As 2022 comes to a close, we’re proud to present our top-ten most-read web pieces of the year, listed below in reverse order. If you enjoy these online-only essays and dialogues, we strongly encourage you to check out this year’s print issues, and then consider subscribing for 2023.
10. “Suspending Belief” by Christine Henneberg
If you don’t believe in abortion, then don’t have one! Yes. But this old and excellent (if somewhat irreverent) rallying cry for abortion rights only captures part of the problem, the easy part. Where does it leave women like Sandra—women who, on the table or afterwards, tell me, I don’t believe in this? Where does it leave me, as their doctor?
9. “Saint Augustine’s Slave Play” by Daniel José Camacho
Perhaps no figure illuminates the commonalities between a triumphalist history of the United States and a triumphalist history of Christianity as much as this North African bishop. Augustine’s relationship to slavery—and sex—tells us much about how the ideal of freedom emerged alongside human bondage.
8. “Risking Embarrassment: A conversation with Timothy Aubry” by Jessica Swoboda
“In the seminars I was taking, literature was subversive, disruptive and unsettling, but if it made you happy, that meant it was bad literature. The last thing any critic would want to admit, if they’re trying to make it as an academic, is that they treat literature as a kind of therapy, that it validates their feelings, helps them feel better about life and less alone, and provides a kind of reassurance.”
7. “Motherhood and Taboo” by Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman
These are the questions that call for us to return to the novel: not to judge Gyllenhaal for diverging from her source material but in order to understand the impulse that motivates the particular misreading that seems to have appealed both to her and to the film’s critics. For part of the greatness of Ferrante’s novel is the way in which it sharply anticipates our desire for simple answers to the problem posed by motherhood.
6. “Help!” by Helena de Bres
Someone would make some throwaway, apparently non-philosophical point at a bar, someone else would lean in and say, “That’s interesting. Let’s put some pressure on that,” and I’d immediately think, “Let’s not.”
5. “The Consolations of Analytic Philosophy” by Helena de Bres
We contemporary philosophers like to claim we’ve outgrown the demand that philosophy provide the more general sorts of guidance about how to live in, feel about and cope with the world that our existentialist and ancient counterparts went in for. But that stance increasingly seems disingenuous to me.
4. “Education and Indoctrination” by Jeffrey Aaron Snyder
The assault on public education by some on the right only reinforces my belief that liberal critiques of public schooling must be constructive—we can air our concerns, while simultaneously supporting teachers and championing public education as an essential public good.
3. “Art Is for Seeing Evil” by Agnes Callard
There are many complex theories about the nature and function of art; I am going to propose a very simple one.
2. “Among the Reality Entrepreneurs” by James Duesterberg
The “downtown scene” was something you could make fun of in Brooklyn and be a part of in Berlin: either way it was the internet where things seemed to be happening. And yet: the internet itself seemed to be, somehow, “happening” more intensely in New York. Urbit imagines itself as a new and fully virtual world, but for now, the vibes still needed a medium, and New York was the ultimate test.
1. “Violent Antagonisms: A conversation with Tobi Haslett” by Jessica Swoboda
“Even today certain kinds of critics—sometimes very established—are invested in displaying their exhaustion with politically inflected art. And I think: What are you exhausted with? Where did this twee McCarthyism come from? You’re an American. You’ve barely ever consumed any left-wing cultural production. You grew up middle-class in the most philistine capitalist state there has ever been, but you’re acting like you were raised on a diet of socialist realism and state radio broadcasts.”