Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be? That favorite question of the author interview always makes me wonder whether it really would be enjoyable to dine with Abraham Lincoln or Elizabeth I or William Shakespeare. Wouldn't they have bigger things to think about than making small talk with me? Fortunately, this issue of HUMANITIES has the perfect answer: Mary Moody Emerson.

Full of verve, even in her eighties, Emerson was a reader, a thinker, and a scholar in the nineteenth-century mode, constantly improving her own mind by direct contact with philosophy and literature, but never in isolation. Her deepest thoughts she expressed in letters to others, including her adoring nephew Ralph Waldo Emerson; she even liked to imagine her favorite authors in dialog with each other, the results of which she generously shared with friends and family. Were she alive today, she would be teaching classes in social media, not taking them. As Noelle A. Baker and Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, editors who have been digitizing Emerson's papers, demonstrate, Emerson was a dear friend and inspiration to many smart people.

For this issue I interviewed Mark Lilia of Columbia University about people who would like to turn back the clock and recreate the wonders of earlier eras: the so-called reactionary. Lilia is a portraitist working in the history of ideas, and his latest book, The Shipwrecked Mind, deftly considers a number of important figures who have shaped the political landscape in pursuit of a lost golden era, from the philosopher Leo Strauss to Martin Luther and Saint Paul. …

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