Essay

The True Story of America's First Black Female Slave Novelist

The woman behind 'The Bondwoman's Narrative'

The once-unidentified writer of The Bondwoman's Narrative, and a stunning story that goes from North Carolina to revolutionary Nicaragua to the free North.

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The Crisis in Contemporary Ballet

How emotion left dance

It is mystifying to find choreographers today taking form so seriously but leaving feeling behind. Is this a slow trailing off from modernism or a misconceived tribute to the idea of abstraction, or is it the beginning of a new way of thinking?

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In his eulogy of Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon told the story of being asked at Customs, on his arrival for the funeral, what he did for a living; when he replied that he taught poetry, the Customs officer said, “You must be devastated.”

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Poets and Czars

From Pushkin to Putin: the sad tale of democracy in Russia

The “other” Russia, the Russia of poets and writers, the Russia of culture, destroyed in the Soviet Union, was preserved underground and in emigration. Will it help to give Russia its third chance at democracy?

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The Strange Power of Les Mis, the Book

Victor Hugo's Hard-nosed Melodrama

Why the most dramatic parts of Les Misérables are also the most politically incisive.

 

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The New Essayists, or the Decline of a Form?

David Sedaris and a literary version of reality TV

“The essay, as a literary form, is pretty well extinct,” Philip Larkin wrote gloomily in 1984. Extinct was the right word, capturing the sense of an organism that could no longer survive in a changed environment.

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