On this day in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa was founded.

On December 5, 1776, while fellow Patriots were held captive in British occupied New York, five students at the College of William and Mary gathered to start a new fraternity - Phi Beta Kappa. They intended to follow what they considered to be definitively American principles, such as “freedom of inquiry” and “liberty of thought and expression.” The Greek initials, ΦBK, actually stand for a motto that translates to “Love of learning is the guide of life.”

Now PBK is the nation’s oldest and most widely known academic honor society, with 280 chapters amongst the elite academic institutions in the nation. Their mission is to celebrate and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. They have been publishing The American Scholar since 1932.

Check out the History channel’s timely reflection here.

We are rolling out content for the Winter 2012 issue of The American Scholar. Online, you can find our cover story by Richard Striner, How to Pay for What We Need, William Deresiewicz’s lighthearted essay on exile and ethnicity, A Jew in the Northwest, Doug Wilson on Abraham Lincoln’s views of Shakespeare’s plays, His Hour Upon the Stage, and a book review of George F. Kennan: An American Life.
We will continue to publish content online over time, and I will be posting profiles of each feature, so stay posted. As always, you can subscribe to our print or digital format here.
Enjoy the content and let us know what you think!

We are rolling out content for the Winter 2012 issue of The American Scholar. Online, you can find our cover story by Richard Striner, How to Pay for What We Need, William Deresiewicz’s lighthearted essay on exile and ethnicity, A Jew in the Northwest, Doug Wilson on Abraham Lincoln’s views of Shakespeare’s plays, His Hour Upon the Stage, and a book review of George F. Kennan: An American Life.

We will continue to publish content online over time, and I will be posting profiles of each feature, so stay posted. As always, you can subscribe to our print or digital format here.

Enjoy the content and let us know what you think!


“We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor  omniscient—that we are only 6 percent of the world’s population—that we  cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind—that we  cannot right every wrong or reverse every adversity.”
-Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. quoting JFK

Drawing comparisons from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Orestes Brownson, Ted Widmer eulogizes Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., one of the great intellectual minds of the 20th century. Read Arthur of Camelot.
Above, from left to right: Vice President Johnson, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Admiral Arleigh Burke, President Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy.
(Photo by Cecil Stoughton via)

“We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient—that we are only 6 percent of the world’s population—that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind—that we cannot right every wrong or reverse every adversity.”

-Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. quoting JFK

Drawing comparisons from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Orestes Brownson, Ted Widmer eulogizes Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., one of the great intellectual minds of the 20th century. Read Arthur of Camelot.

Above, from left to right: Vice President Johnson, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Admiral Arleigh Burke, President Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy.

(Photo by Cecil Stoughton via)

As we began to walk, he laced his arm through mine. Can you imagine how I felt—a boy from my circumstances, so American, so unfinished—walking along the backs of the Cambridge colleges with the man who wrote A Passage to India and Howards End on my arm as a silent companion?

-Steven L. Isenberg, on his meeting with an 86-year-old E.M. Forster

By way of lunches, Steven L. Isenberg recounts visits with four of the 20th century’s most esteemed English poets and writers in Lunching on Olympus.

Pages 2, 3, 4 and 5

(Pictured above: W.H. Auden, E.M. Forster, William Empson)


…speakers of ASL [American Sign Language] will sign a proper name the first time a person is  brought up, and then point to a specific location in space, essentially  assigning the proper name to that space. The person can then be  subsequently referenced with a simple point to that space.

Jessica Love, a young psycholinguist, obsesses over pronouns in her piece They Get to Me. Love also writes a weekly blog for us called Psycho Babble

…speakers of ASL [American Sign Language] will sign a proper name the first time a person is brought up, and then point to a specific location in space, essentially assigning the proper name to that space. The person can then be subsequently referenced with a simple point to that space.

Jessica Love, a young psycholinguist, obsesses over pronouns in her piece They Get to Me. Love also writes a weekly blog for us called Psycho Babble

Author Priscilla Long presents twenty-three ways of looking at our ancestors.

6. Lament for Ham and Enos
Ham and Enos were transferred to “hazardous environments” duty. To test  the new technology of seatbelts, they were strapped into sleds, whizzed  along at 30, 50, 100 mph, slammed into walls.
After such a life, Ham died. After such a life, Enos died.

Genome Tome, which appeared in our Summer 2005 issue, won the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. Long publishes a weekly blog called Science Frictions.

Author Priscilla Long presents twenty-three ways of looking at our ancestors.

6. Lament for Ham and Enos

Ham and Enos were transferred to “hazardous environments” duty. To test the new technology of seatbelts, they were strapped into sleds, whizzed along at 30, 50, 100 mph, slammed into walls.

After such a life, Ham died. After such a life, Enos died.

Genome Tome, which appeared in our Summer 2005 issue, won the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. Long publishes a weekly blog called Science Frictions.

Paralleling our present day, professor of English at the City University of New York, Morris Dickstein, writes about the growth of the arts in response to the Great Depression.

American culture of the 1930s resists being conveniently divided into serious and popular; rather it falls into degrees of direct or oblique reactions to those dire, unprecedented social conditions.

Read Facing the Music.

Paralleling our present day, professor of English at the City University of New York, Morris Dickstein, writes about the growth of the arts in response to the Great Depression.

American culture of the 1930s resists being conveniently divided into serious and popular; rather it falls into degrees of direct or oblique reactions to those dire, unprecedented social conditions.

Read Facing the Music.

Paula Marantz Cohen discusses the varying notions towards the character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice after almost three decades of teaching at Drexel University.

In an odd reversal, I, the Jewish teacher, now be­came the only person  in the classroom to argue that Shylock was still a villain, despite the  abuse he had suffered, and that his stubborn call for a pound of flesh  was the emblem of his villainy.

Shylock, My Students and Me

Paula Marantz Cohen discusses the varying notions towards the character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice after almost three decades of teaching at Drexel University.

In an odd reversal, I, the Jewish teacher, now be­came the only person in the classroom to argue that Shylock was still a villain, despite the abuse he had suffered, and that his stubborn call for a pound of flesh was the emblem of his villainy.

Shylock, My Students and Me