Elizabeth Powers grew up in Kentucky, studied at Indiana University, and spent two years in Germany as a student. Later she lived in Japan, where she began her writing career as a travel writer. On returning to the U.S. she published two novels and wrote a dissertation on Goethe. She is chair of the Columbia University Seminar on 18th-Century European Culture. In that capacity she is currently editing a volume of papers on the historical origins of freedom of speech in the 18th century. She has numerous publications on Goethe to her credit and is also the editor of a volume of spiritual autobiographies, Pilgrim Souls. Her literary essays have appeared in The Yale Review, Arion, Commentary, and First Things.