Reading Room Archives

Our Thanksgiving Menu at the Reading Room




Pull up a chair and feast on this menu of Thanksgiving reading from the OLL!

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life: Inferno, Canto IV, Part 2




A Reading Room series
by Daniel Ross Goodman

Dante and Virgil continue onwards through a forest—a forest of “thick-crowded ghosts.” Not very far into this forest Dante sees a fire blazing in the darkness. Even though they are still somewhat distant from it, Dante is able to see that there are several people near the light. Dante asks Virgil what merit these people have to be separated from the rest of Limbo and to be able to enjoy a little bit of light amidst the darkness that characterizes the rest of the first circle of Hell. “These are the people with good names,” Virgil tells him. 

OLL's November Birthday: Baruch Spinoza (November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677)


by Peter Mentzel

This month’s featured birthday anniversary is the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, a.k.a, Benedict de Spinoza. A key figure in the history of Rationalism, he is also widely regarded as one of the most important expounders of the theology of pantheism. His religious views not only implied a powerful critique of sectarian religion, but provided a foundation for democratic political philosophy and formed the basis for an ethical system based on self-restraint and virtue.

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: lInferno, Canto IV: Scappando dal limbo


Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia
di Daniel Ross Goodman

Dante viene svegliato da un forte tuono. Si alza in piedi, si guarda intorno e cerca di capire dove si trova. È in piedi sul bordo di una valle profonda, buia e nebbiosa che riverbera con gli echi del tuono. Dante si sforza di vedere nella valle, ma ancora non riesce a distinguere nulla attraverso la nebbia. Scendiamo ora nel mondo cieco, dice Virgilio, pallido (apparentemente) di terrore. Vado per primo e tu mi seguirai da vicino.

John Stuart Mill, Fashion, and Seinfeld's "Bra-less wonder"



by Caren Oberg

While purporting to be a show about nothing, Seinfeld is, of course, a show about everything. Furthermore, it is a show that is very particularly about the difficulty of explaining why we are inclined to blindly accept the norms of society. One hundred fifty years before Seinfeld, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty observed that, "Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself."

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life : Inferno, Canto IV: Escaping Limbo



A Reading Room series on The Divine Comedy
By Daniel Ross Goodman

Dante is awoken by a loud clap of thunder. He gets up to his feet, looks around, and tries to comprehend where he is. He is standing on the edge of a deep, dark, misty valley reverberating with the echoes of thunder. Dante strains to see into the valley but still cannot make anything out through the fog. “Let us descend now into the blind world,” says Virgil, pale (apparently) with terror. “I’ll go first, and you’ll follow closely behind me.” 

Ancient Wisdom as Antidote to the Local Food Activists’ Hatred of Intermediaries


French economist Frédéric Bastiat famously observed two centuries ago that Parisians slept peacefully each night confident that others all over France worked “in concert and without agreement” to supply the capital with food in a quantity that was “what is wanted, nothing more, nothing less.” 

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto III, Parte 2: La fallacia della neutralità

Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia

di Daniel Ross Goodman

Mentre Dante e Virgilio entrano nell'anticamera dell'Inferno, Virgilio dice a Dante che tutto il lamento agonizzante che sente sono le voci di coloro che <<visser sanza ‘nfamia e sanza lodo>>, coloro che non potevano impegnarsi né nel bene né nel male. In questa anticamera sono presenti anche angeli che non erano né fedeli a Dio né apertamente ribelli a Dio. 

Loki, Marvel, and Snorre Sturlason: The Weirdness of the World


by Sarah Skwire

With Marvel's Eternals out in the theaters, and Garth Bond's post this week on the Eternals and Euhemerism, I'm thinking a lot about Marvel's other recent releases, and getting ready to rewatch their Disney+ series Loki. When Loki revealed that a female version of Loki exists in an alternate timeline (as well as a child Loki and an alligator Loki, among others), and when viewers noticed that Loki’s personal information at the Time Variance Authority listed his gender as “fluid” the internet went wild.


Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life: Inferno, Canto III, Part 2: The Fallacy of Neutrality e:


A Reading Room series on The Divine Comedy

By Daniel Ross Goodman

As Dante and Virgil enter the antechamber of Hell, Virgil tells Dante that all the agonized wailing he’s hearing are the voices of those who “lived without infamy or praise”—those who could not bring themselves to commit to either good or evil. Also present in this antechamber are angels who were neither faithful to God nor outright rebellious against God. 

Marvel's Eternals and Miltonic Euhemerism: Making Gods


by Garth Bond

The Eternals, the latest installment in the Marvel cinematic universe, premiered this weekend. While the Marvel universe has not been incorporated into the Online Library of Liberty—surely a temporary oversight—one of the film’s heroes is Gilgamesh, whose Sumerian epic is not only in the Library, but is the source of its “amagi” symbol (the earliest written reference to “liberty”).

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita : Inferno, Canto III: Dante Alighieri, Rapsodista della Libertà


Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia
di Daniel Ross Goodman
Dante è finalmente pronto per entrare all'Inferno, o almeno così crede. Giunto all'ingresso dell'Inferno, legge un'iscrizione sulle porte che, racconta a Virgilio, lo fa fermare:

Macbeth on Film

by Garth Bond

Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, scheduled for theatrical release on Christmas and streaming on Apple TV+ three weeks later, offers as good an excuse as any to reflect on earlier film productions of Shakespeare’s classic meditation on the psychology of a tyrant.

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life: Inferno, Canto III: Dante Alighieri, Rhapsodist of Liberty


A Reading Room series on The Divine Comedy
by Daniel Ross Goodman

Dante is at last ready to enter Hell—or so he thinks. As he reaches the entrance of Hell he reads an inscription on the gates which, he tells Virgil, makes him pause:

Acton on Doing History: To Judge or Understand


By Hans Eicholz

In July’s Liberty Matters Discussion of the Declaration of Independence, a main theme of our deliberations was on the role and purpose of history. A distinction was made between an older ethic of understanding the past in its own terms versus judging past actions for their moral or ethical content. The idea of understanding context is old only in relation to modern practices, however, which are increasingly seeing the reassertion of the view that the past can and should be judged.

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto II: Il potere delle donne rette la vita



Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia
di Daniel Ross Goodman

Virgilio, sentendo per caso i dubbi di Dante che potrebbe essere indegno per questo viaggio, rimprovera Dante per la sua codardia e cerca di rassicurarlo sul fatto che varrà davvero la pena per Dante di viaggiare con lui attraverso l'inferno. Racconta Dante di come gli è apparso sulla terra in primo luogo. Rivela a Dante che mentre era sospeso nel Limbo (essendo un cristiano non battezzato vissuto prima dell'età di Cristo, Virgilio, secondo la teologia cristiana, non potrà mai ascendere al cielo), udì una <<bella, santa Signora>> che chiamava lui, e si sentì in dovere di ascoltarla. I suoi occhi brillavano più luminosi della Stella; con voce dolce, gentile e angelica, supplicò Virgilio di aiutare la sua amico. 

Female Friendship and Grady Hendrix's Horror



by Sarah Skwire

I’ve never really been a fan of horror fiction. With the exception of spooky Victorian gothic novels, a long-standing affection for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the occasional particularly creepy Neil Gaiman moment, I just don’t care to be scared. There’s enough scary stuff in the real world that I just, in general, can’t find the fun in being scared by fiction.

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life


A Reading Room series on The Divine Comedy
By Daniel Ross Goodman

Virgil, overhearing Dante’s doubts that he might be unworthy for this journey, chides Dante for his cowardice, and tries to reassure him that it will indeed be worthwhile for Dante to journey with him through hell. He tells Dante how he came to appear to him on earth in the first place. He discloses to Dante that while he had been suspended in Limbo (as an unbaptized Christian who lived before the age of Christ, Virgil, according to Christian theology, can never ascend to heaven), he heard a “fair, saintly Lady” calling to him, and he felt compelled to listen to her. 

Frankenstein and the Wonder of Horror


by Caroline Breashears

At Halloween, the monsters gather at our doors for tribute. We expect the caped figures with fangs askew, the werewolves growling for candy, the square-headed toddler with bolts glued to his neck. We are not afraid, because we are not surprised. 

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto II: Surmonter le syndrome de l'imposteura vita :


Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia
di Daniel Ross Goodman
Prima che Dante intraprenda il suo viaggio attraverso l'inferno con Virgilio, invoca le muse (gli spiriti classici delle arti, nell'antica Grecia e a Roma) per aiutarlo a ricordare - e poi scrivere - ciò che vedrà nell regni di inferno. Dante ci rammenta che non sarà il primo a scendere all'inferno mentre è ancora in vita: lo aveva fatto il grande eroe troiano Enea durante il suo viaggio da Troia a Roma. L'idolo letterario di Dante, Virgilio, ha immortalato il viaggio di Enea nel suo poema epico L'Eneide. 

Considering The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys


by Renee Wilmeth

“It was a beautiful place – wild, untouched, above all untouched, with an alien disturbing, secret loveliness.  And it kept its secret. I’d find myself thinking, ‘What I see is nothing – I want what it hides – that is not nothing.”  Edward Fairfax Rochester, The Wide Sargasso Sea

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life: Inferno, Canto II: Overcoming the Impostor Syndrome:



A Reading Room Series

by Daniel Ross Goodman

Before Dante embarks upon his journey through hell with Virgil, he invokes the muses (the classical spirits of the arts in ancient Greece and Rome) to assist him in being able to remember—and then later write about—what he will see in the infernal realms. Dante reminds us that he will not be the first to descend to hell while still living: the great Trojan hero Aeneas had done so during his journey from Troy to Rome. Dante’s literary idol Virgil immortalized Aeneas’s journey in his epic poem The Aeneid. 

Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty and the Question of Historical Fiction

by Garth Bond

Francis Spufford’s Light Perpetual was released last May to considerable praise, unsurprising given the multiple awards received by its predecessor, Golden Hill. This new book is regularly referred to—by the author himself, as well as by reviewers—as the follow-up to his debut fiction novel, though usually with a nod to the nearly two decades of award-winning non-fiction that preceded the 2016 publication of Golden Hill.]

Without wishing to undermine or invalidate Spufford’s own truth, this account makes something of an awkward step-child of his actual fiction debut, 2010’s Red Plenty

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto I: il viaggio della nostra vita e l'importanza dei classici


Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia

di Daniel Ross Goodman

La scorsa settimana abbiamo iniziato il nostro epico viaggio con Dante accompagnando Dante mentre si perde nei boschi, prima di incontrare il suo idolo letterario Virgilio e accettare di prendere con Virgilio un altro sentiero che lo porterà fuori dalle selve oscure ma che lo condurrà attraverso un rehmp pieno di suoni e visioni più terribili di quanto la maggior parte degli esseri mortali possa persino immaginare. Questa settimana esploreremo alcuni dei significati più profondi di questo canto introduttivo...