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Eating or Being Eaten

Leofranc Holford-Strevens: Animal Grammar, 8 October 2015

The Origins of Grammar: Language in the Light of Evolution 
by James Hurford.
Oxford, 791 pp., £37, September 2011, 978 0 19 920787 9
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... develop the capacity to speak, and to speak such complex languages? That is the question that James Hurford, emeritus professor of general linguistics at Edinburgh, has sought to answer. The Origins of Meaning, published in 2007, looked at animals’ cognitive representations of the world, their part in the evolution of abstract thought, and the limits of ...

Looking for a Crucifixion

Robert Alter, 9 September 1993

The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered 
by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise.
Element, 286 pp., £14.95, November 1992, 0 85230 368 8
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... and Wise prefer not to use the term) as Jewish Christians. Their leader was in all likelihood James the Just, sometimes referred to as the brother of Jesus. Their arch-enemy was Paul – probably the Preacher of Lies of the Scrolls – who led the believers in Jesus beyond the pale of Jewish law and Jewish national identity. ‘Both movements used the ...

I now, I then

Thomas Keymer: Life-Writing, 17 August 2017

AHistory of English Autobiography 
edited by Adam Smyth.
Cambridge, 437 pp., £64.99, June 2016, 978 1 107 07841 3
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... as an alternative to earlier autonomous individualism, and in a penetrating chapter on Henry James, Max Saunders explores how James’s memoir-writing affected his novel-writing: his recognition that ‘really, universally, relations stop nowhere, and the exquisite problem of the artist is eternally but to draw … the ...

Multiple Kingdoms

Linda Colley: The origins of the British Empire, 19 July 2001

The Ideological Origins of the British Empire 
by David Armitage.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £35, September 2000, 0 521 59081 7
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... in recorded British history that is not being scrutinised somewhere across the Atlantic with the prior determination of finding evidence of latent imperialism and racial prejudice and/or anxiety. The perception, justified or no, that American attempts to bridge domestic and imperial British histories have sometimes fostered undiscriminating and hopelessly ...

Tory History

Alan Ryan, 23 January 1986

English Society 1688-1832 
by J.C.D. Clark.
Cambridge, 439 pp., £30, November 1985, 0 521 30922 0
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Virtue, Commerce and History 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 521 25701 8
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... history began with the proposition that the Stuart kings were a bad lot, given to homosexuality (James I), extravagance (Charles I), excessive wenching (Charles II) and a systematic attempt to debauch our ancient liberties and betray us into the hands of the Pope and Louis XIV (Charles II and James II). The enforced ...

Copying the coyote

Richard Poirier, 18 October 1984

The Principles of Psychology 
by William James, introduced by George Miller.
Harvard, 1302 pp., £14.95, December 1983, 0 674 70625 0
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A Stroll with William James 
by Jacques Barzun.
Chicago, 344 pp., £16, October 1983, 0 226 03865 3
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Becoming William James 
by Howard Feinstein.
Cornell, 377 pp., $24.95, May 1984, 0 8014 1617 5
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Essays in Psychology 
by William James, edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers.
Harvard, 467 pp., £32, April 1984, 0 674 26714 1
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... When, in the summer of 1898, at the age of 56, William James went to Berkeley, California to deliver a series of lectures on pragmatism, he could have used his own life to illustrate the immensely difficult but successful application of one of its tenets: that truth is best seen as ‘what it is better for us to believe’, not as ‘as an accurate representation of reality’, and that what is better for us to believe is what can be ascertained only in and through our actions, not by consultation with fixed ideas or traditions or, notably in his case, by family example ...


James Meek: Waiting for the War to Begin, 28 July 2016

... It looks as if we’ve stumbled on the forward assembly area for one of the British brigades prior to invasion. On the way back we pass a line of coaches disgorging hundreds of British and US Marines. We stop and get out to talk to them. I don’t open my notebook but Paul takes pictures. They are wary and reserved, the Marines, standing tough and ...

An Address to the Nation

Clive James, 17 December 1981

... to pack a wicker hamper And have a picnic down a disused mine, But still the odd factotum like Jim Prior At least seemed relatively a live wire. Now Prior’s gone and in comes a new broom Named Twitchit. Rabbit? Sorry, I mean Hobbit. His eyes like lasers penetrate the gloom. He takes the nation’s pulse like William ...

Thinking without a Banister

James Miller, 19 October 1995

Hannah Arendt/Martin Heidegger 
by Elzbieta Ettinger.
Yale, 139 pp., £10.95, October 1995, 0 300 06407 1
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Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954: Uncollected and Unpublished Works 
by Hannah Arendt, edited by Jerome Kohn.
Harcourt Brace, 458 pp., $39.95, May 1994, 0 15 172817 8
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Hannah Arendt: A Reinterpretation of Her Political Thought 
by Margaret Canovan.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £12.95, September 1995, 0 521 47773 5
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Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 
edited by Carol Brightman.
Secker, 412 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 436 20251 4
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Hannah Arendt/Karl Jaspers: Correspondence, 1926-1969 
edited by Lotte Kohler and Hans Saner, translated by Robert and Rita Kimber.
Harcourt Brace, 821 pp., $49.95, November 1992, 0 15 107887 4
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... most apocalyptic generalisations about totalitarianism make sense only if one shares her own prior commitment to ‘thinking without a banister’, a piece of intellectual derring-do she had learnt from Heidegger, above all. It would certainly be more plausible to claim that Heidegger (rather than Hitler or Stalin) had exploded our categories of moral ...

The First Hostile Takeover

James Macdonald: S.G. Warburg, 4 November 2010

High Financier: The Life and Time of Siegmund Warburg 
by Niall Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 548 pp., £30, July 2010, 978 0 7139 9871 9
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... the success of the hostile bid by surreptitiously buying a significant stake in the company prior to launching a tender offer. It was not considered fair play at the time, and as the then prime minister Harold Macmillan suggested, the contest was ‘rather a “Gentlemen v. Players” affair’ – in which the professionals, as so often, won. The deal ...


Frank Kermode, 22 January 1998

Shakespeare’s Troy: Drama, Politics and the Translation of Empire 
by Heather James.
Cambridge, 283 pp., £37.50, December 1997, 0 521 59223 2
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... these books might have travelled far less well. The most recent addition to the series, Heather James’s Shakespeare’s Troy, is reasonably typical of the rest, so far as I have seen them. Her main argument concerns the theme of the translation of empire (translatio imperii) and its accompanying translatio studii. This idea, which flourished in medieval ...

Uncaging the beast

Sheldon Rothblatt, 16 February 1989

Victorian Anthropology 
by George Stocking.
Collier Macmillan, 429 pp., £22, October 1987, 0 02 931550 6
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... apparent, he has anticipated the arguments of Victorian Anthropology. In his 1970s studies of James Cowles Prichard, the Early Victorian physician who is the ‘link’ between 18th and 19th-century forms of evolutionism, Stocking was the first to make us consider the central importance of the English Evangelical revival to the pre-Darwinian ...

At The Hutton Enquiry

Daniel Soar: Hutton’s Big Top, 11 September 2003

... of the excised sections of evidence aren’t very well blacked out). And here is a question put by James Dingemans QC (Lord Hutton’s chief – and, currently, chiefly benign – inquisitor) to Alastair Campbell: ‘Mr Powell told us yesterday that you had told him that Mr Baldwin had told you that the person who told him this information was Mr ...

Short Cuts

Inigo Thomas: At the Ladbroke Arms, 22 February 2018

... their incarceration. I saw a form for a prisoner convicted of stealing sheep in Sussex in 1851. James Mill’s sentence was ten years in Australia. The character of the convict since his arrest and prior to his departure was said to be ‘Good’. He left behind his wife and five children. The harshness of British justice ...

At Dia:Beacon

Hal Foster: Fetishistic Minimalist, 5 June 2003

... sculptors such as Donald Judd and Dan Flavin and installation artists such as Walter de Maria and James Turrell, and certainly the early projects underwritten by Dia, from permanent exhibitions in New York City to massive earthworks in the American desert, were grand. Among the best known is The Lightning Field, a vast grid of 400 stainless-steel poles staked ...

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