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Essays

Original essays

Mackinder, Geography, and History Spring 2014
The work of the British geographer and geopolitical theorist Halford John Mackinder reminds us that, despite technological progress or ideological factors, the political world is still inseparable from the physical world.
The Stories We Tell—The People We Become (Part 2) Winter 2014
Every culture provides a larger story in which to locate one’s self. In the second of two parts, Ted McAllister looks at a third story about America and considers the strengths and flaws of the three.
The Stories We Tell—The People We Become Winter 2014
Every culture provides a larger story in which to locate one’s self. In this, the first of two parts, Ted McAllister looks at two of the three primary competing stories Americans tell about themselves. Part Two will look at a third story and consider the strengths and flaws of each.
Pop Culture Mysticism Winter 2014
Conservative outlets will occasionally run a light piece about how this movie or that pop song is actually conservative, as if they had found a gold coin in a landfill of dung. In fact, religious mysticism, if not Republican dogma, radiates through the popular culture. And we are missing it.
Happiness or Joy? Winter 2014
Talking about happiness ad nauseam, as we do about everything else in the West today, does not make one happy.
Gottfried Responds Winter 2014
‘As You Wish’ Winter 2014
On the fortieth anniversary of The Princess Bride, Jordan Ballor looks at some of the story’s enduring themes.
Russell Kirk as Historian Fall 2013
Frohnen looks at Kirk’s work as a historian, suggesting that it is his ability to connect us with a particular thread in history, rather than to any abstract theme, that is worth celebrating. A version of this essay was given at the Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University at a conference on The Conservative Mind.
An Aesthetic Vision on West 43rd Street Fall 2013
The Voice of Michael Oakeshott in the Conversation of Conservatism Fall 2013
Patrick Dempsey in Forbes: Great or Garish? Fall 2013
Deinstitutionalizing the Humanities? Summer 2013
Lawler takes up the argument of Lee Siegel on the place of the humanities, suggesting that the study of great books needs a context and that we should celebrate a different kind of diversity.
Plato’s Idea of the Teacher Spring 2013
In this essay, the second of two parts, philosophy professor Pedro Blas González explores critical themes from Plato’s classic dialogue.
Human Nature, Allegory, and Truth in Plato’s Republic Spring 2013
In this essay, the first of two parts, philosophy professor Pedro Blas González explores critical themes from Plato’s classic dialogue.
Marital Distress and the 2012 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize Winter 2013
Sharon Olds’s “marital distress poetry” was awarded the 2012 T. S. Eliot Prize. The Wall Street Poet looks for some cultural or poetic significance in Olds’s verse.
The State of American Liberal Education These Days Fall 2012
Peter Augustine Lawler says that the requirements of being middle class—of living in a meritocracy based on productivity—gradually destroys liberal education in America, but two countercultures continue to preserve serious education that teaches people to live well.
Jacques Barzun, 1907–2012 Fall 2012
“Neither an unthinking optimist nor a congenital pessimist, Barzun took the long view that only history can provide.”
To College Students Considering a Course in American Poetry Summer 2012
The Wall Street poet advises students, before registering for a class on poetry, to browse the poems of the last decade. We live in a period of strife—to say the least. Surely some contemporary American poet has observed something memorable in verse?
Joseph Mitchell and the Free Life Summer 2012
The New Yorker’s Joseph Mitchell wrote with an almost Burkean enthusiasm for the neighborhoods, physical and metaphysical, of his city, the communities in which lived an array of eccentrics, oddballs, misfits, lonely, gifted, strange, surly, lovable people that could not be found so concentratedly in any other city in the world.
Searching while Blindfolded Summer 2012
A comment on a silly piece by Russell Jacoby.
On Statesmanship: The Case of John Adams Spring 2012
‘The Farther from the Scene of Horror, the Easier the Talk’ Spring 2012
Paul Fussell, who died this month, was perhaps more a curmudgeon than a conservative, but his harsh language was intended to counteract propaganda and euphemism and so recover the reality of the human in the face of war and other cultural assaults. Robert Stove provides an obituary appropriate for Memorial Day.
On Statesmanship: The Case of John Adams Spring 2012
Adrienne Rich and an Assessment of Contemporary American Poetry Spring 2012
Even measured against the hyperbole of her obituaries, which are less about the quality and resonance of her poetry and more about the ideologies of her admirers, it is possible to assess the public value of contemporary American poetry in the context of Adrienne Rich’s words.
Herrick and Donne and the Problems of Modernist Poetics Fall 2011
Signorelli looks at past critiques of the metaphysical poets to suggest the problematic nature of modernist poetry. Do poets like Eliot and Wilbur give delight, or are they masters of frigidity?
Fortunate Friendships Fall 2011
In this excerpt from his new memoir, The Man in the Middle, Tim Goeglein discusses the profound influence on his life of the thought and friendship of Russell Kirk.
Santayana’s Standing Fall 2011
In this response to David Dilworth's review of his edition of two books by Santayana, James Seaton argues that Santayana was attacking the self-contradictions of the political correctness of his day.
Peter J. Stanlis (1920–2011) Summer 2011
Farewell to a great friend, Burke scholar, and one of the most influential American men of letters in the twentieth century.
Otto von Habsburg (20 November 1912–4 July 2011) Summer 2011
A eulogy for one of the great defenders of Christian Europe. May he rest in peace.
Poetry and the Common Language Spring 2011
Signorelli argues that contemporary poetry's quest for natural, colloquial expression is fundamentally misdirected. Poetry truly is an "artificial" mode of narrative expression, which is necessary to rise above the debased rhetoric of the modern age. We do not stand in need of a return to nature; we need a return to art.
Newman’s ‘Idea’ and the Crisis of the Secular University Spring 2011
Craig Bernthal of California State University, Fresno, looks candidly at the current state of university education in light of John Henry Newman's enduring work, The Idea of the University. As Newman well knew, education has its own built in set of laws. The consequences for evading these laws may not long be avoided.
The Public Responsibilities of Known American Poets Winter 2011
In this original essay, Gene Schlanger, the Wall Street Poet, reflects on the potential good of poetry in an age when the known poets cannot attract an audience or attention.
Conservatism in Germany Volume 47, Number 3–4 (Fall 2010)
The Story of Carlton Hayes Volume 47, Number 1 (Winter 2010)
A Foreign Policy for (Probably Not Very Many) Americans Volume 46, Number 4 (Winter 2008)
‘And Therefore as Stranger Give It Welcome’ Volume 46, Number 4 (Winter 2008)
The Sword of Education Volume 46, Number 4 (Winter 2008)
From Tradition to ‘Values Conservatism’ Volume 46, Number 4 (Winter 2008)
The Many Roots of American Order Volume 46, Number 4 (Winter 2008)
Lost Causes and Gained Causes Volume 46, Number 4 (Winter 2008)
Stealing Dorothy Volume 46, Number 3 (Fall 2008)
The ‘Time’ of Elizabeth Madox Roberts Volume 46, Number 3 (Fall 2008)
Robert Traver: Anatomy of a Fisherman Volume 46, Number 3 (Fall 2008)
On Brooklyn’s Side Volume 46, Number 3 (Fall 2008)
What About Booth? Volume 46, Number 3 (Fall 2008)
The Conservative Exiles’ Reading List Website Exclusives (2007–2008)
In Memoriam: Richard Durant Volume 46, Number 2 (Summer 2008)
The Non-Human World of China Miéville Volume 46, Number 2 (Summer 2008)
The Witness Revisited Volume 46, Number 1 (Spring 2008)
Sketches of Painterly Lives Volume 46, Number 1 (Spring 2008)
From the Nightstand of a Bookman . . . Volume 46, Number 1 (Spring 2008)
The State of Biography Volume 46, Number 1 (Spring 2008)
A Tribute to Jacques Barzun on His Centennial Volume 45, Number 3 (Fall 2007)
Red Mist Volume 45, Number 1 (Winter 2007)
Ernest van den Haag (1914–2002) Volume 43, Number 1 (Fall 2003)
Letter from Italy Volume 44, Number 3 (Summer 2006)
The Splendor of Dedication Volume 34, Number 2 (Fall 1994)

The moral imagination is the principal possession that man does not share with the beasts. It is man’s power to perceive ethical truth, abiding law, in the seeming chaos of many events. Without the moral imagination, man would live merely day to day, or rather moment to moment, as dogs do. It is the strange faculty—inexplicable if men are assumed to have an animal nature only—of discerning greatness, justice, and order, beyond the bars of appetite and self-interest.

Russell Kirk, Enemies of the Permanent Things, 1969

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In honor of the great historian John Lukacs, who turns ninety in 2014, we are delighted to announce publication of the first e-book from the University Bookman. The Bookman on John Lukacs features essays and reviews by and about Lukacs gathered from fifty years of our archives. This convenient collection of scholarship is available as a Kindle edition from Amazon.com. (15 Feb 2014)

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