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Samuel Beckett on the set of Film in New York during his only visit to the United States in 1964. Photo by I C Rappaport/Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
The wisdom of surrender

Samuel Beckett turned an obscure 17th-century Christian heresy into an artistic vision and an unusual personal philosophy

Andy Wimbush

To marry under the broomstick: detail from Netherlandish Proverbs (1559) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (full painting below). Courtesy the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin/Wikipedia

Essay/
Rituals and celebrations
Broomstick weddings

From Kentucky to Wales and all across the Atlantic, the enslaved and downtrodden got married – by leaping over a broom. Why?

Tyler D Parry

The main room at the Cave of El Castillo in Cantabria, Spain, showing hand prints and depictions of animals. Photo courtesy Gabinete de Prensa del Gobierno de Cantabria

Essay/
Art
Cave art

For Palaeolithic societies, art-making was both a tool for survival and a tactile, joyous exploration of the world

Izzy Wisher

Photo by Jerome Sessini/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Neurodiversity
Am I disabled?

With my pen hovering over a form, there is no easy answer: better to provoke stigma with support, or resist classification?

Joanne Limburg

Detail of a miniature of Arthur slaying the Spanish giant on the island of Mont-Saint-Michel (1471-1483), by Jean de Wavrin. Royal 15 E IV f. 156. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Library

Essay/
Stories and literature
Empire of fantasy

By conquering young minds, the writing of J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis worked to recapture a world that was swiftly ebbing away

Maria Sachiko Cecire

Shane Battier #31 of the Miami Heat drives against Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers, 14 November 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Noah Graham/NBA/Getty

Essay/
Complexity
All stars

Is a great team more than the sum of its players? Complexity science reveals the role of strategy, synergy, swarming and more

Jessica Flack & Cade Massey

A drunkard is challenged to walk in a straight line. Detail from Walking the Chalk (1838) by Charles Deas. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Essay/
Food and drink
Drunks and democrats

Violent, lively and brash, taverns were everywhere in early colonial America, embodying both its tumult and its promise

Vaughn Scribner

Leonard Bernstein (far right) with members of the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra on 10 May 1948 in Munich, Germany. Bernstein was on a working tour of Europe when he conducted this small orchestra comprised of Holocaust survivors at a displaced persons camp. Photo courtesy of Sonia Beker, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
Humanity at night

A violinist plays in a concentration camp. A refugee carries a book of poetry. Art sustains us when survival is uncertain

Sarah Fine

Bhima fighting with Jayadratha in a page from the Mahabharata (c1615), Popular Mughal School, probably done at Bikaner, India. Photo by Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
The living Mahabharata

Immorality, sexism, politics, war: the polychromatic Indian epic pulses with relevance to the present day

Audrey Truschke

Survival Piece I: Hog Pasture (1970-71) by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, for the exhibition ‘Earth, Air, Fire and Water’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison/The Harrison Studio

Essay/
Art
The art of survival

The Harrisons’ eco-art told stories about the apocalypse, pointing to a future where we’d all have to be survival artists

W Patrick McCray

The Stephen sisters playing cricket in St Ives, Cornwall, England, c1893-94. Photo courtesy the Houghton Library, Harvard University

Essay/
Biography and memoir
My sister, my mirror

Vanessa and Virginia – intimates in art, adversaries in love. Can we ever transcend the primal envy of the sisterly bond?

Lily Dunn

Skinheads in Southend, England, in 1981. Photo by Michael Daines/Mirrorpix/Getty

Essay/
Subcultures
Hate reads

The Western canon has no shortage of fascists. But can the far-Right make ‘literature’ worthy of the name?

Andrew Marzoni