Hi, I'm Becca. I am soon to be at work on an essay collection, tentatively titled All Things Are Too Small, to be published by Metropolitan Books. I'm an essayist and literary critic, a contributing editor at The Point, and a PhD candidate (soon to be on hiatus) in philosophy at Harvard. To keep up with my writing/rantings, subscribe to my substack here.
I am interested in beauty, obsession, imbalance, the novel, and the history of philosophy, among other things. I write essays, book reviews, and the occasional art review for publications like The New York Review of Books, The TLS, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Bookforum, Art in America, The Baffler, and more. I'm a two-time finalist for The National Book Critics Circle's book reviewing prize (2016 and 2018), and in 2017, I was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the essays/criticism category. (My nominated essay, "Ladies in Waiting," was subsequently collected in the 2017 Best American Magazine Writing anthology, available here.) In 2018, my essay "Rhapsody in Blue" was included on the Notable Essays and Literary Non-Fiction list published in the 2019 Best American Essays anthology. You can read my interview with the National Book Critics Circle here and my interview with Lit Hub for their Secrets of the Book Critics series here. I write mostly about "world literature," especially Eastern European or German language literature with a Jewish bent, but I also review contemporary fiction sometimes. A few authors I especially love are Joseph Roth, Italo Svevo, Henry James, Henry Green, Heinrich von Kleist, Marie de France, Simone Weil, Antal Szerb, and Norman Rush. My agent is Anna Sproul-Latimer of Neon Literary. (You can stalk her and her agency here.)
At Harvard, I am interested in aesthetics (especially aesthetic value and its relationship to other types of value), the philosophy of love and sex, and Martin Heidegger. In my second-year paper, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," I argue that aesthetic value is sometimes a partial grounds of moral value. (A draft is available upon request.) My dissertation will be about the ethics of exclusionary romantic/sexual/aesthetic preferences and what role the state should play in ameliorating inequitable distributions of intimate goods. I hold a first-class MPhil in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge and a B.A., summa cum laude with high honors, from Dartmouth, where I studied philosophy & German (and cultivated an enduring distaste for fraternities). These days I live in Somerville MA.
I receive many emails asking for advice about graduate school applications. I have answered some frequently asked questions on this page. As I note there, I do not consider myself an expert in how to write a successful graduate school application--I do not know why I was admitted to Harvard!--and I urge all prospective grad students to consult resources online, as well as supervisors who have served on admissions committees, rather than me!
Before the pandemic, I followed Hegel in regarding nature as geistlos, but now, like any good Heideggerian, I am a big fan of hiking. Here I am in the Berkshires, which I love
Break.up, Joanna Walsh’s not-quite novel, memorializes a not-quite relationship. The narrator, a British woman who is not-quite (but I suspect mostly) Walsh herself, mourns the end of a wispy online flirtation that was never formalized or consummated. She travels to a string of European cities – Paris, Athens, Budapest, Berlin – but the book’s essential setting is the non-place of the internet. “Love seems not to take place in normal time, so why should it take place in normal space? Perhaps cyberspace is its most appropriate venue”, she muses. She and her never-quite-but-now-definitely-ex-lover “were together In Real Life for hardly more days than a working week”...read more here.
"In her monograph On Beauty and Being Just (1999), the critic and philosopher Elaine Scarry questions the popular conceit of “the gaze,” a look so penetrating, so ravenous, that it imperils its object. “It is odd that contemporary accounts of ‘staring’ or ‘gazing’ place exclusive emphasis on the risks suffered by the person being looked at,” Scarry writes, “for the vulnerability of the perceiver seems equal to, or greater than, the vulnerability of the person being perceived.”1 For the critical theorists who warn against the gaze, a person or artwork is helpless before its audience. But as Scarry reminds us, the classical tradition regards viewers as victims of their jolting encounters with beauty: lookers are assailed, and art assaults...read more here.
do not know how to delete my accidental posts so uh enjoy this fab Gerard Manley Hopkins on depression/mortality:
"O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep."