What is the value of great literature in an age of intrusive technology, endless distraction, and the impossible perpetual pursuit of fleeting pleasure? This notwithstanding the concerted and intense action of the professoriate and professional literary class, critics and their pupils, who cull and destroy the greatness of the arts in the name of multicultural diversity, cultural Marxism, and the exposing of the great writers as nothing more than white male racists, misogynists, and petty bourgeois narcissists. The wrecking balls against literature have aligned, swung, and destroyed the once great Cathedral of Literature.
The task of the literary humanist isn’t to save literature from destruction but to reconstitute its foundation and lay the cornerstone for a new cathedral to direct our eyes to heavenly things. Literature has already been destroyed. Those who do not accept this fact fight an impossible battle.
If you want to have their fondness and love of the humanities, literature especially, destroyed, then you should study literature at whatever anti-humanist literature department in whatever university you attend or plan to attend. True, there are a few stalwart holdouts, but those are few and far between. The majority of literature and English departments are beyond saving because they have led the rush to destroy. If, however, you wish to preserve your fondness and love of literature, then you should study something else which won’t destroy affection for literature and turn you into a petty deconstructive activist and political ideologue masquerading as a literary critic and writer.
Writing has been the great endeavor of the human spirit, guided by the Spirit, in wrestling with the human condition and containing the yearnings of our souls. Even sacred scripture, when read from a purely human perspective, reveals this reality. There is nothing more moving than an old-fashioned King James or Douay Rheims translation of the Psalms, wherein our heart agonizes with the cries of David, Asaph, and Israel. It isn’t coincidental that the Psalms are also musical, lyrical, for music is the other great lifeforce of the human spirit in its struggle and search for meaning and redemption. In the midst of turmoil and torment, Achilles found comfort in the lyre beside Patroclus.
The power of literature, which politics and the enslaving mentality of the Enlightenment cannot extinguish, is the enchantment that comes from literature. In our deracinated and impoverished modernity—even in those once sacred halls and stained-glass churches—great books and poetry remain the once place for a mystical encounter with enchantment which brings so much joy to the soul. If all things return to their origins, it isn’t surprising that the last redoubt of enchanted humanism is in our literary tradition—for the whole tradition of the human struggle for meaning and redemption in the bleak cosmos begins in literature. Homer, that great humanist who broke the enslaving awe to the gods and sung of mortal men; Dante, the great poet pilgrim who guided our souls to the good things the heavens hold; even Mozart, whose music moves us with vigor and passion and promotes the virtue of forgiveness; still have the power to make us feel human in our inhuman world.
Even in despair, tragedy, as Augustine noted, the unfallen joy of our blessed and sacred memory moves us up on high to the stars. Today, authentic humanism seems only attached to Romanticism. And may the vitality of Romanticism awaken us from our dark mechanistic slumber.