ANGLOSPHERE? THE NEW CRITERION LICKS CHURCHILL’S BOOTS

The neo-cons’ love affair with Winston Churchill is pretty disgusting, but The New Criterion has just taken it to new lows in their January 2011 number, with The Anglosphere & the future of liberty, a symposium of five essays with an introduction by editor Roger Kimball.

According to Kimball and the five essayists, the city of London invented the following things: civilization, fair government, law, individualilty, and freedom, and Winston Churchill, with the help of the British Empire, made sure these things took root and spread to as many people as possible.

Think I’m kidding?  

Think The New Criterion is kidding?

No, and no.

Pretty creepy, huh?

This is bound to happen with a publication that considers all “modernism” absolutely good and all “post-modernism” absolutely evil.

Modernism, for The New Criterion—named after T.S. Eliot’s Criterion—is sufficiently plain to support their prudish conservative views, sufficiently urbane to support their intellectuality, and sufficiently linked to T.S. Eliot to support their anglophilia. 

Post-modernism for The New Criterion, however, marks the Fall: out-of-control sexuality replaces regal order.  Loud, mad Viv is released from captivity to harrass quietly dignified Tom.  For The New Criterion, the 60s, and its cult of victimhood, drowns Emersonian self-reliance.

Keith Windshuttle begins his essay:

In Winston Churchill’s famous 1943 speech at Harvard University on the common ties of the English-speaking peoples, he defined the bond in terms of three main things: law, language, and literature.

 There is no mention, finally, anywhere in this symposium of five essays, of what this “literature” consists.  You’d think the Anglospherists would want to give us some idea, but no. 

The New Criterion prides itself in placing art above mere “politics,” and they are always quick to point out when overt political messages (usually the ubiquitous leftist ones) spoil pure art.  (This is why The New Criterion adores modernist abstract painting—no annoying political messages!)  But here, in defining the Anglosphere, aesthetics is not defined, but government is, and that government values the individual over the state; in other words, the conservative canard of ‘small government’ is the mantra, which is no surprise, coming from the conservative New Criterion.  

According to The New Criterion, the political is not supposed to interfere with art, unless that art is political.  Then it can.  So runs the logic of the neo-cons:  Offensive art may be removed from museums, but not in the name of politics, only in the name of art.    That makes sense, right?

Winston Churchill giving a “famous speech” on the “common-ties of the English-speaking people” at “Harvard University:” It doesn’t get any better for The New Criterion!

Here’s Roger Kimball in his introduction:

“English, Bishop Sprat thought, is conspicuously the friend of empirical truth.  It is also conspicuously the friend of liberty.”

This is the way all the essays read.  It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. 

Madhav Das Nalapat, writing one of the five essays for “The Anglosphere & the future of liberty” symposium, reminds us that Winston Churchill was not exactly pro-India (Nalapat leaves out Churchill’s overt racism and Stalin-like starvation policy towards his Indian nation, however) but he makes up for this lapse in Churchill-worship by roundly abusing those evil, non-English speaking, French and Germans.  Way to go, Nalapat!

Even if one were to agree with The New Criterion’s politics and cultural conservativism, one ought to be horrified by this bumbling, ahistorical, symposium.

Everyone ought to be ashamed of this simplistic boot-licking.

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7 Comments

  1. Aaron Asphar said,

    January 18, 2011 at 3:19 am

    This is nothing but empty opinionation. You don’t even begin to feel the corners of the great problem of what it is precisey that shapes the quaity of culture through history. Art is an emotional/somatic/intellectual (i.e. ‘spiritua’, ‘human’ accomodation to….what? Social history as it stands, as it is experienced. To say anything hermeneutically substantial, you need to indicate a feeling of the emotional/existential context for the development of postmodernism, along with the social and historical circumstances. Squabbling around in the narrow confines of 19/20th C lit history is not going to illuminate anything. Do you think you can explain or understand anything of art/culture without thinking seriously about it’s links with actual, living social history? You are very sick my friend.

  2. Aaron Asphar said,

    January 18, 2011 at 3:21 am

    This is consumption, not analysis.

  3. Thomas Brady said,

    January 18, 2011 at 5:47 am

    This is not America.

    I am in a similar situation as youself, but online, reading all these earnest people with serious commitments to English language objects, who, like the liberal arts definition you entertainingly invoke, culturally rapport in a consensus, concord in the cooperation, consistency, love, forgiveness & reconciliation, illuminable harmony, empathy, friendship, good will, kinship, sympathy, peace tranquility, unanimity, understanding and unity bring; if a meeting of minds continue in Congress and Senate, as we promised at the ballot box, jubilantly reading on blog-talk radio, Tuché & Automaton.

    STILL LIFE: THE TABLE

    Chaos
    All muddled up
    A glass of tea
    Some cups
    Some pots
    And get a fresh look
    at what’s lying there —
    This is the shadow
    of the shadow of
    a candlestick!
    A piece of paper
    & a can in blue
    green
    brown
    black
    white &
    copper
    An ash tray with
    a pipe stem
    & a very heavy book
    in blue & yellow
    with something that looks brown
    inside a black can

    And the candle there!
    The light! The light!</em?

    And a mist around them
    & their glow
    Some spoons
    Something that's gleaming
    on the gold rim of the
    cups
    And there’s another piece of paper
    “Courant”

    on which lies: a red match
    a couple of blue pamphlets
    a little piece of string atop
    a small red box
    And then the cloth!
    Half a chair
    there in the mist
    a little further back
    And how the yellow cloth becomes
    greengray
    & that much softer
    And then here
         and here
    here on the paper’s
    garish white
    are two black nails
    one that looks real & one a silhouette
    my hand
    my hand

    a hill with murky caves
    in which a rafter lies
    between two clumps of clay
    wedged tight.

    Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931)

    Dutch to English translation by Jerome Rothenberg.

  4. Thomas Brady said,

    January 18, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Argh, forgive me. The above Rothenberg poem-translation, was rendered effed in its presentation by me above, and below it appears (hopefully) in the only correct way, I think, this poem can be rendered, in English.

    I first read it seven years ago. The first of two that leaped out and registered as the most thorougly modern poetry in the doorstopper hundreds of poems in the poems of the millenum volume one anthol.

    The other was Mayakovsky

    Listen!
    if stars are lit
    it means – there is someone who needs it.
    It means – someone wants them to be,
    that someone deems those specks of spit
    magnificent.

    And overwrought,
    in the swirls of afternoon dust,
    he bursts in on God,
    afraid he might be already late.
    In tears,
    he kisses God’s sinewy hand
    and begs him to guarantee
    that there will definitely be a star.
    He swears
    he won’t be able to stand
    that starless ordeal.

    Later,
    He wanders around, worried,
    but outwardly calm.

    And to everyone else, he says:
    ‘Now,
    it’s all right.
    You are no longer afraid,
    are you?’

    Listen,
    if stars are lit,
    it means – there is someone who needs it.
    It means it is essential
    that every evening
    at least one star should ascend
    over the crest of the building.

    ~

    Listen! was number two in my top three favourite poems from this seminal anthology; whilst Rothenberg’s translation of Theo van Doesburg, was number one; and I brought it to the first modern Drama class i attended, in the second year of school, as an example of that struck one as a thoroughly modern poem.

    STILL LIFE: THE TABLE

    Chaos
    All muddled up
    A glass of tea
    Some cups
    Some pots
    And get a fresh look
    at what’s lying there –
    This is the shadow
    of the shadow of
    a candlestick!
    A piece of paper
    & a can in blue
    green
    brown
    black
    white &
    copper
    An ash tray with
    a pipe stem
    & a very heavy book
    in blue & yellow
    with something that looks brown
    inside a black can

    And the candle there!
    The light! The light!

    And a mist around them
    & their glow
    Some spoons
    Something that’s gleaming
    on the gold rim of the
    cups
    And there’s another piece of paper
    “Courant”
    on which lies: a red match
    a couple of blue pamphlets
    a little piece of string atop
    a small red box
    And then the cloth!
    Half a chair
    there in the mist
    a little further back
    And how the yellow cloth becomes
    greengray
    & that much softer
    And then here
         and here
    here on the paper’s
    garish white
    are two black nails
    one that looks real & one a silhouette
    my hand
    my hand

    a hill with murky caves
    in which a rafter lies
    between two clumps of clay
    wedged tight.

    Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931)

    translation by Jeorome Rothenberg

    There’s something about this poem that is very precise. Though it is freeverse, there’s a majesty to it, great craft in an altogther ‘modern’ quality object, that’s an original modo, of the moment, modern breaker of and adherent to, the formal (and most importantly) poetic mode wholly ‘new’ yet reminiscent of some ancient craft; simultaneously, before the New of now and not a faux dim template, an audacious originality that can only work once, its uniqueness yet to be co-opted into the schema and projects of a New American psy-op century of mass hypno-conscious, off-the-books-millions of millions, thousands of billions, trillion dollar grifts by a military industrial complex Eisenhower & JFK warned about, until this ‘very real danger’, nefarious entity, ‘disappeared’ from our tv screens altogether, no news on it, 8/11 remember Dick saying the Pentagon had ‘lost’ a quarter of a trillion – was it – dollars, into a black-op whole budget for the military industrial complex JFK would’ve tamed as a politician whose entire aim as president, after the Bay of Pigs, was to be rememdered as a peacemaker, recive the eternal blessing of God and premanent thanks of humanity, us billions, before a sharp exit and LBJ took the oath, got his prize, acted out the role he slugged it out for in the primaries, the boy-king dead, a problem solved, inside guys’ guy second-in-command – rival candidate – who had his own ideas about the federal reserve, fitted into plans, Vietnam, an urge to go in, logical reasons, for ego and hubris the military industrial complex taking over, gearing into what now is, WTO, Seattle 99, hidden heads of the invisible state, corporate machine, notify me of follow-up comments, send me updates, state your theme, America is…. an off the road machine

    America is a blue-blooded tru course swing
    Bet, blind stab at democracy by gunpoint
    Spread across the planet, a dollar a day
    America’s way, making cash, wanted guys…

    Although I could never remember Still Life, until writing to Jerry and asking him, in a plumb dumb communication, for ideas on what it was, this nothingness one held in his head, not even a name, just

    …a list poem listing what is on a table and the word ‘hands” in there.

    Since leaving college I have racked my brain trying to remember this poem, and cannot, and the odd time I remember to ask in a bookshop, they invariably do not stock your book. Having no access to an academic library and seeing your blog on the sidebar at the poetry foundations Harriet blog, I thought I’d write and ask on the offchance I might eventually re-aquaint myself with this poem.

    No probs if there’s no reply.

    Sincerely

    this hand
    this hand

    The whole memory of it, after five years of wanting so much to know again this poem, flooding into light and love at summer’s end last year,

    For the moment I can’t figure out the list poem but I’ll browse the book when I get a chance and maybe it will appear to me.

    Thanks for the note anyway,
    and warm best wishes,

    Dear Jerome.

    Thanks very much. The rythm of it is there alright in my head, and tho the words may be wrong, summat like

    two white cans
    my hands
    my hands
    two white cans and a black and white cat

    These words apart from the hands are all wrong, and maybe a can in there, a piece of string I think is deffo in there, but the rhythm of it is similar, bcuz I remember laughing out loud when I read it. I was reading it bcuz it was the first drama class of the second year’s second semester, the modernism module, and we’d been told by the tutor to bring in a piece of art, painting, poem, anything – that held some essence of what we thought Modernism was.

    For the poetry module on in the writing side of the course (BA Writing studies & Drama), taught by Robert Sheppard, yr two anthologies were the core books, and I flicked through volume one the night before the drama class and this poem was the first one that leapt off the page (Mayakovsky’s Listen! was the second).

    Hope the above doesn’t hinder.

    Thanks very much for taking the time to help out a bardic bluffer waffling in Dublin.

    Sincerely

    The attached “still life” by Theo van Doesburg is obviously the poem you’re looking for. Funny but I had forgotten all about it — although it’s my translation — until you called it up. So … many thanks for that, and whatever else I can do, just let me know.

    Cheers & best,

    America is…

    Me! Tom fucking Brady.

  5. thomasbrady said,

    January 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    ^^^
    not me. but anyway, Des.

    What is it about miserable England which appeals to both the Left and the Right in America?

    The right-wing New Criterion grovels before the Queen, and so does the Hollywood Left.

    How do you wankers do it?

    I guess I’ll have to go see ‘The King’s Speech’ now. Most Oscar Nominations…. Ugh…

  6. Noochinator said,

    January 26, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    The U.S. prez always has been a de facto king—
    Might as well have kept the Brit system thing.
    That system we once had forced upon us
    In its naming of names seemed to be more honest.
    For this clarity, TNC nostalgically waxes,
    And for it they’d willingly pay more taxes.

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm

      A king to rule forever!
      Hilton Kramer, wearing fur and leather…
      At least people vote every few years.
      Any more anglophilia, I’ll be in tears…


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