Harper’s Notes

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: ancient polychromy, modern sexuality, Urbit, and more.

The editors

November 14, 2022

The true colors of antiquity: Since July, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has used their halls of ancient art to showcase new research on ancient polychromy. The exhibition Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color shows that ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was often painted and multi-colored, intended to closely imitate its subjects. While the exhibition itself remains mostly mum on politics, the research is wrapped up in the debate of whiteness and the classics. For example, Met curator Sarah Lepinski and Princeton professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s “Debunking the myth of whiteness” is included in the exhibition’s online supplementary materials. See our coeditor in chief’s coverage of Chroma in The New Criterion and view the exhibition at the Met until early January.

“Demisexuals are scared of sex”: An article critical of the label “demisexuality” was published this week to much controversy. In the online magazine UnHerd, writer Kat Rosenfield argues that the sexuality, which is the state of not experiencing sexual desire without an emotional bond, is an identity based on fear within an oversexualized culture. The tweet announcing the article boasts nearly twice the amount of quote tweets as likes. In the article, Rosenfield points out that demisexuality masks an inherently conservative tendency as queerness, saying that “‘I don’t want to have sex unless we’re emotionally connected’ is a statement open to criticism; demisexuality is an identity that cannot be questioned.”

Edgelord chic: What exactly is Urbit, again? A recent essay in The Point magazine not only answers but extensively illustrates the strange world of “trad” Catholics, Dimes Square bars, and neoreactionary blogs that is associated with the decentralized personal server platform. Writer James Duesterberg explains that Urbit is “not a computer program or social media platform, but rather an alternative networking protocol and operating system.” The platform, backed by Peter Thiel and the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, was founded by Curtis Yarvin, who is best known for his political theories that combine libertarianism and monarchism. But somehow in the rush for digital real estate that Urbit has spawned, indie literary magazines, art advisers, and New York socialites have gotten caught up in the mix.

Humanism for the twenty-first century: In his latest book, For the Good of the World, A.C. Grayling presents a set of values that are essential for social thought and praxis in the present moment. The British philosopher unequivocally bashes cynicism and defeatism as irrational and offers up unflinching humanism as the best alternative. His solutions to the climate crisis are not misanthropic, and his answers to social injustice are not identitarian. He prioritizes the equal and total protection of human lives over the blind following of the stallion of scientific progress. Grayling displays a commitment to the messy process of pluralistic compromise and negotiation throughout his book, making it worthy of checking out—if not to agree with his conclusions, then for his methodology.