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Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Examines “What Humanists Do”

Winter 2014 issue of Dædalus available January 6, 2014


Press Release

NOTE: Please credit Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, when citing this editorial material.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (January 6, 2014) – What do humanists do? What value does their work create—for their students, for themselves, and for society? The Winter 2014 issue of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, suggests that humanists help us better understand ourselves and the world around us. Through analysis and personal reflection, the contributors to the issue demonstrate how the humanities improve our humanity.

The issue is guest edited by American Academy Fellow Denis Donoghue, a professor of Irish, English, and American literature at New York University. Donoghue asked contributors to identify a text that has had great influence on their lives and work, and to discuss that text in relation to their growth as scholars, artists, and human beings. Spanning time and genre—from the Latin epic the Aeneid to Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved—the essays contribute to our understanding of what it means to closely read a text, to grow our critical and analytic minds, and to understand our place in the world.

Among the issue’s twelve essays, Gillian Beer (University of Cambridge) examines Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, revealing an understanding of the novel so comprehensive that, as Donoghue puts it, “only a few novels could be awarded such attention in one scholar’s lifetime.” Patricia Meyer Spacks (University of Virginia) reflects on how George Eliot’s Middlemarch powerfully affected her young mind and sparked her lifelong engagement with imaginative literature. And literary critic and conservationist Scott Russell Sanders (Indiana University) returns to Thoreau’s Walden, recounting his first grappling with the text as a teenager, and contrasting that initial interpretation with how his students read the text today.

Print and Kindle copies of the new issue can be ordered at:

Essays in the Winter 2014 issue of Dædalus include:
  • What Ought Humanists To Do? by J. Hillis Miller (University of California, Irvine)
  • Politics & Eternity by Francis Oakley (Williams College)
  • “Half Art”: Baudelaire’s “Le Peintre de la vie moderne” by Rachel Bowlby (Princeton University)
  • On Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves” by Gillian Beer (University of Cambridge)
  • The Power of “Middlemarch” by Patricia Meyer Spacks (University of Virginia)
  • On Beckett’s “neither” & Giacometti’s “Figurine entre deux boîtes qui sont des maisons” by James Olney (Louisiana State University)
  • I’m Not There by Ross Posnock (Columbia University)
  • On Louise Glück’s “Messengers” by Henri Cole (Ohio State University)
  • Dido’s Long Dying by Michael C. J. Putnam (Brown University)
  • “Beloved”: America’s Grammar Book by Karla FC Holloway (Duke University)
  • Hooks Baited with Darkness by Scott Russell Sanders (Indiana University)
  • On Reading & Rereading Freud’s “Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis” by Steven Marcus (Columbia University)


Since its founding in 1780, the American Academy has served the nation as a champion of scholarship, civil dialogue, and useful knowledge. As one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, the Academy convenes leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to address critical challenges facing our global society.

Through studies, publications, and programs on the Humanities, Arts, and Education; Science, Engineering, and Technology; Global Security and Energy; and American Institutions and the Public Good, the Academy provides authoritative and nonpartisan policy advice to decision-makers in government, academia, and the private sector.


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