Where Does Common Sense Come From? “A Modest Proposal” and the Inoculation Controversy, forthcoming in Philosophy and Literature

Based as it was on evidence amassed over time, the triumph of inoculation occurred in a manner totally unlike the instantaneous mass conversion to cannibalism envisioned by the narrator of “A Modest Proposal.”

Sherlockismus: Freud and the Romance of Detection
Fictional Worlds and Philosophical Reflection, ed. Garry Hagberg (Palgrave, 2022).  What better way for Freud to suggest that his conclusions arise from pure observation than to give himself a resemblance to the keenest of all observers, the perceiver on whom nothing is lost, Sherlock Holmes?

Noncoincidence in The Brothers Karamazov

“It’s marvellous, extraordinary, impossible”–Dmitri Karamazov

Upbringing and Agency: Three Perspectives

Philosophy and Literature 45 (2021): 348-66.  The women censured by Mary Wollstonecraft are not helpless products of their upbringing but agents who use their acquired powers to captivate, subjugate, and mold other

Murder Without Motive: Eichmann in Jerusalem and In Cold Blood

Law and Humanities 13 (2019): 177-97. While the dazzling paradox of malignity with no apparent motive helped fuel the fame of Eichmann in Jerusalem and In Cold Blood, the paradox itself conflicts with the evidence in both cases and does not stand up to examination.
Physician, Heal Thyself: The Satiric Turn in Washington Square

Literary Imagination 21 (2019): 158-66.  In many scenes Dr. Sloper conducts himself in a sort of clinical manner, observing, investigating, sounding, pronouncing, all with great coolness and assurance, as if carrying over into private life the manner of a doctor at a time when it was still at least as important as diagnosis or therapy.

Abuse of the Dead: A Comment on “American Despair in an Age of Hope”
Salmagundi 176 (2012): 127-37.

Literature and Propaganda
Salamgundi 174-75 (2012): 203-21
Concurrently with the circulation of propaganda stories about Muhammad, the mobilization of military and intellectual power against Islam, and the attempt to argue the rival religion out of existence by the force of superior dialectic, Latin Europe engaged in commerce and cultural commerce with its adversary.

From Aesop to Orwell: The Roots of Doubletalk
Connor Court Quarterly (Australia), April 2012
Chernyshevsky saturates with vagueness the most earthbound and detailed of all literary forms, a form which Orwell himself practiced and in whose tradition he was steeped: the novel.

The Advertisement of Guilt
Soundings 93.1-2 (2010): 163-73 
They protest not their innocence but their guilt, and they protest too much.

Oriental Tales and Great Expectations
Dickens Quarterly 27 (2010): 38-47
Some of the core tales of the Arabian Nights are devoid of the marvelous, except insofar as the extravagance of human delusions is marvelous in itself.

Bibliotherapy: Literature as Exploration Reconsidered
Academic Questions 23 (2010): 125-35 
The author dislikes “dogmatic ideas and fixed responses,” except her own.

Stiva’s Idiotic Grin
Philosophy and Literature 33 (2009): 427-34
Nothing is better able to render the details and dynamics of the ego’s fantasy life than fiction itself, capable though it may also be of playing with our minds and confusing our vision.

Dr. Humbert
Raritan 29:2 (2009): 33-39
A theoretically ideal patient, highly intelligent, well versed in the conventions of psychiatry, willing to tell all, an anthology of symptoms, is revealed as both ruthless and incurable.

Converts and the Novel
Philosophy and Literature 32 (2008): 359-72
The moral life of humanity is so complex, and the forces bearing on the convert so strong and so many–including threats, enticements, and the alluring prospect, or at least hope, of being embraced rather than despised by one’s fellow creatures–that for whatever is known about Jews who embraced Christianity, more must remain unknown if not unknowable.

Tolstoy’s Wisdom and Folly: A Review of Gary Saul Morson’s “Anna Karenina” in Our Time: Seeing More Wisely
Literary Imagination 10 (2008): 352-57
In every question of interpretation Morson’s appeal is to the text–sometimes to a passage perceptibly inflected with irony, sometimes to a clause folded in the middle of a sentence, sometimes to an explicit editorial comment, sometimes to entire patterns, but in any case to the page itself.

Literature and the Turn from History
Literary Imagination 10 (2008): 25-35 
While no one would deny that many things are excluded from representation in Jane Austen’s pages, the same is true of any work of fiction.

The Secularism of Fiction: A Medieval Source
Literary Imagination 10 (2008): 127-41 
Although our terminology disposes us to think of Christian civilization and Islamic civilization as walled kingdoms, each complete unto itself and a stranger to the other, these worlds were not hermetically sealed.

The Uncaged Bird: Pop Psychology and Its Sources
Salmagundi, Winter 2008
In the very things that distinguish it from traditional advice literature–its tone of accusation and rhetoric of rights, both derivatives of the 1960s–pop psychology as we know it bears the sign of its origin.

Shakespeare: The Drama of Generation 

Delhi: Macmillan, 2007

The flash of brilliance, the leap out of the ordinary, the break with existing practice, the violation of norms, the sudden discontinuity–all exert a powerful attraction.  Thia study of a war against the young in the greatest of all dramatists turns the tables, bringing out the importance of generational succession and the continuous renewal of the world in Shakespeare’s plays from one end to the other. (Available on

Literature and Human Equality
Northwestern University Press, 2006
The elevation of commoners into positions of importance not only changed the appearance of literature but made possible new ways of constructing a tale. (Available on

Fool’s Paradise: The Unreal World of Pop Psychology

Ivan R. Dee, 2005.  Recipient of the Popular Culture Association’s Ray and Pat Browne Award for the best book of 2005 by a single author.

Martin Luther King proclaims that the time has come for freedom, Phil McGraw that the time has come for wellbeing.  (Available on

All Is Not As It Should Be: The Nature of Liberal Guilt
Salmagundi, Summer 2004
One of the defining moods of our age, liberal guilt is an uneasiness of conscience, but an uneasiness cultivated rather than just suffered.

Direct and Indirect Guilt in Little Dorrit
Soundings, Spring-Summer 2002: 39-52

Certainly there is a great difference between an indirect guilt entertained in the imagination and a guilt that acts directly on me, that singles me out and tracks me down, as guilt was long envisioned doing.

Hamlet and the Odyssey
Literary Imagination 4 (2002): 389-410 

In the world of Hamlet, where word and deed part company, the heroic ideal of recognition is subverted, complicated, and transformed–beyond recognition.

The Springs of Liberty: The Satiric Tradition and Freedom of Speech
Northwestern University Press, 1999
If the novel is unbound by the presuppositions of other genres (thus constituting a sort of supergenre), the freedom of satire is such that it overflows every generic boundary and its power such that it animates different genres in the first place.  (Available on

The Psychological Mystique
Northwestern University Press, 1998
Psychology is the clue to all things: he who understands the formation of ideas can reform the world.  (Available on

Trade as Pudendum: Chaucer’s Wife of Bath

Chaucer Review 38 (1994): 344-52

Things bourgeois men wouldn’t have laughed at in themselves become comical enormities in the Wife of Bath.

Freud and His Nephew
Social Research, Summer 1994: 457-76.

Bernays aspired to be a sort of practical Freud, emancipating people from the past and correcting the malfunctions of an industrial society. Cited as recommended reading in American Psychological Association Monitor, December 2009.  Reprinted as Afterword to Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York, Warbler Press, 2004).

Orwell’s Plain Style

University of Toronto Quarterly 53 (1983-84): 195-203

Given that Orwell baffles some of our customary distinctions, it is perhaps not surprising that in his resolve to stick to the facts of experience he was influenced by a tradition of fiction.