The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

20

Wednesday’s Child: 2+2

  I was scrolling through news headlines the other day, marvelling lazily at the lengths to which journalists will go to draw attention to their and other people’s philistine twaddle, when a story title caught my eye.  “Syrian women liberated from ISIS are burning their burqas,” it went. “What does that tell us?”  Naturally, I didn’t read on.  I knew the answer to the journalist’s rhetorical question long before she was born. When Stalin died in 1953, Russia’s entire population–statistically speaking, for there are a few notable exceptions on record went into a paroxysm of genuine, profound and unrehearsed grief,...

1

Boethius Book Club, Episode 8: C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man

By

This month’s selection is The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. Many, if not most, of you have undoubtedly read this prophetic book. Lewis realized that modern culture was saturated with a virulent form of nominalism that reduced all human knowledge to pseudo-objective social sciences and human wisdom to subjective judgment. His answer was to refamiliarize ourselves with a form of natural law teaching that reached across cultures. The Abolition of Man remains provocative to this day, particularly Lewis’s insight that the subjectivism taught by bad literature textbooks flows inexorably into the contempt for human nature that made genetic engineering...

0

The Art of Ugliness, Part II

This is the Conclusion of a piece I first published in 1980 in The Southern Partisan Quarterly Review (please note acronym). Trying to sort out this business of ugliness, I asked an artist friend in McClellanville, why the whole world was getting so ugly.  “Ugly is cheap,” he said.  “Beauty costs,” just the sort of practical remark I have come to expect from a painter.  The new shopping malls and fastfood shops in Chapel Hill are convincing evidence for the proposition.  Located out in no-man’s land or swamps, where acreage is cheap,  these stores and restaurants are built according to...

0

Writing and Reading Verse, Part III

A few weeks ago, the Brownlows and some other friends were having lunch with us.  The conversation was lively, inclusive, and hit upon many diverse themes, but, when the conversation turned to versification, I could sense an opiate pall falling upon the table—“as though of hemlock I had drunk”—and in the last column on this subject I fear I have ridden my own hobby-horse, the intricate relations between verse and music—over the hills and far away. Let us return to the main topic, which is learning how to write competent verse, partly as a means to learning how to read...

0

Planning vs. Reality

As they say, man proposes, God disposes. Some time back I announced what our podcast schedule would be for the remainder of 2016, only for it to be disrupted by some family health issues that Dr. Fleming had to attend to (which are still ongoing), and then the arrival of many of you in Rockford for our Boethius Seminar. As a result, we are spending the rest of August uploading the remainder of our stock of Boethius Book Club audios to continue to provide content to those paying members who so faithfully support our work. We will return to our...

2

The Art of Ugliness, Part I

This piece appeared  in the second issue (1980) of the Southern Partisan, which Clyde Wilson and I (along with John Shelton Reed, Sam Francis, and Chris Kopff) had created.  I have corrected a number of errors–including the quotation from the film version of Gone with the Wind–made several small  verbal improvements, and added some bits of  material I have always used in conversation.  These major additions I have indicated by square brackets.   Last month I took a short drive through the midriff of the Carolinas—through Georgetown, Conway, Marion, Latta, and Dillon, right through the middle of Rowland and Pittsboro all the...

18

Wednesday’s Child: Letter to a Sapient Neighbor

On a lighter note – it’s the middle of August, after all, and I ought to supply the longsuffering reader with something amusing for a Wednesday afternoon in the chaise-longue – here is a story written by Anton Chekhov in 1880, which my son and I have translated.  We had a laugh doing it, and are particularly proud of having found a plausibly English-sounding name for the protagonist’s estate, “Allcakes, nr. Eaten.” At first glance, this is pure slapstick.  It has, however, a darker side, as the part rationalist, part mystical banalities spewed forth by Basil Semiparticular – part Archie...

3

Boethius Book Club, Episode 7: Machiavelli’s Discourse

By

This month’s selection is book I of Machiavelli’s Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius. If you think this title refers to a dry academic commentary on an ancient historian, think again. Machiavelli is one of the most brilliant and original political thinkers in human history, and this is his by far best work. I first read it at the suggestion of (or rather under orders from) my friend Sam Francis, who (like James Burnham and other political analysts) viewed it as the political equivalent of sacred writ. Machiavelli takes the first ten books of Livy’s History of Rome...

0

Properties of Blood, I.5: Revenge, Conclusion

In our own time vengeance is the predictable plot-device in pulp fiction thrillers and the apparently endless series of films inspired by comic books.  In one series of ludicrous films, the union of superheroes is even known as “The Avengers.” Americans have not confined their dreams of vengeance to popular entertainment.  The newspapers are filled with cases of vengeance-killings.  The rise in cases (both fictional and real) of vengeance is not limited to men killing men or getting even with their ex’s: Feminists have made heroes out of women who killed (as in the case fictionalized in The Burning Bed)...

6

Prof. Brownlow on Early Modern English Verse

C.S.Lewis said that a “metrical mania” came over England in the 16th century, and it’s an idea that certainly explains the very odd taste for metrical versions of the Psalms in ballad meter that popped up then. There’s a late 15th–early 16th-century version of The Hunting of the Cheviot that’s a great deal more relaxed, metrically, than the later 8 + 6 “metrical” versions: 1.  The Perse owt off Northombarlonde an avowe to God made he That he wold hunte in the mowntayns off Chyviat within days thre In the magger of doughte Dogles and all that ever with him...