2:50 PM, Nov 18, 2015 • By BENJAMIN WELTON
French President François Hollande vowed to conduct a “pitiless” war against the people responsible for Friday’s atrocities, and over the weekend, the bombings of ISIS targets in Syria began. Le président also temporarily closed all of France’s borders, but only for those seeking to leave the locked-down country. Frankly, these moves do not go far enough, but they’re a step in the right direction. Even a socialist like Monsieur Hollande appears to recognize that tight border security and strict immigration politics at home, coupled with a swift and brutal anti-Islamist foreign policy, are the only viable options left for Europe and North America.
At the sake of sounding like Conan the Barbarian (“Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”), what we all need is a big time resurrection of the ancient virtues. Robert E. Howard, the hardboiled Texan who created Conan, famously said that, “barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”
While one has to admire Two-Gun Bob’s poetic fatalism, he’s only half correct. Too much civilization is indeed unnatural. Too much civilization, which dulls anything remotely red-blooded, is unhealthy for any society. (If you need any evidence, just look at your Twitter machine and see what’s being written under “Terrorism Has No Religion.”) Again, as with every other Islam-inspired terrorist attack in recent memory, thousands have shown that they are more concerned about those “Islamophobic” backlashes that never materialize than they are about the actual victims of Islamist murder.
And so it falls to conservatives, right-wingers, and other fed-up types to be a little savage, a little barbarous in the fight against Islamism. The left has no will to defend Western Civilization, and so we must take up the task. While Western renewal requires more engaged public intellectuals, a vibrant conservative community on college campuses, and conservatives openly working and producing in creative fields like movies, television, and fiction writing, we must also show the way towards a better culture through our actions. A good primer for those looking to improve themselves is Beowulf.
The oldest surviving poem written in Old English, Beowulf is the timeless tale of a brave man who combines courage (fortitudo) and wisdom (sapientia). Although at times overly boastful, Beowulf, as the greatest warrior among the Geats, succeeds where the aged King Hrothgar and his terrified Danish warriors have failed. Whereas Hrothgar is full of wisdom, he lacks the courage or the ability to act when necessary. Therefore, Grendel, the demon spawn of Cain, plagues the great hall Heorot until Beowulf finally vanquishes it during a particularly violent night. Beowulf’s later triumphs, such as the killing of Grendel’s fearsome mother and his reckless assault against the treasure dragon that appears in the poem’s final one thousand lines, only serve to underscore the fact that Beowulf lived a life worthy of a warrior and a king.
Not that long ago, American students were required to learn Old English as part of English literature classes. While many students still read Beowulf, few read it in its original language anymore. Not only is this a shame, for few languages, dead or alive, carry the directness and clarity of speech quite like Old English, but also because it smells like a small step towards complete removal. Beowulf, as an integral text to English-speaking identity, should not be cancelled for future generations. Its 3,180 lines offer more than just an awesome story about a bearded, muscle-bound man who rips the arms off of monsters and makes bets about swimming across the ocean. Beowulf is a lesson in leadership, personal honor, and preparedness. Beowulf can teach people today that what is spoken should be honor-bound.
A dreadful bore.8:27 AM, Nov 3, 2015 • By CHRISTOPHER J. SCALIA
President Obama’s hour-long conversation with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson, published in two parts in the New York Review of Books, inspired responses that were so hyperbolic and adoring, it felt like 2008 all over again.
Whitewashing Otello.Aug 24, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 47 • By JOHN F. BURLEIGH
A recent headline in the New York Times announced: “Metropolitan Opera Says Its ‘Otello’ Tenor Will Not Wear Blackface.” Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, made clear that the decision not to use any dark makeup on its white tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko in the Met’s new production of Verdi’s opera is not confined to this production. According to Gelb, “That was a tradition that needed to be changed.”
News you can use.4:00 PM, May 8, 2015 • By DAVID BAHR
St. John’s College, one of the few remaining schools devoted to providing a liberal arts education through the careful study of the “Great Books,” is close to having uploaded all of the back issues of its famed academic journal, The St. John’s Review.
The forgotten growing pains of American fiction. Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By ANTHONY PALETTA
For all of the just wars that have been fought over the cultural canon, one genuine benefit of the (still somewhat undulating) critical consensus is that it’s a pretty genuine aid for determining what you really needn’t bother reading right away. Or, as a professor once said while wielding Samuel Richardson’s 1,534-page doorstop Clarissa, “I’ve read it. You don’t have to.” So it is with most longitudinal surveys of literature.
Hawthorne as chronicler of the American unconscious.Mar 25, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 27 • By MICAH MATTIX
Nathaniel Hawthorne is an enigma.
On the trail of a strange, elusive life in literature.
Dec 17, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 14 • By MICHAEL DIRDA
My quest for Symons—A. J. A. Symons, that is—began when, many years ago, I first read that strange novel Hadrian the Seventh (1904). Written by the so-called Baron Corvo, and admired by D. H. Lawrence, among others, the book opens with a magnificent description of a hack writer suffering from writer’s block:
Germany’s Nobel Prize winner defends Iran.8:05 AM, Apr 5, 2012 • By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
One of Germany’s most famous novelists penned a pro-Iranian regime and anti-Israel poem Wednesday in German and Italian daily newspapers, declaring the Jewish state the greatest threat to global security and denying the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
5:31 PM, Oct 4, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
Ladbrokes of London, the famous British bookmaker, lists the Syrian-born poet Adonis as a 4 to 1 favorite to win this year’s Nobel Prize, due to be announced in the next few days. According to one Ladbrokes official, “I really think this is poetry’s year, and without a doubt, the politically correct choice would be Adonis.”
An intriguing, if unmentioned, biographical detail.2:53 PM, Nov 23, 2010 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
I couldn’t help but notice that the New York Times obituary this past week for Norris Church Mailer, widow of Norman Mailer, failed to mention the occasion that first brought their love affair to public attention. If the institutional memory of the Times has failed in this instance—which I doubt, since the obit is full of charming anecdotes about Ms. Church Mailer—it is worth resurrecting the story.
4:00 PM, Oct 26, 2010 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
A few months ago the Wall Street Journal ran a splendid essay by Allen Barra that could only be described as therapeutic. Entitled “What ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Isn’t,” it was a calm, clear-headed, even humorous, evisceration of a novel that seems to be universally admired, required reading in every classroom--and a sickening repository of every enlightened cliché about American life, with particular emphasis on the segregated South.
5:33 PM, Oct 7, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
An announcement of the Nobel Prize for literature is almost necessarily accompanied by columns listing those distinguished writers who were passed over, as well as more than a few clunkers who were not.