David A. Bell
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.
"is Food The New Sex?" Well...
March 01, 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. I have long ceased to be surprised by how easily unsubstantiated generalization, dressed up as easily-digested social theory, can gain traction among the chattering classes.
February 13, 2008
The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War By Graham Robb (W.W. Norton, 455 pp., $27.95) FOR A BOOK OF “historical geography,”The Discovery of France has received remarkable attention and acclaim: long and appreciative reviews in British and American newspapers, the title of “notable book of the year” from The New York Times, rapturous applause in The New York Review of Books, and so forth. The reason is not hard to see. Graham Robb is an engaging and gifted writer, known for his enjoyable and instructive biographies of Hugo and Rimbaud.
May 07, 2007
In the current issue of TNR, I argue that military history is being neglected by major U.S. universities, and that we can't understand the war on terrorism--nor any violent conflict--without a better grasp of the wars and strategies of the past. To that end, here are some books that help illuminate the history of war. • Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization (Oxford University Press, 2006).
October 16, 2006
Marcel Mauss: A Biography By Marcel Fournier Translated by Jane Marie Todd (Princeton University Press, 442 pp., $35) The outward lives of great intellectuals do not always make lively reading, even for other intellectuals. For every tragic, monstrous, or heroic thinker whose biography resembles pulp fiction, there is another who passed his days quietly at his desk, reading and writing, returning home every evening to a cocoon of bourgeois respectability. For every Shelley, a Kant; for every Foucault, a Weber. A great mind does not need to experience the abyss to find originality.
The Bookless Future
May 02, 2005
What the Internet is doing to scholarship.