The economic theories of Karl Marx and his disciples continue to be anthologized in books of literary theory and criticism and taught in humanities classrooms to the exclusion of other, competing economic paradigms. Marxism is collectivist, predictable, monolithic, impersonal, linear, reductive — in short, wholly inadequate as an instrument for good in an era when we know better than to reduce the variety of human experience to simplistic formulae. A person’s creative and intellectual energies are never completely the products of culture or class. People are rational agents who choose between different courses of action based on their reason, knowledge, and experience. A person’s choices affect lives, circumstances, and communities. Even literary scholars who reject pure Marxism are still motivated by it, because nearly all economic literary theory derives from Marxism or advocates for vast economic interventionism as a solution to social problems.
Such interventionism, however, has a track-record of mass murder, war, taxation, colonization, pollution, imprisonment, espionage, and enslavement — things most scholars of imaginative literature deplore. Yet most scholars of imaginative literature remain interventionists. Literature and Liberty offers these scholars an alternative economic paradigm, one that over the course of human history has eliminated more generic bads than any other system. It argues that free market or libertarian literary theory is more humane than any variety of Marxism or interventionism. Just as Marxist historiography can be identified in the use of structuralism and materialist literary theory, so should free-market libertarianism be identifiable in all sorts of literary theory. Literature and Liberty disrupts the near monopolistic control of economic ideas in literary studies and offers a new mode of thinking for those who believe that arts and literature should play a role in discussions about law, politics, government, and economics. Drawing from authors as wide-ranging as Emerson, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Henry Hazlitt, and Mark Twain, Literature and Liberty is a significant contribution to libertarianism and literary studies.
Archive for the ‘News and Current Events’ Category
This first appeared here at The American Spectator.
One of the Supreme Court opinions everyone is buzzing about — last Monday’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case involving that school’s affirmative action program — will not be monumental in our canons of jurisprudence.
The petitioner, Abigail Noel Fisher, a young white woman, applied to the university in 2008 and was denied admission. She challenged the decision, arguing that she would have been admitted under a colorblind system. The high court has now remanded the case back to the Fifth Circuit, holding that the lower court failed to properly ascertain whether the affirmative action program was the most narrowly tailored means to achieve the university’s diversity goal. In legal terms, the Fifth Circuit had failed to subject the program to “strict scrutiny.” Thus, additional litigation lies ahead; the case is not even over.
What will be remembered from Monday’s proceedings, though, is Justice Thomas’ concurrence, which treats affirmative action as paternalism — a word he implies but doesn’t use explicitly, at least not here.
The dichotomies “liberal” versus “conservative,” “left” versus “right,” complicate rather than clarify issues such as affirmative action. A better choice of words, if a dichotomy must be maintained, is “paternalism” versus “non-paternalism.” Viewing diversity in this light, as Justice Thomas does, enables us to understand and appreciate the forms that racism and discrimination take.
Those forms often are paternalistic: Person A assumes to understand the plight of person X and undertakes to care for and control him as a father would his children. Even if X were one day to achieve relative equality with A in real terms — opportunity, education, earning capacity — this dominance would persist so long as A views X as a needy inferior, and so long as X allows that presumption to persist.
Thomas’s concurrence places such toxic ideas under a microscope, and exposes the ironic double standards of those who resort to paternalism. For instance, the bulk of his concurrence describes how the university’s arguments in favor of affirmative action are the same or substantially similar to those once used to justify racial segregation and even slavery. “There is no principled distinction,” Thomas writes, “between the University’s assertion that diversity yields educational benefits and the segregationists’ assertion that segregation yielded those same benefits.”
Likewise, he adds, “Slaveholders argued that slavery was a ‘positive good’ that civilized Blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life.” Advocates of slavery and segregationists both argued, in other words, that their policies bettered the conditions of Blacks and minimized racial hostility on the whole. The form of these racist arguments is now being used to justify state discrimination through affirmative action programs.
The segregationists argued that integrated public schools would suffer from white flight; proponents of affirmative action argue that universities will suffer from a lack of diversity if discrimination is not allowed.
The segregationists argued that blacks would become the victims of desegregation once white children withdrew from public schools en masse and that separate but equal schools improved interracial relations; proponents of affirmative action likewise argue that minorities will be the victims if affirmative action programs are deemed unconstitutional and that diversity on campus improves interracial relations.
The segregationists argued that separate but equal schools allowed blacks to enjoy more leadership opportunities; proponents of affirmative action likewise argue that affirmative action programs empower minorities to become leaders in a diverse society.
The segregationists argued that although separate but equal schools were not a perfect remedy for racial animosity, such schools were nevertheless a practical step in the right direction; proponents of affirmative action likewise argue that it, although not ideal, nevertheless generates race consciousness among students.
In the face of these surprising parallels, Justice Thomas maintains that “just as the alleged educational benefits of segregation were insufficient to justify racial discrimination” during the Civil Rights Era, so “the alleged educational benefits of diversity cannot justify racial discrimination today.”
He should not be misunderstood as equating affirmative action with the discrimination unleashed upon blacks and other minorities throughout American history. Although he acknowledges that affirmative action does harm whites and Asians, he is chiefly concerned with how such discrimination harms its intended beneficiaries: above all, blacks and Hispanics. “Although cloaked in good intentions,” Thomas submits, “the University’s racial tinkering harms the very people it claims to be helping.” He adds that “the University would have us believe that its discrimination is…benign. I think the lesson of history is clear enough: Racial discrimination is never benign.”
Why aren’t affirmative action programs — which Justice Thomas at one point refers to as “racial engineering” — benign? He gives several reasons: They admit blacks and Hispanics who aren’t as prepared for college as white and Asian students; they do not ensure that blacks and Hispanics close the learning gap during their time in college; they do not increase the overall number of blacks and Hispanics who attend college; and they encourage unqualified applicants to graduate from great schools as mediocre students instead of good schools as exceptional students. Moreover, Justice Thomas cites studies showing that minorities interested in science and engineering are more likely to choose different paths when they are forced to compete with other students in those disciplines at elite universities. What Justice Thomas considers most damning of all, however, is the “badge of inferiority” stamped on racial minorities as a result of affirmative action.
Just one small personal example: When I was in law school, a few of the guys in my study group began comparing professors, as students do regularly, and they were quite open in their opinion that our black professor could not have been as intelligent, because she had benefited from affirmative action programs. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward W. Younkins is the founder of the undergraduate major in Political and Economic Philosophy at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. He is also the founding director of the university’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) and Master of Science in Accountancy (M.S.A.) programs. In addition to earning state and national honors on the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exams, respectively, Dr. Younkins also received the Outstanding Educator Award for 1997 from the West Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants. Professor Younkins has written a number of articles in free-market-oriented journals and is the author of Capitalism and Commerce: Conceptual Foundations of Free Enterprise (2002) and Flourishing and Happiness in a Free Society (2011).
My Koch Research Fellows, Jomana Krupinski and Kaitlyn Pytlak, and I conducted a survey of 250 Business and Economics professors and 250 English and Literature professors. Colleges and universities were randomly selected and then professors from the relevant departments were also randomly selected to receive our email survey. They were asked to list and rank from 1 to 10 what they considered to be the best novels and plays about business. We did not attempt to define the word “best” leaving that decision to each respondent. We obtained sixty-nine usable responses from Business and Economics professors and fifty-one from English and Literature professors. A list of fifty choices was given to each respondent and an opportunity was presented to vote for works not on the list. When tabulating the results, ten points were given to a novel or play in a respondent’s first position, nine points were assigned to a work in the second position, and so on, down to the tenth listed work which was allotted one point. The table below presents the top twenty-five novels and plays for each group of professors. Interestingly, fifteen works made both top-25 lists. These are noted in bold type.
Business and Economics Professors
English and Literature Professors
|1. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand||
|1. Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller||
|2. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand||
|2. Bartleby: The Scrivener, Herman Melville||
|3. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald||
|3. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald||
|4. Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller||
|4. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair||
|5. Time Will Run Back, Henry Hazlitt||
|5. Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis||
|6. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair||
|6. Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet||
|7. The Gilded Age, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner||
|7. The Rise of Silas Lapham, William Dean Howells||
|8. Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet||
|8. American Pastoral, Philip Roth||
|9. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.||
|9. The Confidence Man, Herman Melville||
|10. Other People’s Money, Jerry Sterner||
|10. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand||
|11. Bartleby: The Scrivener, Herman Melville||
|11. A Hazard of New Fortunes, William Dean Howells||
|12. A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe||
|12. The Octopus, Frank Norris||
|13. Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis||
|13. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand||
|14. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Sloan Wilson||
|14. Nice Work, David Lodge||
|15. Rabbit is Rich, John Updike||
|15. The Big Money, John Dos Passos||
|16. Major Barbara, George Bernard Shaw||
|16. The Gilded Age, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Marner||
|17. Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens||
|17. Rabbit is Rich, John Updike||
|18. The Goal, Eliyahu M. Goldratt||
|18. Seize the Day, Saul Bellow||
|19. The Driver, Garet Garrett||
|19. Mildred Pierce, James M. Gain||
|20. Executive Suite, Cameron Hawley||
|20. The Financier, Theodore Dreiser||
|21. The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope||
|21. Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens||
|22. American Pastoral, Philip Roth||
|22. Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey||
|23. The Octopus, Frank Norris||
|23. The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald||
|24. Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey||
|24. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy||
|25. North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell||
|25. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.||
Auction Announcement: William Spratling and William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New OrleansIn American History, Arts & Letters, Books, History, Humanities, Literature, News and Current Events, News Release, Southern History, Southern Literary Review, The South, Writing on April 5, 2013 at 8:45 am
William Spratling and William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New Orleans, published by Pelican Bookshop Press, New Orleans, 1926, first edition, first issue, number 217 of 250, bound in green boards, with label on front cover, interior of back cover with a label printed “Rebound in L’ATELIER Le Loup” and dated in ink “1986″.
Provenance: From the collection of Stephanie Durant, by descent from the collection of Ray Samuel.
A special copy of a rare and fragile book described by The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans as “one of the great literary curiosities in the city’s history.” The book comprises Spratling’s drawings of himself, Faulkner, and 41 of their acquaintances–artists, musicians, academics, preservationists, and socialites, “artful and crafty ones of French Quarter” with some of their uptown friends and patrons. One was novelist Sherwood Anderson, and Faulkner’s introduction parodies Anderson’s style.
The note above is taken from the catalog description of an extraordinary book that will be sold at auction on April 19. The book has been given by Stephanie Durant of New Orleans to be sold for the benefit of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the sale will be conducted by the New Orleans Auction Galleries, which will donate its commission to the museum as well.
This copy is uniquely valuable because it is signed by 41 of the 43 persons included,
in a few cases with personal notes to its original owner. (See below for a complete list.) That number of autographs is certainly a record: The only other copy I know with more than a dozen or so is one with 31, and it was stolen from a Charlottesville, Virginia, bookshop some time ago.
The catalog description is accurate as far as it goes, but there is a great deal more to be said about this odd little book, written by two young men who went on to become arguably the greatest American novelist and the greatest Mexican silver designer of the twentieth century. Those depicted include both figures well-known at the time, like writer Grace King and artist Ellsworth Woodward, and some who would become well-known later, like artist Caroline Durieux and writer Hamilton Basso. The title, an obscure joke, refers to a book of caricatures entitled The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans, by Vanity Fair cartoonist Miguel Covarrubias (to whom Famous Creoles is dedicated). The “Pelican Bookshop Press” was a fiction: Spratling and Faulkner paid a local printer to produce 250 copies. Spratling (though, note, not Faulkner) signed and hand-tinted some images in 50, mostly for the friends who were included. There was a second printing of 150 copies, somewhat less valuable on the rare book market. The book was not at all sturdy, and it is not unusual to find copies that have been repaired or, like this one, rebound. Many copies have presumably fallen apart and been discarded. Musician Harold Levy’s hand-tinted copy was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The original owner of this particular copy, Stella Lengsfield Lazard, signed her name in ink on inside front. In 1926 Mrs. Lazard was 43. Her husband, Henry Calme Lazard, was a stockbroker related by blood and marriage to several distinguished mercantile and financial families in New Orleans and elsewhere. The couple had one grown son, and lived with her parents uptown on St. Charles Avenue. (Her father was a successful cotton factor.)
Mrs. Lazard had literary, historical, and musical interests. In 1925 she wrote a series of feature articles for the Times-Picayune on the mayors of New Orleans, and a few years later she served as narrator for a weekly musical program on WDSU radio, “Sweet Mystery of the Air,” featuring a trio of local musicians: harpist, violinist, and tenor. To judge by the inscriptions in her copy of Famous Creoles, she was friends with a number of those included. For instance, one reads, “To Stella, the star, from the stellar Helen Pitkin Schertz”; Flo Field wrote “Love to my old staunch [?] friend”; and William “Cicero” Odiorne, who was in Paris, wrote “When are you coming over?”
Others who did more than simply sign their names include writers Sherwood Anderson and Roark Bradford; artists Conrad Albrizio, Marc Antony, and Virginia Parker Nagel; Tulane cheerleader Marian Draper; and Lillian Friend Marcus, managing editor of the Double Dealer magazine. The presidents of Tulane and of Le Petit Théatre, A. B. Dinwiddie and Mrs. J. O. Nixon, simply added their institutional affiliations. Natalie Scott just signed the page with her picture on it, but a note in Mrs. Lazard’s hand identifies a building shown in the picture as the Court of Two Sisters (which Miss Scott owned). One amusing addition: On an almost blank page Arthur Feitel, a 34-year-old bachelor architect, wrote “Me, too” and signed his name. Feitel, whose picture was not included, was a Tulane graduate who had studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts; he would later serve as president of both the Art Association of New Orleans and the board of the Delgado Museum.
Only two “Famous Creoles” did not sign Mrs. Lazard’s book. One is easily explained. By the time the book appeared Ronald Hargrave was pretty much incommunicado; he was painting in Majorca, and he never returned to New Orleans. But the other missing signature is that of William Faulkner. It seems to me that Mrs. Lazard went to a great deal of trouble to track down people to sign her book (William Odiorne signed it, and he was in Paris), so it is almost inconceivable that she didn’t ask Faulkner. He must have refused to sign, possibly just out of general cussedness — he was known for being moody and sometimes difficult, and he didn’t sign the 50 copies that Spratling hand-tinted either. In addition, however, Faulkner didn’t care for “artsy” uptown people he thought were dilettantes (unlike Spratling, who enjoyed their company), and he may have viewed Mrs. Lazard as one of them. Whatever the explanation, in some ways Faulkner’s absence may actually be more interesting than a perfunctory autograph would have been.
Mrs. Lazard’s copy was eventually acquired by Stephanie Durant’s father, J. Raymond Samuel, a well-known historian, collector and (in his retirement years) dealer in books and art. On his death the book passed to Mrs. Durant, who has now generously given it to benefit the Ogden Museum.
–John Shelton Reed, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Author of Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s
Inquiries about the auction should be directed to :
New Orleans Auction Galleries <email@example.com>
801 Magazine Street 800-501-0277
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130 504-566-1849
(with ages in 1926)
Signed Lazard copy
Conrad Albrizio, 27
New York-born, serious artist, Spratling’s neighbor, Arts and Crafts Club
Sherwood Anderson, 50
“Lion of the Latin Quarter,” eminence gris, generous to respectful younger
Marc Antony and Lucille Godchaux Antony, both 28
Love-match between heiress and lower-middle-class boy, local artists
Hamilton “Ham” Basso, 22
Star-struck recent Tulane grad, aspiring writer, good dancer
Charles “Uncle Charlie” Bein, 35
Director of Arts and Crafts Club’s art school; lived with mother, sister,
Frans Blom, 33
Danish archeologist of Maya, Tulane professor, colorful resident of
Roark Bradford, 30
Newspaperman, jokester, hit pay dirt with Negro dialect stories
Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis, 45
Tulane architecture professor, preservationist, recorded old buildings
Albert Bledsoe Dinwiddie, 55
President of Tulane, Presbyterian
Marian Draper, 20
Ziegfeld Follies alum, Tulane cheerleader, prize-winning architecture
Caroline “Carrie” Wogan Durieux, 30
Genuine Creole, talented artist living in Cuba and Mexico, painted by Rivera
Flo Field, 50
French Quarter guide, ex-journalist, sometime playwright, single mother
Louis Andrews Fischer, 25
Gender-bending Mardi Gras designer, named for her father
Meigs O. Frost, 44
Reporter’s reporter; lived in Quarter; covered crime, revolutions, and arts
Samuel Louis “Sam” Gilmore, 27
Greenery-yallery poet and playwright, from prominent family
Moise Goldstein, 44
Versatile and successful architect, preservationist, active in Arts and
Weeks Hall, 32
Master of and slave to Shadows-on-the-Teche plantation, painter, deeply
R. Emmet Kennedy, 49
Working-class Irish boy, collected and performed Negro songs and stories
Grace King, 74
Grande dame of local color literature and no-fault history, salonnière
Alberta Kinsey, 51
Quaker spinster, Quarter pioneer, indefatigable painter of courtyards
Richard R. Kirk, 49
Tulane English professor and poet, loyal Michigan Wolverine alumnus
Oliver La Farge, 25
New England Brahmin, Tulane anthropologist and fiction-writer, liked
Harold Levy, 32
Musician who ran family’s box factory, knew everybody, turned up
Lillian Friend Marcus, 35
Young widow from wealthy family, angel and manager of Double Dealer
John “Jack” McClure, 33
Poet, newspaper columnist and reviewer, Double Dealer editor, bookshop
Virginia Parker Nagle, 29
Promising artist, governor’s niece, Arts and Crafts Club teacher
Louise Jonas “Mother” Nixon, 70
A founder of Le Petit Theatre and its president-for-life, well-
William C. “Cicero” Odiorne, 45
Louche photographer, Famous Creoles’ Paris contact
Frederick “Freddie” Oechsner, 24
Recent Tulane graduate, ambitious cub reporter, amateur actor
Genevieve “Jenny” Pitot, 25
Old-family Creole, classical pianist living in New York, party girl
Lyle Saxon, 35
Journalist, raconteur, bon vivant, host, preservationist, bachelor
Helen Pitkin Schertz, 56
Clubwoman, civic activist, French Quarter guide, writer, harpist
Natalie Scott, 36
Journalist, equestrian, real-estate investor, Junior Leaguer, social
William “Bill” Spratling, 25
Famous Creoles illustrator, Tulane teacher, lynchpin of Quarter
Keith Temple, 27
Australian editorial cartoonist, artist, sometimes pretended to be
Fanny Craig Ventadour, 29
Painter, Arts and Crafts Club regular, lately married and living in
Elizebeth Werlein, 39
Suffragette with colorful past, crusading preservationist,
Joseph Woodson “Pops” Whitesell, 50
Photographic jack-of-all-trades, French Quarter eccentric,
Daniel “Dan” Whitney, 32
Arts and Crafts Club teacher, married (two) students, beauty
Ellsworth Woodward, 65
Artistic elder statesman, old-fashioned founder of Newcomb art
Did not sign Lazard copy
William “Bill” Faulkner, 29
Needs no introduction, but wrote the one to Famous Creoles
Ronald Hargrave, 44
Painter from Illinois formerly active in Quarter art scene,
relocated to Majorca
From Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s,
© 2012, LSU Press.
When my wife and I can get a babysitter, we love going to the New American Shakespeare Tavern on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. The Tavern, as it is affectionately called by regulars, is offering the following performances this fall:
All who live in and around Atlanta, and who appreciate Shakespeare, ought to visit the Tavern for a guaranteed night of fun and good acting. Click here to support the Tavern.
Teaching Law and Literature. Austin Sarat, Cathrine O. Frank, and Matthew Anderson, eds. New York: Modern Language Association, 2011. vii + 507 pp. $25, paper.
What began as a coordinated, idiosyncratic project in American and British law schools has become a common component of curricula in English departments across the globe. Law and literature as a subject and as a movement has gained purchase over the last three decades. Inaugurated in 1973 with the publication of James Boyd White’s The Legal Imagination, which highlighted, among other things, the affinities between legal and literary rhetoric, law and literature has splintered into so many narrowed foci that today it is just as common to see courses like “Law in Late 19th Century American Literature” as it once was to see courses called, quite simply and broadly, “Law and Literature.”
To celebrate and explain this movement, The Modern Language Association (MLA) has released Teaching Law and Literature, an edition with forty-one essays by some of the most prominent scholars in the field, including none other than White himself. Although law and literature has enjoyed ample funding and has become the subject of an increasing number of journals and conferences, not enough work has been done on the pedagogical aspects of the discipline. Put another way, the discipline has yet adequately to address the question of how professors ought to teach the interplay of law and literature to students.
That is a gap that this book seeks to fill. According to editors Austin Sarat, Cathrine O. Frank, and Matthew Anderson, Teaching Law and Literature “provides a resource for teachers interested in learning about the field of law and literature and how to bring its insights to bear in their classrooms, both in the liberal arts and in law schools.” Despite that stated goal, the book is weighted toward undergraduate education, and the editors admit as much in their introduction.
At a time when American law schools are under fire for admissions scandals and fabricated data, professors of law and literature—and law professors interested in humanistic and jurisprudential approaches to law teaching—would do well to turn their attention to undergraduates. When budget cuts and faculty purging befall the legal academy, as they likely will, law and literature (and its various offshoots) will be the first curricular elective to suffer. A discipline whose proponents struggle to articulate its purpose—will a course in law and literature help law students to pass a bar exam or to become better lawyers?—may not survive the institutional scrutiny of deans, administrators, and alumni associations.
Yet it is the urgent quest for validation that makes law and literature such an important subject. At its core, law and literature is about grand questions: Why study literature at all? What use do novels, plays, poems, and the like have for the general public and for the practical, workaday world in which lawyers serve a necessary function? Might the recurring themes of justice, fairness, and equality expressed in canonized texts from disparate cultures and communities point to something recognizable and distinctive in the human condition? And are there paralyzing limits to specialized knowledge of periods and genres when so many law and literature scholars, working out of different traditions and trained in supposedly autonomous disciplines, arrive at the same or similar generalizations regarding human experience?
One such generalization, interestingly enough, is that complicated relationships between people—whether based in race, gender, class, or whatever—ought to be understood in terms of ambiguity and contingency rather than certainty and absolutes, and that simple answers will hardly ever suffice to illuminate the nuances and contradictions of any given phenomenon, especially law. That law is too often reduced to blackletter, blanket rules is not lost to writers of imaginative literature, who, many of them, have used law and legal institutions to enable critiques and explorations of complex social and philosophical problems.
It is little wonder, in light of the compatibility between literary and legal rhetoric or hermeneutics, that a Maryland appellate judge recently wrote in his concurrence that “[t]his case is E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India all over again. Something happened up there at the Marabar Caves. Was it an attempted rape? Was it some form of hysteria triggered by strongly ambivalent emotions imploding violently in a dark and isolated catacomb? Or was it some unmappable combination of the two as moods and signals shifted diametrically in mid-passage? The outside world will never know.” Here is a judge employing a work of literature to demonstrate a point about the limitations of human knowledge. Law provides topoi in countless works of literature, and works of literature, as this judge apparently recognizes, can supply context and profundity to the deforming routines and desensitizing rituals of everyday law practice. Without following the judge through to the end of his reasoning, one can sense in his lines a stark awareness of the incapacity of human faculties and hence the perspectival nature of what the philosophers call “justice.” Read the rest of this entry »
Julie Cantrell was editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review. She teaches English as a second language to elementary school students and is a freelance writer who has published two children’s books. Julie and her family run Valley House Farm in Mississippi. Her first novel, Into the Free, was released by David C. Cook in 2012.
Julie, so glad to be doing this interview. First of all, congratulations on the publication of Into the Free, which, at the moment, is number 23 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list. What does it feel like to have completed your first novel?
It’s amazing! The entire journey has been joyful for me, but to see it reach readers across the world is incredible. Having it become a bestseller is simply surreal. I admit I’m a bit numb watching it climb the charts, and I keep thinking it will end in a few minutes – a strange little bubble of joy that is about to pop. For that reason, I’ve been doing the happy dance nonstop and am just going to enjoy the fun while it lasts.
The main character of the book is Millie Reynolds. How did you come up with Millie? Did you know what she would be like—her personality, her attitudes, her struggles—before you started writing, or did she sort of come to you as you worked?
Well, to be honest, I never intended to write from a child’s point of view. I originally set out to write about the “Gypsy Queen,” but it just wasn’t the voice I heard. Then I saw a scene of a poor, depressed woman standing on a porch watching the Travelers leave town. She wanted to leave with them, but she was too afraid to take the first step. So I sat down to write her story, but it wasn’t her voice I heard either. Instead, Millie sat in her tree and told me her story. I know it sounds kooky, but I guess I just have a very vivid imagination. I’m happy to introduce Millie to readers, and I hope they love her as much as I do.
You once told me that you had two kids, four cows, three goats (two of which were then due with babies that you’d have to bottle feed), two dogs, two cats (one stray that arrived pregnant), a horse that likes a lot of attention, a flock of hens, a newly arrived carton of chicks, a husband, and a full-time job as a speech therapist. How did you ever manage to finish writing Into the Free?
It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? In fact, we’ve grown bigger since then! I still work in an elementary school, but now I teach English as a Second Language, so I was able to reduce my hours to part-time this year. With a full-time farm, a teaching job (which is never really part-time, as any teacher will tell you), two kids, a wonderful hubby, freelance gigs, and an active community life, we stay very busy. I usually write between the hours of 3 am and 5 am, when the rest of the world is sleeping. I just love it more than sleep.
Tell us a little about your choice of setting for the novel?
I am a southern girl, through and through. I spent my childhood in Louisiana before leaving the south after graduate school. I loved living in various states across the country, but our family relocated to Mississippi seven years ago, returning to our southern roots. I find this state incredibly rich with everything needed to whip up a story. I never considered setting it anywhere other than Mississippi. However, I like to mix things up a bit, so let’s see where the sequel takes us.
Any advice for aspiring novelists who might come across this interview?
Yes. I say, Go for it! If writing is what you love, be willing to make sacrifices to keep that in your life. Only you know what you were born to do, and only you know how to live the life that makes you happy. Life is short. Choose wisely.
Thank you, Julie. This has been a great interview. I’m thrilled to see the success of Into the Free, and I would encourage readers of this site to purchase a copy right away.
Thank you, Allen. I am honored to be interviewed here on a site I have always loved. You’ve done a fabulous job with Southern Literary Review, and I know your readers all agree. Kudos!
J. Neil Schulman is a novelist, actor, filmmaker, journalist, composer, and publisher. Among his many books are Alongside Night and The Rainbow Cadenza, both of which won the Prometheus Award. Visit his website at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/.
The following interview originally appeared here at Prometheus Unbound: A Libertarian Review of Fiction and Literature.
AM: Right off the bat, it strikes me that I don’t know what to call you. Will Neil work?
JNS: Sure. It’s J. Neil Schulman in credits, and Neil in person.
AM: Anyway, thank you for doing this interview, Neil. You’ve had a fascinating and unique career. You’ve written novels, short fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and other works. Which of your works is your favorite and why?
JNS: Every artist gets asked this question sooner or later. I asked it of Robert A. Heinlein when I interviewed him in 1973, and his answer was, “The latest one I’ve been working on.”
I’ve only completed one movie so far — Lady Magdalene’s — so it’s a Hobson’s Choice on that one. Ask me again when I’ve made two! But a lot of people also seem to like the script I wrote for The Twilight Zone, “Profile in Silver.”
I’ve written three novels. My first, Alongside Night [editor's note: free in pdf], seems to be my most accessible and popular. I consider my second novel, The Rainbow Cadenza, to be my most layered, literary, and richest in explicit philosophy. My third novel, Escape from Heaven, is my favorite. It may not be as timely as my first novel or literary as my second novel, but it’s the one that’s closest to my heart…both the funniest thing I’ve ever written, and the one which is most deceptively simple. It appears to be a lightweight piece of comic fantasy, but it’s full of ideas that if examined more closely turn both traditional theology and rationalist philosophy on their heads.
Short stories? I’ll pick a few: “The Musician,” “Day of Atonement,” and “When Freemen Shall Stand” — all in my collection Nasty. Brutish, and Short Stories — and my latest short story, “The Laughskeller,” published on my blog, J. Neil Schulman @ Rational Review.
AM: Your worldview is, in a word, libertarian. Why is that? How does libertarianism come across in your writing?
JNS: In my nonfiction essays it comes across explicitly. In fiction, drama, and comedy, I try to examine libertarian themes without preaching. I was probably most subtle doing this in The Rainbow Cadenza. The utilitarian politics advocated by the chief villain, Burke Filcher, is so self-consistent that a lot of readers have thought this character speaks for the author. In fact, I wrote the novel to attack utilitarianism as a nullification of the natural individual rights I believe in. The novel reduces utilitarianism to absurdity — it’s a formal satire of it.
Alongside Night is less subtle, though I’m probably more successful in the new movie script than the 1970s novel when it comes to letting the audience make up its own mind. I have learned some refinements of my craft in the last three decades.
AM: I recently noticed that you commented on a post at the Austrian Economics and Literature blog edited by my good friend Troy Camplin. Tell me about the influence that Austrian economics has had on you.
JNS: I would say that Austrian economics — and more fundamentally, the analytical tools of praxeology and games theory — have been fundamental to my work for my entire professional career. They’re not the only tools in my kit, but they get shopworn as much as any of them. Austrian economics is most explicit in Alongside Night, projecting the social and political consequences of fiat money hyperinflation — but I used games theory in plotting “Profile in Silver” and applied praxeology to the afterlife in Escape from Heaven. Read the rest of this entry »
James Banks is a doctoral student studying Renaissance and Restoration English literature at the University of Rochester. He also contributes to the American Interest Online. He has been a Fellow with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute Honors Program; in addition to The Literary Lawyer, he has written for the Intercollegiate Review, First Principles and The Heritage Foundation’s blog The Foundry. A native of Idaho’s panhandle, he lives in upstate New York and serves in the New York Army National Guard.
Agrarianism has been an organized antagonist of American capitalism for longer than Marxism has, and it provides a welcome avenue for those who reject the gospel of a bourgeoisie paradise but are averse to the cosmopolitan and authoritarian tendencies of Marxism. It has occasionally found its way into public policy, such as the Second Bush Administration’s efforts to turn all Americans into property owners (though, by that point, “the family farm” had become a suburban home with a two car garage and white picket fence). Most recently, a debate boiled up in the blogosphere over a comment made by First Things editor Joe Carter arguing that Agrarianism was essentially utopian in nature.
Front Porch Republic—which, from what I can make out, is not explicitly Agrarian but is highly sympathetic to its tenets—was quick to come back with a number of repartees. Nonetheless, these repartees (for this reader anyway) only accentuated some of the problems with the ideology that they sought to defend. Front Porch Republic’s best contribution to the debate is Mark T. Mitchell’s. Professor Mitchell is an author of considerable ability and one who—in as far as I can make out—comes pretty close to living the philosophy that he advocates. I would not question the consistency of his views, just the correctness.
In his discussion of Wendell Berry’s Agrarianism, Mitchell writes:
The agrarian is guided by gratitude. He recognizes the giftedness of creation and accepts the great and awful responsibility to steward it well. Such a recognition “calls for prudence, humility, good work, propriety of scale.” In the use of the land, soil, water, and non-human creatures, the final arbiter, according to Berry, is not human will but nature itself. But this is not to suggest that Berry is some sort of pantheist. Instead, “the agrarian mind is, at bottom, a religious mind.” The agrarian recognizes that the natural world is a gift, and gifts imply a giver. “The agrarian mind begins with the love of fields and ramifies in good farming, good cooking, good eating, and gratitude to God.” By contrast, the “industrial mind “begins with ingratitude, and ramifies in the destruction of farms and forests.”
I can sympathize with the desire to live close to the soil (and would purchase a farm could I afford it). The problem with the argument, though, is that it implies a fundamental distinction between the “agrarian mind” and the “industrial mind”; in truth, the difference between the two is one of degree rather than fundamental difference. Perhaps the agrarian mind “recognizes that the natural world is a gift,” but does it recognize it as such more than does the mind of the hunter/gatherer? And, if not, why should we not go further and work to incorporate elements of the hunter/gatherer’s economy into our postmodern existence? Read the rest of this entry »