Editor's Note

Editor’s Note

HUMANITIES, Winter 2023, Volume 44, Number 1

Our cover story speaks to a choice few of us are forced to make between staying true to your roots and staying alive.

This tragic dilemma stood at the heart of last year’s exhibition “Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche,” which focused on the Indigenous woman Malinche, who, as Spain conquered Mexico, served as Hernán Cortés’s translator and bore him a son. Angelica Aboulhosn writes of the exhibition and the centuries of reaction to Malinche, who before she was branded a traitor was herself betrayed and who before she became a national symbol was in many ways alone, a nation of one.

Gabrielle Suchon dreamed of a different kind of nation, a community apart, safe from encroachment, and composed entirely of women. The seventeenth-century French philosopher was exceptional in many respects. She was a nun who rebelled against the habit but not the faith; a woman who carved from difficult circumstances the freedom to think for herself; and a late-blooming writer who published major works well after middle age. Julie Walsh, who teaches philosophy at Wellesley College, introduces us to this extraordinary thinker.

Childhood is when we learn to use our minds to imagine our way into the world we joined at birth. And play, with or without toys, is an important method by which we develop imagination. So you learn from Steve Moyer’s deceptively lighthearted essay on the NEH-supported Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. As you survey all the toys given away this holiday season, you might consider what deeper purpose they serve than mere pleasure.

There was nothing mere about the pleasure of good food to M.F.K. Fisher. Writing during a time of war and rations, she evangelized on behalf of the good life to Americans who were eating spaghetti from a can. A Francophile who translated Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste into English, she wrote a spare English-language prose that was widely admired—its charming directness captured perfectly in her famous title How to Cook a Wolf. Danny Heitman shows us around her life and work.

As technology inserts its information-collecting tentacles into our private spaces, it is worth knowing more about the history of eavesdropping or, as it is known in legal circles, wiretapping. In an article adapted from his new book on the history of wiretapping, NEH Public Scholar Brian Hochman draws a straight line from espionage during the Civil War to the War on Drugs in Baltimore and beyond.