With 2020 come and gone, the best hits of reading (and my own writings), would be:
John Stubbs, Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel. I am a great fan of Jonathan Swift and have written an essay on Gulliver’s Travels (back in 2019!). This biography is a tour de force through the live of Europe’s most notorious satirist. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys Swift’s literature.
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights. A classic romance, a satirical deconstruction of romanticism, or a Gothic romance? Who knows! (Though I have my own leanings.) Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is supposed to be a classic tale of forbidden love. I must disagree. Nevertheless, Wuthering Heights is one of the those books you get bored with as a teenager in primary education but, older and better educated, ought to return to with the new lenses of experience, education, and wisdom.
Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden. Leo Marx’s classic exposition on “Myth and Symbol” criticism explores the romanticism and progressivism of the American experience from our classical inheritance (Virgil and Shakespeare) to quintessential American classics (like Moby-Dick and The Great Gatsby). This book is a scholarly masterpiece that is also very readable and will equip the reader with new insights into the haunting specter of American cultural dynamism and tension; it may also open your eyes to how the “machine” (evil) and the “garden” (nature) is replete in American cinema too!
Vain? Perhaps. Prideful? Absolutely. As a writer and cultural critic, I embrace the art of public discourse and education and naturally have favorites of the year. Among them include:
Why “Gone With the Wind” Will Live Forever, republished elsewhere as “Gone with the Wind” isn’t Going Anywhere. In the midst of cultural upheaval, I offered a well-received defense of Margaret Mitchell’s classic novel (and the most famous film ever made). Bringing Aristotle into conversation with “classic” and “epic,” I argued that “Gone with the Wind will endure because it is a true work of art, one that penetrates the human condition and reassembles it for us in an unforgettable tale that transcends the pettiness of contemporary politics.”
America at the End of History. While I have meandered away from the Ivory Tower and my subject disciplines of study to be more of a classicist, cultural critic, and literary essayist, I still do write on political philosophy. I have a hidden appreciation for Alexandre Kojève and have am taken by the cultural insights of Johann von Herder. In this essay, I pit these two titans in contrast with each to explore our current cultural and political malaise: do we die in the empire of consumeristic comfort or embrace the lebensgeist and the movement of cultural particularity? Does “the End of History” entail the destruction of culture and the consummation of consumeristic individualism?
Sir Roger Scruton: In Memoriam. A tribute written to my former professor, Sir Roger Scruton. Requiescat in pace.
“Star Wars”: Identity, Love, and Redemption. I sometimes write on films from the “Myth and Symbol” school of criticism. (Hence why I really loved Leo Marx’s book.) In this essay, explore the meaning of Star Wars from the Myth and Symbol perspective. “Love gives us the strength to stand up to the dark powers of machines, technology, and militarized science. How does Star Was ‘deal with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology?’ It affirms that most intimate, human, and divine reality: Love will redeem the world and provide us a home in the midst of displacement, dislocation, and galactic strife. The ‘galaxy far, far away’—upon a closer examination—is the galaxy that we inhabit and the struggles in that galaxy are the struggles we are currently fighting.“