The Elephant Who Could Be a Person

“In the courts, elephant personhood is a keystone argument, the argument on which all other animal-rights and even environmental arguments could conceivably depend.”

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Nov 16, 2021
Length: 50 minutes (12,680 words)

Blood on the Green

The deadly episode at Kent State stood for a bitterly divided era. Did America ever leave it?

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Apr 27, 2020
Length: 18 minutes (4,654 words)

The Lingering of Loss

My best friend left her laptop to me in her will. Twenty years later, I turned it on and began my inquest.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Jul 1, 2019
Length: 16 minutes (4,000 words)

When Barbie Went to War With Bratz

Jill Lepore looks at the problem of defining intellectual property when it comes to what young girls should play with: “The feud between Barbie and Bratz occupies the narrow space between thin lines: between fashion and porn, between originals and copies, and between toys for girls and rights for women.”

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Jan 17, 2018
Length: 18 minutes (4,700 words)

Franklin, Reconsidered: An Essay by Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore revisits the legacy of Benjamin Franklin, who in his time was “the most accomplished and famous American who had ever lived.”

Source: Longreads
Published: Sep 7, 2015
Length: 19 minutes (4,968 words)

Joe Gould’s Teeth

Jill Lepore searches for the longest book ever written.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Jul 23, 2015
Length: 42 minutes (10,528 words)

To Have and To Hold

Jill Lepore explores the privacy arguments in the Supreme Court that defined reproductive rights versus the equality arguments that defined the fight for gay marriage.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: May 18, 2015
Length: 20 minutes (5,204 words)

The Last Amazon

The little-known story behind Wonder Woman’s origins.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Sep 15, 2014
Length: 31 minutes (7,938 words)

The Disruption Machine

Jill Lepore’s critical look at the language of innovation in tech:

Clay Christensen has compared the theory of disruptive innovation to a theory of nature: the theory of evolution. But among the many differences between disruption and evolution is that the advocates of disruption have an affinity for circular arguments. If an established company doesn’t disrupt, it will fail, and if it fails it must be because it didn’t disrupt. When a startup fails, that’s a success, since epidemic failure is a hallmark of disruptive innovation. (“Stop being afraid of failure and start embracing it,” the organizers of FailCon, an annual conference, implore, suggesting that, in the era of disruption, innovators face unprecedented challenges. For instance: maybe you made the wrong hires?) When an established company succeeds, that’s only because it hasn’t yet failed. And, when any of these things happen, all of them are only further evidence of disruption.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Jun 18, 2014
Length: 24 minutes (6,015 words)

The Prism

Our expectations with regard to privacy and secrecy. In 1844, the British government was accused of opening people’s mail. Lepore compares the case to the NSA’s alleged digging into our digital lives:

“The particular technology matters little; the axiom holds. It’s only a feature, though, of a centuries-long historical transformation: the secularization of mystery. A mystery, in Christian theology, is what God knows and man cannot, and must instead believe. Immortality, in this sense, is a mystery. So is the beginning of life, which is a good illustration of how much that was once mysterious became secret and then became private. Anciently invoked as one of God’s mysteries, the beginning of life was studied, by anatomists, as the ‘secret of generation.’ Finally, citizens, using the language of a constitutional ‘right to privacy,’ defended it against intrusion. Theologically, the beginning of life, the ensoulment of new flesh, remains a mystery. Empirically, uncovering the secret of generation required tools—microscopes, lenses, cameras—that made the creation of life both visible and knowable. Only after it was no longer a mystery, and no longer a secret, only after it was no longer invisible, did it become private. By then, it was too late: contraception was already in the hands of the state.”

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Jun 16, 2013
Length: 15 minutes (3,912 words)