Painting of man finding woman seated at table writing
partner

A Kind of Historical Faith

On the history of literature masquerading as primary source.
Carl Van Vechten's portrait of John A. Williams, 1962.

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

John A. Williams’s unsung novel.
Painting of waves crashing in the ocean by Winslow Homer

After Melville

In every generation, writers and readers find new ways to plumb the depths of Herman Melville and his work.
Newspaper article titled 'Novel-reading a cause of female depravity'

Why Novels Will Destroy Your Mind

Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, novels were regarded as the video games or TikTok of their age — shallow, addictive, and dangerous.
Richard Jean So and the cover of his book "Redlining Culture"

The History of Publishing Is a History of Racial Inequality

A conversation with Richard Jean So about combining data and literary analysis to understand how the publishing industry came to be dominated by white writers. 
Cover of Orwell's "1984."

Here are the Biggest Fiction Bestsellers of the Last 100 Years

(And what everyone read instead.)

The Lost Giant of American Literature

A major black novelist made a remarkable début. How did he disappear?
partner

Tunnel Vision

When you dig beyond all purpose, digging becomes the purpose.

The Great American Novels

136 books that made America think.
Girls reading "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."

Betty Smith Enchanted a Generation of Readers with ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’

No other 20th-century American novel did quite so much to burnish Brooklyn’s reputation.
A hand-drawn, slightly abstract image of a pink typewriter, using a QWERTY keyboard.

Page Against the Machine

Dan Sinykin’s history of corporate fiction.
Jewish moneylender choking debtor

"A Fiendish Fascination"

The representation of Jews in antebellum popular culture reveals that many Americans found them both cartoonishly villainous and enticingly exotic.
Collage of African Americans' faces.

Specters of the Mythic South

How plantation fiction fixed ghost stories to Black Americans.
A pink, fluffy cloud raining colorful cubes, reminiscent of pieces of data.

What Do We Owe? Generosity, Attribution, and the Perilous Invisibility of Research Infrastructure

Attribution can make visible the vast infrastructure of research and display how much hard-won knowledge, including creative endeavor, it has faciliated.
Bud Schulberg testifying before HUAC.

During the 2023 Writers Strike, This Book Helped Me Understand the Depravities of Hollywood

A 1941 novel by a former Communist Party member about the dog-eat-dog scumbaggery of movie executives and the lying and artless bragging that Hollywood runs on.
Painting by Pablo Ventura called "War Souvenirs #9" depicting a soldier kissing a woman, another with a bicycle, and World War II propaganda posters.

Writing Under Fire

For a full understanding of any historical period, we must read the literature written while its events were still unfolding.
Illustration of multiple people drawing the same cover of a book

Big Publishing Killed the Author

How corporations wrested creative control from writers and editors—to produce less interesting books.
A photograph of Louisa May Alcott.

Nonfiction That Rivals Little Women: The Forgotten Essays of Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott is best known for Little Women, but she earned her first taste of celebrity as an essayist.
Captain Lightfood on horseback firing a pistol.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot: The American Creation of Irish Outlaw Folk Heroes

Martin’s confession relates outlaw adventures that appear to be original. But were they real? 
Tennessee Williams

How Thomas Lanier Williams Became Tennessee

A collection of previously unpublished stories offers a portrait of the playwright as a young artist.