The Issue at a Glance

Make Art—and Academia—Medieval Again (
Rachel Fulton Brown, University of Chicago

Much like the devotional paintings hanging in our finest museums, the Gothic architecture that adorns American college campuses fails to elicit from visitors even the slightest religious feeling. The reason, says critic Rachel Fulton Brown, is academia’s myopic focus on the material experience, the “worship of things (artifacts) rather than God,” and a “hostility to the possibility of seeing religious experience as something which academic study might facilitate, not to mention enrich—or vice versa.”

Art History Gone Amuck (
Michelle Marder Kamhi, independent scholar and critic, co-editor of Aristos

An evaluation of the most widely used textbook in art history maps the slow but steady erosion of imagery in art—and the loss of meaning, purpose, and understanding that representative art in the West provided.

Autistic Criticism (
Gorman Beauchamp, University of Michigan (emeritus)

It is one thing when critics insist that racial identity is socially constructed and therefore acquired or discarded as one chooses. But it is quite another when they read black characters and racial hierarchies into literature that contains virtually neither.

Countering the Counterculture: “A little management” (
Thomas L. Jeffers, Marquette University (emeritus)

It might be true, as Irving Kristol once noted, that the culture war is over and conservatives lost. But in the works of great literature, and in the not insignificant number of professors, critics, and magazines that take literature seriously, there is always a saving remnant. “Despair is a sin.”

Statues Come Down (
Lauren Weiner

The movements to tear down artistic representations of historical figures deemed offensive by progressives pre-dates the riots of spring and summer 2020. Given the speed with which authorities have acted to accommodate even acts of vandalism, it is surprising that so many protesters haven’t sought to achieve their ends democratically. As Lauren Weiner points out, “There’s a right way and a wrong way to do these things.”

A Broken Vessel: Identity Theory and the Fragmentation of Poetry (
Jane Clark Scharl, graduate of The King’s College, New York City

Identity theory insists that human beings experience the world as members of the identity group to which they belong. This idea is a “revolt against the concept of poetry,” which seeks to plumb the depths of universal human experience.

How Fares Western Civ? (
Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum

Rodney Stark’s remarkable 2014 study, How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (2014), can help restore an appreciation for the achievements of Western civilization, and maybe even “re-center” Western civ courses on college campuses.

Online Learning and Higher Ed’s Dark Secret (
Seth Forman, National Association of Scholars

As higher education moves more of its courses online in response to a global pandemic, it will become obvious that actual course content is not what students, parents, and employers are seeking from colleges and universities.

Variation and Diversity: A Tribute to Freeman Dyson (
John Staddon, Duke University

A genius with a perfect temperament, Freeman Dyson lived a life that most scientists can only dream about. A model much in need in our times, Dyson challenged received opinion, “but his criticism was always designed to increase the range of thought, rather than reduce it to orthodoxy.”

Decolonizing the Curriculum (
James Lindsay, co-author, Cynical Theories (forthcoming)

Decolonizing the curriculum is more than just replacing John Stuart Mill with Ta-Nehisi Coates in required reading lists. It’s about advancing a revolution in what we consider to be knowledge, how knowledge is determined, and how it can be taught. It is also a rejection of modernity, a creation solely of Western culture.

Scholars vs. Ideologues (
Juliana Geran Pilon, Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization

Anti-liberal and often violent radicals from the 1960s have risen to heights of significant power and influence in our universities. From those positions, blinded by a lust for power to which they feel entitled, they seek to impose their idea of a Marxist utopia on a country they despise.

Identity Politics and the New Culture Wars: Causes and Effects (
Matthew Stewart, Boston University

Two recent books using different methods attempt to address the question most asked by those flummoxed at the illiberal takeover of intellectual life: how did this happen?

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