Tag: Lytton Strachey

Keynes thought he was ugly. What does that mean for political theory?

Throughout his life, John Maynard Keynes was plagued by the thought that he was ugly. In his diary, Keynes’s father notes that his six-year-old son “thinks no one ever was quite so ugly.” When he was 23, Keynes complained to Lytton Strachey that “I have always suffered and I suppose always will from a most unalterable obsession that I am so physically repulsive….The idea is so fixed and constant that I don’t think anything—certainly no argument—could ever shake it.” Keynes didn’t lack for sexual partners. He kept a detailed list of his sexual experiences, and it’s long. Nor was he an unhappy person, prone to self-doubt. He was just convinced that he was ugly. Interestingly, his lack of confidence in […]

What’s the connection between Lytton Strachey and Monica Lewinsky?

Here’s a pop quiz for you: What’s the connection between Lytton Strachey and Monica Lewinsky? No googling! Answer: There’s a Bloomsbury tale, immortalized by Virginia Woolf in her essay “Old Bloomsbury,” about how she, her sister Vanessa, and her brother-in-law Clive were sitting in the drawing room at 46 Gordon Square one evening in spring, when “suddenly,” as Woolf tells it, “the door opened and the long and sinister figure of Mr Lytton Strachey stood on the threshold. He pointed his finger at a stain on Vanessa’s dress. ‘Semen?’ he said.” For Woolf, this incident seemed to inaugurate or announce a new era in human affairs, a revolution in manners and mores, the kind of sexual candor and frankness she may […]

Private Goods, from Florence Nightingale to Wendy Brown

Yesterday, Berkeley political theorist Wendy Brown gave a once-in-a-lifetime talk at the Graduate Center—the kind that reminds you what it means to be a political theorist—about the way in which financialization—not just privatization or corporatization—had transformed the academy. Through a deft re-reading of Max Weber’s two vocation lectures, Brown showed how much the contemporary university’s frenzied quest for rankings and ratings has come to mirror Wall Street’s obsession with shareholder value. In the course of her talk, Brown briefly dilated on the suspicion of public goods in today’s academy. She referenced one university leader saying, with no apparent irony, that the problem with state funding is that it comes with strings attached. The unsaid implication, of course, is that private funding is somehow free of […]