Treason Isn’t Just a Crime—It’s a Sin of the Heart

In Dante's Inferno, Traitors Are Cast Into Deepest Hell for Breaking the Bonds of Love

If you’re looking to nail someone for treason these days, don’t talk to a lawyer. The answer you’ll get will be short and likely disappointing: It’s hard to convict someone of treason and chances are the actions you’re describing won’t qualify for the charge. But if what you’re really trying to express is an emotional response, you’re better off turning to 14th-century Italian literature, not the law.

Legally speaking, treason—at least in the United States—is a narrowly defined crime, and for good reason. Under the British crown, treason could include a …

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The Southern Writers Who Defined America

How William Faulkner and Ralph Ellison Explained the South—and Taught Northerners About Themselves

Tell about the South. What’s it like there? What do they do there? Why do they live there? Why do they live at all?
           —Shreve …

How Don Quixote’s Battles Predicted Piracy in the Digital Age

A Ripped-Off Version of Cervantes' Masterpiece Showed the Peril and Potential of New Printing Technology

Although Don Quixote wasn’t the first great novel (that honor belongs to the Tale of Genji, written by an 11th-century lady-in-waiting at the Japanese court), it was the first to …

How Our Evolving Understanding of Individual Autonomy Led to Human Rights for All

A Cultural Historian Traces Empathy From Epistolary Novels to Abolition to Act Up

In Inventing Human Rights: A History, UCLA historian Lynn Hunt traces the modern concept of Human Rights to a series of mid-18th century epistolary novels with a strong first person …

Sorry, Reading Jane Austen Doesn’t Make You a Better Person

But the Arts Have Plenty to Tell Researchers About How Emotions Work

In 2013, Science published a study with the intriguing title, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind.” The authors (David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano) claimed to have proven that …