Virginia Woolf is an icon with a shaky reputation. She is
known as depressed—a novelist who, at age 59, drowned
herself in the River Ouse outside her weekend home. She also
stands as that prototypical female figure whose face we put
on mugs, t-shirts,...
Jane Austen is loved mainly as a charming guide to
fashionable life in the Regency period. She is admired for
portraying a world of elegant houses, dances, servants and
fashionable young men driving barouches. But her own vision
of her task was radically different....
Most of the time, successful modern life involves lots of
technology, constantly being connected with other people,
working very hard for as much money as possible, and doing
what we are told. These elements are almost a conventional
prescription for success. So it may...
We generally think that philosophers should be proud of
their big brains, and be fans of thinking, self-reflection
and rational analysis.
But there’s one philosopher, born in France in 1533, with
a refreshingly different take. Michel de Montaigne was an
intellectual who spent his writing...
Modern life is, in many ways, founded around the idea of
progress: the notion that as we know more (especially about
science and technology), and as economies grow larger,
we’re bound to end up happier. Particularly in the
eighteenth century, as European societies and...
Most people agree that we need to improve our economic
system somehow. It threatens our planet through excessive
consumption, distracts us with irrelevant advertising,
leaves people hungry and without healthcare, and fuels
unnecessary wars. Yet we’re also often keen to dismiss the
ideas of its...
Democracy was achieved by such a long, arduous and heroic
struggle that it can feel embarrassing – even shameful –
to feel a little disappointed by it. We know that at key
historical moments people have made profound sacrifices so
that we can, every...
Modern architecture produces truly innovative work:
glittering, staggeringly tall buildings, opera houses that
look like folded origami, even museums that look like
spaceships. However, in turning towards everything new,
architectural modernism also dogmatically left behind much
of what makes buildings lovely. The best architects of...
We tend to get pretty nervous around the idea of political
art. Some terrible things have been done in its name: it’s
encouraged fanaticism, demonised vulnerable groups and
pumped out delusional propaganda. But despite our
misgivings, our collective existence is very much in need...
Among our deepest and seemingly most natural aspirations is
the longing to form stable, satisfying relationships: to
thrive in partnerships that are good for both people. It
doesn’t seem much to ask. A lot of people are looking for
roughly the same thing. But...
One of the most depressing aspects of travel is finding that
the world often looks the same in many different places. The
towers of downtown Tokyo are indistinguishable from those of
Frankfurt or Seattle. That’s no coincidence. Modern
architecture was founded on the idea...