Sophie Duncan

Reader with a Cause

Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

By

Princeton University Press 240pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

The middle of a pandemic is a tricky time in which to proselytise for intellectual life. At its best, Zena Hitz’s Lost in Thought is an inspirational attestation of the ability of intellectual activity to dignify oppressed lives. Hitz presents intellectual life as both a refuge and a retreat, offering an escape into self-examination and a recognition of humanity’s shared heart. We are called to seriousness and to loving service. We should be reading Herodotus and listening to Bach. Perhaps this is a necessary clarion call. But its reverberations jar at a time when even Hitz’s comfiest academic peers (tenured, cultured, well up on Plato) are struggling with the electronic substitutes for the lectures and tutorials that normally occupy their time. More discordant still are Hitz’s vaunting vignettes of playing at poverty on a religious retreat, particularly at a moment when multitudes are jobless, foodless and finding neither dignity nor inspiration in the experience.

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