Cassandra Nelson is an Associate Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, where she writes about faith, fiction, technology, and culture. She previously taught literature and composition at Harvard University and the United States Military Academy.


JULY 2022: New essay slated for Comment magazine, with the working title “Authority is Dead, Long Live Authority”; in it, I offer an apologetics for authority, as Hannah Arendt defined it and Jesus both embodied and encountered it in the Gospels. Excerpt: As a mother and a teacher, I’m acutely aware that any lasting change I’ve had a hand in bringing about was—as the angel told Zechariah—“not by might, nor by power” (4:6), but by means of my own enthusiastic and unfeigned conviction that some books are worth reading, some rules are worth following, and that my own life has been enriched, not constricted, by the bonds that tie past generations to future ones, and by the invisible flow of authority that peaceably connects them.

MAY 2022: “A Theology of Fiction” appeared in the April issue of First Things. A short book expanding this essay on Sister Mariella Gable and her incisive criticism on Catholic fiction–with new sections on paradox, satire, and vision–will be published by Wiseblood Books later this summer.

APRIL 2022: “Readiness is Not All,” in The Point magazine. A departure from my usual faith and fiction beat, to consider the role of the U.S. military–which, this essay prompted me to realize, has shaped my life for seven years now: first as a Department of Defense civilian employee in the Dept. of English and Philosophy at West Point, and then as a military spouse for three years and counting. For the spring issue of The Point, I offered a response to their symposium, which asks, “What is the military for?”

In my essay, I try to understand the military’s current emphasis on readiness: what it is, how it’s defined in Army Doctrine and used in DoD rhetoric, and how an over-reliance on technology and metrics has led to unintended consequences for soldiers and families alike.

If you’re at all curious about the contemporary military, please take a look. I promise there’s no jargon, and I’m told there’s more humor than you might expect.