Berfrois

January 2014

  • Michael B. Katz: Poor Science

    January 2014 Highlights

    Michael B. Katz: Poor Science

    For most of recorded history, poverty reflected God’s will. The poor were always with us. They were not inherently immoral, dangerous, or different. They were not to be shunned, feared, or avoided. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a harsh new idea of poverty and poor people as different and inferior began to replace this ancient biblical view.

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Nicholas Rombes: 70

Nicholas Rombes: 70

As we move deeper into the twenty-first century our world seems evermore bifurcated between the known and the hidden, and this visible divide characterizes our own psychotic state. On the one hand, as the Snowden documents show, we are all of us watched by groups whose names we don't...

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Jenny Diski pretty much agrees with Russell Brand

Jenny Diski pretty much agrees with Russell Brand

The Court Jester, William Merritt Chase, 1875 by Jenny Diski It is the time of the comedians. Western politics as it is perceived by populations and portrayed by the media of every kind is in such a parlous state, that it is not a metaphor but a reality developing...

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SEEKING Mind and Biology by Stephen T. Asma

SEEKING Mind and Biology by Stephen T. Asma

In his 1790 Critique of Judgment, Kant famously predicted that there would never be a “Newton for a blade of grass.” Biology, he thought, would never be unified and reduced down to a handful of mechanical laws, as in the case of physics. This, he argued, is because we...

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Eric Schneider on Philadelphia’s unfortunate nickname

Eric Schneider on Philadelphia’s unfortunate nickname

Murder is nearly always understood as an individual event and the criminal justice system reinforces this notion: there is an artifact, a body, that needs accounting for, and the medical examiner measures, weighs, dissects and categorizes the body as to age, race, gender and cause of death. The police...

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How We Type

How We Type

From Poetry: “Paper’s most powerful magic? Simply this. That paper allows us to be present—or appear to be present—when we are in fact absent,” Sansom writes in Paper. “It both breaks and bridges time and distance. I am talking to you now, for example, on paper. You cannot see...

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Such Fun!

Such Fun!

The Office, BBC From Strike!: Now that work has revealed itself in its simultaneous economic irrelevance, political failure and environmental catastrophe, it is deep inside of us, at the very end of our existential trajectory, that its new justification seemingly lies. As perfectly represented by those countless talent shows...

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The Myth of Stepping Out

The Myth of Stepping Out

by Nadia Sels Mythology and Psychoanalysis: Uncanny Doubles “It may perhaps seem to you as though our theories are a kind of mythology and, in the present case, not even an agreeable one. But does not every science come in the end to a kind of mythology?” These words,...

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Joanna Walsh: The Year of Reading Women

Joanna Walsh: The Year of Reading Women

It's a truth universally acknowledged, and confirmed by VIDA, that, though women read more books than men, and female authors are published in comparable numbers, they are more easily overlooked: a smaller presence in literary journals both as reviewers, and the reviewed, they also account for fewer literary translations.

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Wittgenstein’s Spade: Berfrois Interviews Paul Horwich

Wittgenstein’s Spade: Berfrois Interviews Paul Horwich

Wittgenstein certainly regarded himself a philosopher, and certainly believed in the fundamental truth of what he was saying. So it would be a misleading oversimplification to maintain that he was “against philosophy” or against “the possibility of philosophical truth”. More accurately, what he criticized was a certain kind of...

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Mary Shelley: Cat Visitations by Twilight

Mary Shelley: Cat Visitations by Twilight

Haunting At Midnight, Albert Welti, 1912 by Mary Shelley I look for ghosts — but none will force Their way to me; ’tis falsely said That there was ever intercourse Between the living and the dead. — William Wordsworth What a different earth do we inhabit from that on...

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Amy Lowell’s Loves

Amy Lowell’s Loves

From Humanities: Lawrence’s letters to Lowell have been published and, among other things, they reveal that Lawrence thought Lowell was at her creative best when she was drawing on her own American identity, rather than on historical epics and French, Japanese, and Chinese poetry. I think he failed to...

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“The landlord is the Party”

“The landlord is the Party”

Ai Weiwei, Gao Yuan, 2009 by En Liang Khong While China prepared for the 2008 Olympics, the artist Ai Weiwei was busy collaborating with the Swiss architectural firm, Herzog & de Meuron, on the Bird’s Nest stadium. Gradually, Ai began to experience a deep sense of disgust: “I was...

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Anthropotek

Anthropotek

Photograph by Rool Paap From Radical Philosophy: With the advent of the global financial crisis in 2008, we would perhaps have imagined that the entire panoply of boosterish rhetoric that subtended it – from aspirational market-oriented self-help guides to outdated theories of rational economic agents – would have vanished...

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Balked No Weird

Balked No Weird

Around the same time English-language philosophers were debating whether or not you can know what it is like to be a bat (generally deciding that you can not), the Australian poet Les Murray was busy directly transcribing the thought-world of an imagined representative of this order.

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‘I never used to bother about capitalism. It was just a word. Not now.’

‘I never used to bother about capitalism. It was just a word. Not now.’

From The History Boys, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2006 From London Review of Books: 17 April. Shots of the cabinet and the ex-cabinet at Lady Thatcher’s funeral in St Paul’s just emphasise how consistently cowardly most of them were, the only time they dared to stand up to her when...

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Joseph Spece
Joseph Spece: When Gamers Attack

Like many ugly controversies, the beginnings of #gamergate are linked to the end of love — well, the end of a relationship, at least....

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Jeremy Fernando: Not

A response — Bartleby’s response — foregrounding the fact that it is the “I” that “prefers not to”: not that ‘I cannot’ nor ‘I...

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Owen Vince on HARK

As a poet, you are your grandmother; you are browsing the obituaries with a red pen and an address book in your hand. The...

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Jay Aquinas Thompson Interviews Eric Weisbard

Eric Weisbard wrote twenty years ago, introducing the voluminous, era-summarizing, contrarian and contradictory Spin Alternative Record Guide.

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Collective Destruction by Keith Doubt

What, then, is sociocide? Sociocide resonates with the term demodernization formulated by A. V. Tishkov to account for the consequences of the war in...

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Heather Lang on Fiona Sampson and Sarah Morgan

Poet Fiona Sampson is a former career violinist, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, overt references to music appear in her work.

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Setsuko Adachi: Azalea Exuberance Strikes

In May, in the garden of the elevated house at the bottom of the hill, four shrubs of stunning azaleas come into full blossom....

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Joe Linker
Joe Linker on Li Po

Florence showed me what she called the most famous of Chinese poems. She had made her own translation from a Chinese language newspaper clipping....

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Teresa K. Miller and Gregory Giles Discuss Luc Moullet

To begin at the end: After nearly two hours exploring facets of exploitation in the globalized food system, Luc Moullet closes Genèse d’un repas/Origins...

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Adam Staley Groves: Iowa Nasty

Now it seems the state’s radical conservatives are degrading the historic, populist-provincial mentality of Iowa; they are revising the state’s legacy within the broader...

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Animal Spirits at the Nueva Burdalesa Bakery by Jessica Sequeira

A few years ago all I had was a certain ambition and an understanding, more or less, of how things work in this world....

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Sebastian Normandin
Meaning and Pseudoscience by Sebastian Normandin

The persistence and proliferation of pseudoscientific thinking in contemporary culture demands explanation. Clearly there are some pragmatic reasons for its expanded existence, and people...

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Janice Lee For the Ghost

The memories are like stutters. Sometimes I inhale for air, and exhale a shaking chain of memories. A choking hazard. I for the ghost....

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Edi Rama’s Bunker Mentality by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei

As many former Eastern Block countries in the EU display a hardly dissimulated form of racism and religious hatred, Albania, always a little behind...

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