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Marina Benjamin

Senior Editor, Aeon+Psyche

Marina is a former arts editor of the New Statesman and deputy arts editor of the Evening Standard newspaper in London. Her books include, Living at the End of the World which looked at end-time cults, Rocket Dreams, an off-beat elegy to the Space Age, and Last Days in Babylon, the story of the Jews of Iraq. Marina specialises in the culture of science, developmental psychology and strong personal narratives. Her acclaimed memoirs The Middlepause and Insomnia have been translated into 9 languages, while her latest memoir A Little Give will be published in 2023. She can be found on Twitter @marinab52.

Written by Marina Benjamin

Edited by Marina Benjamin

The haunted city | Aeon
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Cities

The haunted city

The city, for all its mechanical speed, artificial light and industrialisation, is the most uncanny of human habitats

Azania Imtiaz Khatri-Patel

Her body is a problem | Aeon
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Art

Her body is a problem

When 1970s women artists put the female body under the female gaze, why did the critics see only obscene monsters?

Lauren Elkin

Nature does not care | Aeon
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Nature and landscape

Nature does not care

Too many nature writers descend into poetic self-absorption instead of the sharp-eyed realism the natural world deserves

Richard Smyth

Nil by page | Aeon
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Stories and literature

Nil by page

When a writer stares down a blank page, the whole of literature stares back. Why, then, leave the empty page as it is?

Andrew Gallix

Dashing to nowhere | Aeon
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Travel

Dashing to nowhere

D H Lawrence’s restless travels in Sardinia were a quest for self-knowledge. The real island slipped beneath his notice

William Atkins

The dropout: a history | Aeon
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Subcultures

The dropout: a history

The dropout was not just a hippy-trippy hedonist but a paranoid soul, who feared brainwashing and societal control

Charlie Williams

The meaning of anger | Aeon
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Mood and emotion

The meaning of anger

Is anger like energy, forever changing form but never dissipating, or part of our repertoire of desires, the cry of a need unmet?

Josh Cohen

Idealising the predator | Aeon
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Sex and sexuality

Idealising the predator

How did certain French intellectuals get away with preying upon young girls, shamelessly, in public and over decades?

Lily Dunn

This is no love story | Aeon
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Stories and literature

This is no love story

Strange entanglements of politics and romantic love marked England’s conquest of Ireland and still haunt the Irish today

Alison Garden

Heritage at sea | Aeon
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Architecture

Heritage at sea

Must we simply accept the loss of beloved buildings and cities to the floods and rising seas of the climate crisis?

Thijs Weststeijn

Feeling, in situ | Aeon
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Mood and emotion

Feeling, in situ

What if emotions are not universal and hardwired but exquisite acts of meaning-making specific to context and culture?

Elitsa Dermendzhiyska

The cliché writes back | Aeon
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Stories and literature

The cliché writes back

Machine-written literature might offend your tastes but until the dawn of Romanticism most writers were just as formulaic

Yohei Igarashi



Recent Comments

How philosophy came to disdain the wisdom of oral cultures

Marina Benjamin

Beneath Justin Smith’s elegant prose, I am picking up a clear political argument, which is this: by whose light is the canon established? And by whose authority does it change?

The epistemic arguments of the ancient Greeks, for example, feel as dry and peeling as ancient plaster to me. And yet this is what we are taught to revere at school. What is real and what is not? Narrow masculine preoccupations with what can and can’t be know. I can barely stifle a yawn. Like so many other canons - Literature, History – challenge from without should be welcome. In my view it can only do good.

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Monster mash

Marina Benjamin

Wonder begins where reason ends. Like madness, it represents the sleep of reason. And wonder is tantamount to stupefaction, a dumb reflex response to the sublime.

But Wonder is also romantic, and catch-your-breath exciting, it is dazed and confused ( a natural high). Wonder is the delicious suspension of thought in favour of feeling.

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Midnight at the oasis

Marina Benjamin

I run out my anxiety. I put my body in charge of my head, and submit to the foot-pounding, scenery-absorbing, heart-bearting, music-pumping rhythm of being on the run. Haruki Murakami has described this feeling this far more eloquently in a gem of a short book: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/books/review/Dyer-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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A fake of art

Marina Benjamin

I keep waiting for someone to mention Andy Warhol, who made reproduction the very subject of his art, thereby emptying the meaning of the question: but is it original?

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The future is emotional

Marina Benjamin

What about the outsourcing of emotional work, or, more accurately the corporatising of care? This can be as commercial, and as valued, as the next business. I am thinking, for example, of concierge services. If you’ve no time to book an anniversary supper/holiday/theatre ticket, or you’d like to buy your not-sufficiently-appreciated other half flowers/cologne/that book they keep saying they’d like to read, then that emotional work can be outsourced for a price. Then there’s surrogacy – actually carrying another woman’s baby to term. In the UK, paying for such services is illegal, but this kind of emotional work is highly priced elsewhere. I mention these examples because isn’t it just pos...

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Rise up fellow complainers, let’s be vulnerable together

Marina Benjamin

What a delightful piece Kathryn, thank you. I am persuaded by your argument that compaining about something is not always about the ‘thing’ but often about a need to have one’s feelings acknowledged, or affirmed. But what about when it is about the ‘thing’? When the complaint is lodged because a person feels a keen sense of injustice about something. They might be aggreieved about being charged too much for something, and feel they’ve been taken advantage of; or if someone promises to do something for them then doesn’t do it, they’d understandably feel undervalued; or they might feel unseen, unheard, ignored by friends or colleagues, and complain as a result). Is complaining because you f...

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For the love of stuff

Marina Benjamin

There are so many lovely personal stories in this comment thread - which suggests to me that Lee randall has struck a real chord with this idea that our possession are part of us: often the better part.

I’m at a stage of life where I’m doing more shedding than acquiring, but that only focuses attention even more sharply on what I chose to retain (i.e. not shed). You have to think hard and consciously about what each thing means to you before discarding it. And that entails revisiting your past - the good and bad *charge* that each thing carries, the joyous and painful. When we chose to keep something that reminds us of difficult times, it can symbolise putting something away: as if...

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Why we need to bring back the art of communal bathing

Marina Benjamin

Wonderful replies here. Thank you. Reading them, I was reminded of two spaces where single-sex communal bathing routinely occurs and almost never invites remark. The first is among sportsmen who play team sports and then shower together - footballers, hockey players, whatever; the bathing here serving to heighten team bonding and camaraderie, perhaps even a shared recognition of the blood and sweat that goes into giving a game your all. Nakedness is important here, too, because it signifies sameness and equality and that feeling of ‘oneness’ that team membership demands.

The second field of communal washing that sprang to mind are the shower rooms at swimming clubs, where you do fi...

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It’s not that your teeth are too big: your jaw is too small

Marina Benjamin

In Melanie McGrath’s east end memoir Silvertown, there is the most vividly described dental nightmare, rooted in reality. When the author’s grandmother turned 17, her mother’s special birthday present was to take her to a backstreet dentist-butcher who strapped the unspsected birthday girl into a blood-strained chair, sank his knee into her chest to keep her from moving, and proceeded one by one to pull out all her teeth. The girl was sent home with her mouth a bloody pulp. Unable to move for pain, or to eat anything but thin gruel for days on end, she was left to recover in her bed. The idea was that as soon as her swelling had died down, she would be fitted with a pair of dentures that ...

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We are multitudes

Marina Benjamin

Thank you Katherine for such a rivetting essay. The poetry of microchimersim will stay with me for a very long time. Even so, as I was reading it, I kept being reminded of a Robin Cook novel I’d read long ago (the title escapes me) that dramatised the dark side of foetal manipulation of the mother: its premise was that the foetus was bascially ‘colonising’ the mother’s body, diverting its resources, metabolic power and chemistry, to its own ends, stopping short only at the evolutionary buck which demands that the mother survives, if only as a reproductive machine.

Nightmares aside, however, as a mother, I love the idea that my daughter’s cells will linger in me forever. I’ve always...

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He died as he lived: David Hume, philosopher and infidel

Marina Benjamin

What about contemporary ethical debates around Euthanasia? My personal feeling is that anyone who wishes to terminate their own life should be allowed to do so, and be advised on the most humane method available for achieving the desired gentle end. But I know this view is vehmently opposed by others. Often on specious grounds (What if someone isn’t in full mental health when they elect to die? Are there not ways in which euthanasia can be exploited – by malign relatives, for exmaple? Is it moral for anyone to profit from another’s death?). It ought to be relatively straightforward to hedge people’s decision-making with protection. And yet euthanasia is very far from being a widespread, o...

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Be amazed

Marina Benjamin

What an interesting thread. It’s made me wonder about the contrasting emotional states I experinece getting lost in an unfamiliar city (anxiety) compared to getting lost in a bound environment, like a maze (a singular focus on the puzzle of getting out again). I envy the ability that some poeple have of being able to enjoy the former, and really open themselves to unexpected discoveries in the moment. The only city I can think of that I enjoy getting lost in in Venice, which oddly, is more like a maze than a city.

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