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Introduction

I’VE SAID THIS BEFORE, but it bears repeating. You probably know that neurologists have a term, proprioception, to describe our sense of ourselves and our body, its position and movement in space. What they haven’t yet named, so far as I know, is the cultural equivalent to proprioception: our sense of the world, of history, of our place in it and our ability to move and act, within and on it. Yet such an equivalent does exist: we believe our bodies to be whole and immortal, the world to be solid beneath our feet, we know our family loves us, as does God, and we assume that our nation (race, tribe, clan, call it what you will) is where we belong — to it we pledge allegiance. Until, that is, we don’t. Locke wasn’t off-base when he named solidity as the first of his simple ideas, the corner or keystone for all of the rest. He had less to say about those moments when the earth moves, a family splits, gods die, or our nation declares war on itself. One day...

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poetry

XXIII

By Pablo Neruda, Translated by Karen Hilberg

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“We are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest [...] the teachings of Thoreau are alive today, indeed, they are more alive today than ever before.”

—REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. (MR 4.1, Autumn 1962)

From the Blog

Our America

No One Likes a Bully

- By Ward Schumaker

In 1991, during the confirmation hearing of William Barr as George H. W. Bush’s Attorney General, a lawyer named Jimmy Lohman published a piece in an obscure periodical, the Florida Flambeau. Lohman had been a classmate of Barr in high school and again later, at Columbia, and he remembered Barr well: “Billy was my very own high school tormentor.....a classic bully...a porky ninth grader who had a vicious fixation on my little Jewish ‘commie’ ass...he lived to make me miserable.” Barr had brothers who were much like him, writes Lohman, and together they picketed the school’s fund-raising Junior Carnival “because the proceeds were going to the NAACP.” At Columbia, Barr “teamed up with New York City riot police to attack anti-war...


Colloquies

Autumn Journal on Autumn Journal: 8

- By Michael Thurston

(Station platform in London. The Independent: Getty Photo)

            “Save my skin and damn my conscience.”
Remember when the sun shone easy, say eight years ago, about this time of year? Remember when life was comfortable, life was fine? Sure, plenty remained undone, but we’d come out of the worst of a disastrous economic downturn, the machinery of electoral politics looked to be functioning smoothly, neither the incumbent president nor his opponent was a raving sociopathic sexual harasser and white nationalist pseudo-fascist, and...


Interviews

10 Questions for Brooke Sahni

- By Edward Clifford

First, we were taught how to spell
His name, then we were told to draw Him.
It was an exercise in metaphor.
The balls of paper amassed before me
while my class mates drew stars, maps of the Holy Land.
I thought I should color everything I could think of
—from "G-d, a Portrait," Volume 61, Issue 3 (Fall 2020)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
For as long as I could write, I have. I’ve always had journals, but one of the first “formal” pieces I remember writing was in 3rd grade—a short book called Chloe, about a golden retriever princess. My teacher, generously, told me she couldn’t wait to see my first book in a bookstore one day; this stayed with me...


The Next Best Thing

For David 1: The Great Lie of Ideals

- By Brion Dulac

An introduction to David Lenson's lecture at the Commonwealth Honors College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, on February 13, 2013.

 

 

Here are only a very few representative samples of the many, many evaluations made by students with regard to David Lenson and his teaching:

 

One of the most incredible professors that I have ever had.
He will change your perspective on things and shake up your world.
Lenson is absolutely brilliant. His books are messed up, but so...


The Next Best Thing

For David 2: A Way of Living

- By Aaron Hellem

(Photo: David Lenson, from the 1963 Nutley High School yearbook)
 

When I remember David Lenson it is his kind eyes and his wicked grin, full of mischief, as though he had just eaten a bird and was waiting, even hoping, for someone to notice.

The first time I met him was in the classroom, during a graduate seminar he taught on the Double in literature. He was the first professor in my experience at UMass to open up possibilities rather than limit them, which in graduate school it seemed everyone was aspiring to do. He explored every tangent not as a tangent but as a tributary that eventually would lead everyone to the same ocean. The one big note. It feels fitting now in retrospect what I first learned...


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