Our Spring Books issue has just been posted to the website. Among the highlights:

Jackson Lears on William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep, “a devastating critique of the idea that college education is simply about learning marketable skills [and a] compelling case for the humanities. … One thing is clear from Deresiewicz’s interviews [of college students]: the ‘meritocratic’ atmosphere is death to intellectual seekers, who feel they’ve been sold a bill of goods and often keep searching after they get out. Somehow the job at Goldman Sachs just doesn’t satisfy.” Read the whole thing here.

Gary Gutting on Michael Ruse’s “kinder, gentler atheism”:

[I]n popular discussions of religion, the “new atheists” (led by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens) have made quite a splash with their aggressive attacks on religion. But Michael Ruse, a distinguished philosopher and a reflective atheist, is not impressed. “They are,” he writes, “hectoring and arrogant; they are unfair to and belittling of others; they are ignorant of anything outside their disciplines to an extent remarkable even among modern academics.” … [Ruse’s new book] is in fact a refreshing contrast to much of the polemics of the New Atheists. Although he too writes for a popular audience with verve, wit, and passion, his discussion is far more informed and intellectually sophisticated.

Read it all here.

Maria Bowler on Edward Mendelson’s Moral Agents: Eight Twentieth-Century American Writers:

With each subject, Moral Agents focuses on the tension between the private writer and the public man who wrote to lead. Mendelson reads Lionel Trilling’s diaries, full of conflicted ego, as if to say, “Aha! I knew it.” The diary entries reveal that Trilling associated creative genius with amoral chaos, and so was irritated at having to present himself as a civilized gentleman; his moral struggle took the form of repression. With Bellow, Mailer, and Kazin, the conflict appears as a subverted masculinity that haunts their work and their lives. The moral concerns taken up in their art are set against the background of their actual behavior, including how they treated their wives. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their abstract commitments didn’t always translate into kindness or humility.

Read the whole thing here.

Also featured: Poems from Nellie Hill and Sarah M. Brownsberger, Cathleen Kaveny on the “fundamental difficulty with RFRA jurisprudence” made clear by Indiana’s recent religious-freedom legislation controversy, and Agnes R. Howard and Thomas Albert Howard on the smallness of “Big History” (subscription). See the full table of contents for our Spring Books issue here.

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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