A few years ago, one of our contributors said to me, "Raritan is a good place to get thinking done." What she meant was that Raritan allows writers to follow their curiosity wherever it leads, without requiring a tidy resolution. Her comment reflects Raritan’s commitment to providing a space for long-form essays and sustained reflection, and the writers in this issue are thinking through some problems that have long remained controversial and not easily resolved.
Take, for example, David Bromwich’s opening essay on Lincoln. Bromwich wants to understand why--in both scholarly and popular understanding--the conception of Lincoln has shifted from thinking of him as a “radical and determined” president to seeing him as a moderate pragmatist, for whom the issue of slavery was a secondary consideration in the larger goal of keeping the Union together. Bromwich provides a fresh reading that reveals a radical realist Lincoln, determined to finish off slavery for good even while he restored the Union.
In this issue, you can also hear Leslie Brisman thinking about a timely problem of interpretation in biblical scholarship--what does it mean to say God is the “Savior of all men” (1 Timothy 4:10) in the light of other texts suggesting that salvation is reserved for Christians alone? And, among other contributors, Barry Schwabsky seeks to understand how the notion of aura worked for Walter Benjamin, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen wonders whether mid-twentieth-century existentialism still has something to teach us about how to live, and Ross Posnock performs an extended reading of William Gaddis’s novel The Recognitions to explore the mystery of why contemporary readers hold Gaddis in such low esteem. (If you read Jonathan Franzen’s 2002 New Yorker essay “Mr. Difficult: William Gaddis and the Problem of Hard-to-Read Books,” you will want to read Posnock’s riposte. Difficulty has found a new and incisive defender.)
And while the essay is the traditional form that provides opportunities “to get thinking done,” our pages offer other forms of aesthetic pleasure inspired by, and inspiring, reflection--the poetry of Henri Cole, Fanny Howe, and Nate Klug, the arresting art of Larissa Bates. This is just a sampling but I trust it’s enough to excite your interest in what people are thinking about in this issue of Raritan.