What We Are Reading Today: Walker Evans: Starting from Scratch by Svetlana Alpers

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Updated 30 October 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Walker Evans: Starting from Scratch by Svetlana Alpers

Walker Evans (1903–75) was a great American artist photographing people and places in the US in unforgettable ways. He is known for his work for the Farm Security Administration, addressing the Great Depression, but what he actually saw was the diversity of people and the damage of the long Civil War.
In Walker Evans, renowned art historian Svetlana Alpers explores how Evans made his distinctive photographs. Delving into a lavish selection of Evans’s work, Alpers uncovers rich parallels between his creative approach and those of numerous literary and cultural figures, locating Evans within the wide context of a truly international circle.
Alpers demonstrates that Evans’s practice relied on his camera choices and willingness to edit multiple versions of a shot, as well as his keen eye and his distant straight-on view of visual objects. Illustrating the vital role of Evans’s dual love of text and images, Alpers places his writings in conversation with his photographs. She brings his techniques into dialogue with the work of a global cast of important artists—from Flaubert and Baudelaire to Elizabeth Bishop and William Faulkner—underscoring how Evans’s travels abroad in such places as France and Cuba.


What We Are Reading Today: Emotion and Virtue by Gopal Sreenivasan

Updated 01 December 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Emotion and Virtue by Gopal Sreenivasan

What must a person be like to possess a virtue in full measure? What sort of psychological constitution does one need to be an exemplar of compassion, say, or of courage? Focusing on these two examples, Emotion and Virtue ingeniously argues that certain emotion traits play an indispensable role in virtue. With exemplars of compassion, for instance, this role is played by a modified sympathy trait, which is central to enabling these exemplars to be reliably correct judges of the compassionate thing to do in various practical situations. Indeed, according to Gopal Sreenivasan, the virtue of compassion is, in a sense, a modified sympathy trait, just as courage is a modified fear trait.

While he upholds the traditional definition of virtue as a species of character trait, Sreenivasan discards other traditional precepts. For example, he rejects the unity of the virtues and raises new questions about when virtue should be taught. Unlike orthodox virtue ethics, moreover, his account does not aspire to rival consequentialism and deontology. Instead Sreenivasan repudiates the ambitions of virtue imperialism.

Emotion and Virtue makes significant contributions to moral psychology and the theory of virtue alike.