The Humanities in a Technological Society

By |2015-05-08T09:19:47-05:00April 26th, 2015|Tags: |

Physicists talk of two of the fundamental forces of nature as the strong and the weak forces. I am going to borrow these terms in an entirely metaphorical way to name the two fundamental forces in which I live my life as a professor of literature. The strong force is technology, not to be [...]

Leadership: Healing a Broken World?

By |2019-03-11T14:25:33-05:00March 1st, 2015|Tags: |

I wonder about the presuppositions when voices are raised concerning the fragmentation of society and problems of disconnectedness.[1] At the heart of these concerns is a philosophical anthropology, i.e., one’s beliefs about what it means to be human. What is it exactly that is fragmented or disconnected? It is probably incumbent on me to [...]

North Carolina and Rhode Island: The ‘Wayward Sisters’ and the Constitution

By |2015-02-11T15:08:07-05:00February 15th, 2015|Tags: , |

It has been said that every religious heresy proceeds from a misunderstanding of the nature of God. Something similar could be said about constitutional heresies. They proceed from a misunderstanding of the nature of the Union. From the time the conservative intellectual movement emerged in the United States in the early 1950s, for example, [...]

Idealism and the Constitution

By |2019-02-26T17:50:52-05:00November 23rd, 2014|Tags: |

For the framers of the U.S. Constitution no task seemed more important than to limit and tame power. The chief reason why they established a government of divided powers and checks and balances was their view of human nature, which was primarily Christian and classical. It seemed to them self-evident that human beings are [...]

The Hidden Depths in Robert Frost

By |2019-03-20T16:42:37-05:00November 8th, 2014|Tags: |

Peter J. Stanlis contends that Robert Frost’s dualistic, “unsystematic philosophical view of reality” is the “foremost single element that scholars and literary critics need to consider in any study of his life and thought, including the themes of his poetry” (1). This assertion is, arguably, an overstatement, but, as for many Frost scholars, Stanlis’s [...]

Thomas More: Virtuous Statesman

By |2017-10-31T13:23:19-05:00August 23rd, 2014|Tags: |

Thomas More on Statesmanship, by Gerard Wegemer. If there is one historical figure whose life and work most closely resembled that of Sir Thomas More, it would likely be the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero. As some scholars have noted, Cicero, like More, was a statesman highly honored by Renaissance humanists for his many admirable qualities. He was a successful barrister, a [...]

Lincoln, Macbeth, and the Moral Imagination

By |2014-06-06T15:32:45-05:00June 8th, 2014|Tags: |

A few years before my grandmother died, she cleared out her house, and gave me some of her souvenirs of Lincoln. There was nothing extraordinary, nothing rare, nothing valuable in the collection: a bad oil painting, a couple of framed copies of Brady portraits, a facsimile of the letter to Mrs. Bixby on the [...]

Guardians of the Word: Kirk, Buckley, and the Conservative Struggle with Academic Freedom

By |2015-10-19T23:36:49-05:00May 20th, 2014|Tags: |

Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley Introduction The Conservative Movement’s Perpetual Civil War The conflict between advocates of the free market and traditionalist conservatives dates from the beginning of the modern conservative movement. Never have traditionalists and classical liberals comfortably shared the same space. The differences and ensuing conflicts between these two strands [...]

Democratizing the Constitution: The Failure of the Seventeenth Amendment

By |2014-05-26T11:38:26-05:00May 18th, 2014|Tags: |

It was with no small sense of vindication that Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan signed the proclamation of 31 May 1913, declaring the Seventeenth Amendment duly ratified and incorporated into the fundamental laws of the United States. More than twenty years earlier as a Nebraska congressman, “The Great Commoner” had joined the struggle [...]

American Culture: A Story

By |2014-12-29T14:27:56-05:00May 17th, 2014|Tags: |

My goal in this essay is less to impart a specific teaching than to tell a story. This story, I first should point out, is not a myth made up for didactic purposes, as so many such stories tend to be. It is rather a true story, one rooted in things we know about [...]

The Backside of the Universe: “Throes of Democracy” by Walter McDougall

By |2016-08-06T17:33:53-05:00March 19th, 2014|Tags: , , , |

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1852 novel, The Blithedale Romance, has been overshadowed for many years by The Scarlett Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. Perhaps its unsparing analysis of the psychology of utopian reformers still strikes a little too close to home for it to make its way onto reading lists at most schools [...]

Odysseus: The Man of Twists & Turns

By |2016-03-24T17:26:22-05:00December 10th, 2013|Tags: |

Odysseus has lived through many transformations since Homer commemorated him in the Odyssey. None of them, however, has made Homer obsolete. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey have been translated many times. By common consent of those competent to judge such matters, Robert Fagles has done a superb job with the Odyssey.[i] Even before [...]

“An Education”: A Movie Out of the Ordinary

By |2016-07-26T15:32:53-05:00October 2nd, 2013|Tags: |

Christianity and the classical heritage taught men and women to strive for a better life but to have modest hopes. The reason why we cannot look forward to a vastly improved worldly existence is that human beings—we ourselves in particular—are flawed creatures. We have to learn to deal with the consequences. We must not [...]

America in the World: The Idyllic Vision of Ronald Reagan

By |2016-07-26T15:44:36-05:00September 25th, 2013|Tags: |

“I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy, By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.” —Walt Whitman [1] Ronald Reagan’s vision of America’s role in the world, especially as it was expressed in his presidential speeches, continues to resonate with many Americans. President [...]