” president to his “native” Kenya by the surprisingly large proportion of the Republican Party that seems to have taken up permanent residence on Planet Zorg).

Pogroms of Words
August 28, 2010

For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus By Frederick Brown (Knopf, 304 pp., $28.95) The phrase “culture wars” has a peculiarly contemporary and American sound. Its very hyperbole captures something about our over-excited political culture. It summons up images of Sarah Palin denouncing liberal elites to the Tea Party convention, or of hippies facing off against riot police. It triggers associations with a series of “hot button” American issues: gay marriage, abortion, gun control, prayer in schools. Yet “culture wars” are in fact endemic to Western modernity.

Pogroms of Words
August 27, 2010

For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus By Frederick Brown (Knopf, 304 pp., $28.95) The phrase “culture wars” has a peculiarly contemporary and American sound. Its very hyperbole captures something about our over-excited political culture. It summons up images of Sarah Palin denouncing liberal elites to the Tea Party convention, or of hippies facing off against riot police. It triggers associations with a series of “hot button” American issues: gay marriage, abortion, gun control, prayer in schools. Yet “culture wars” are in fact endemic to Western modernity.

Hope and Play
August 25, 2010

Readers of history should be grateful for the appearance of this short book. Natalie Zemon Davis is not only one of the greatest living historians—the

Was Tolstoy Right?
May 12, 2010

Dominic Lieven's new book is all about the foresight and genius of generals – and politicians as well. More specifically, it is about the foresight an

Visions
January 11, 2010

Joan of Arc, in the 580 years since she came to fame, has been hero and villain, primal innocent and cunning manipulator, nationalist and universalist

The Doctor is In
November 03, 2009

David A. Bell is the dean of faculty and Mellon Professor in the Humanities at John Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Conservative talk radio often feels like a strange alternate universe, and never more than when the guest of honor is Doctor Betsy McCaughey, who fielded respectful questions from my local Baltimore Limbaugh-wannabes for fifteen minutes this morning (they neglected to mention that her doctorate is in American History, not medicine).

The Colbert Report
October 07, 2009

The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System By Jacob Soll (University of Michigan Press, 277 pp., $65)   That resonant piece of verbal shorthand, TMI--or Too Much Information--would make a fine epigraph for our age. Anyone with an Internet connection today has access to exponentially greater quantities of writing, images, sound, and video than anyone on earth could have imagined just twenty years ago.

The Colbert Report
October 05, 2009

The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System By Jacob Soll (University of Michigan Press, 277 pp., $65) That resonant piece of verbal shorthand, TMI--or Too Much Information--would make a fine epigraph for our age. Anyone with an Internet connection today has access to exponentially greater quantities of writing, images, sound, and video than anyone on earth could have imagined just twenty years ago.

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