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Posts Tagged ‘George Santayana’

Wallace Stevens and Imagination

In Arts & Letters, Communication, Communism, Conservatism, Creative Writing, History, Imagination, John William Corrington, Literary Theory & Criticism, Pragmatism, Rhetoric, Santayana, Wallace Stevens, Western Civilization, Writing on May 4, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Allen Mendenhall

This post first appeared here at themendenhall.

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It would seem at first blush that American modernism is incompatible with American conservatism.  But this impression pivots on a too-narrow conception of both “modernism” and “conservatism.”  The aesthetes who animated modern American poetry were, many of them, social and political conservatives.  This fact has been lost on those intellectuals who do not admit or acknowledge alternative and complicating visions of the world in general and of modernism in particular.  In the wake of the radical 1960s, many intellectuals simply ignored the contributions of the conservative imagination to literature, preferring to will away such unpalatable phenomena by pretending they do not exist.  However well-meaning, these intellectuals either assume without much hesitation or qualification that all modernist theories and practices were progressive, or they brush under the rug any conservative tendencies among writers they admire.  American modernism was progressive in its adaptation of forms, but it does not follow that avant-garde aesthetics necessarily entails progressive political programs.  Nevertheless, under Frankfurt School and Marxist auspices, among other things, the literati and others in the academy have rewritten the history and thought of modernist American poetry to purge it of all conservative influence.  George Santayana, Allen Tate, T.S. Eliot, Yvor Winters, Marianne Moore—these individuals, according to progressive mantras, were intellectually challenging and therefore, the argument goes, politically leftist.  Such revisionism will not do. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Quick Musing on the Santayana Movement

In Arts & Letters, Literary Theory & Criticism, Santayana on June 8, 2010 at 3:54 pm

There’s been, of late, a renewal of interest in George Santayana.

Yale University Press recently released The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy and Character and Opinion in the United States (2009), edited by James Seaton.  With contributions by Seaton, Wilfred M. McClay, John Lachs, and Roger Kimball, and comprised of two seminal works by Santayana and four critical essays about Santayana, the book, however thin, seeks nothing less than a revamping of “culture.”  That’s because its subject, the enigmatic Santayana, was an aesthete par excellence and, paradoxically if not impossibly, an atheist-Catholic defender of the faith.

Most conservatives remember Santayana from Russell Kirk’s magnum opus, The Conservative Mind.  The original title to that work was The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana.  Santayana’s reputation has receded in importance since Kirk’s landmark book, in part because conservatives have drifted away from the literati while the literati have drifted away from conservatives.      Read the rest of this entry »

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