Platz Angst

Writing about fears and phobias by Richard Rorty, Theo Tait, Neal Ascherson, Alison Light, Perry Anderson, Jenny Diski, Craig Raine and David Trotter.

The Contingency of Selfhood

Richard Rorty, 8 May 1986

As I was starting to write this I came across a poem by Philip Larkin, the last part of which reads:

And once you have walked the length of your mind, what You command is as clear as a...

Shark Attack!

Theo Tait, 2 August 2012

Many scientists don’t like to talk about shark sex, because they worry it will only reinforce the perception that these creatures are brutish and unrelenting.

Diary: Scotophobia

Neal Ascherson, 5 April 2007

For the last six months, a Scot reading the London papers, or watching London-made political TV shows, could only conclude that a sharp dislike of Scots and Scotland is spreading across South...

Who was Virginia Woolf afraid of?

Alison Light, 21 March 2002

In the 1960s we used to sing a music-hall song in the pub whose rousing refrain began, ‘Two lovely black eyes – Oh, what a surprise!’ and went on: ‘Only for tellin’...


Perry Anderson, 8 November 1990

Carlo Ginzburg has many claims to be considered the outstanding European historian of the generation which came of age in the late Sixties. Certainly few have equalled him in originality, variety...

Diary: The Friendly Spider Programme

Jenny Diski, 30 November 2006

Autumn looms darkly and terrible in my life. From midsummer I start to worry, and by late August I am filled with dread. My arachnophobia has ensured that the autumnal mating urge which causes...


Craig Raine, 3 February 1983

Confessions of an Actor is, unsurprisingly, more an impersonation than a real piece of writing. In it, Laurence Olivier acts writing – an uneasy mixture of the chatty (‘All right, I...


David Trotter, 24 July 2003

The last three decades of the 19th century were phobia’s belle époque. During this first phase of investigation there was, it must have seemed, no species of terror, however febrile,...

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