Stephen L. Tanner

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Reason and the Ethical Imagination

[This review first appeared in the December 1987 issue of Chronicles.]

“A perfect democracy is… therefore the most shameless thing in the world.”
—Edmund Burke

More than 50 years after his death, Irving Babbitt continues to evoke a sympathetic

Light Literature
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Light Literature

One of the casualties of the current culture wars is the Western. No other genre, it seems, is so politically incorrect. The Western is accused of racism, sexism, and imperialism—three strikes and you’re out. These charges receive sophisticated expression in

The Placed Person
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The Placed Person

For about 30 years Wendell Berry has been writing fiction, poetry, and essays motivated by what he identifies as “a desire to make myself responsibly at home in this world and in my native and chosen place.” I think the

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Religion and Critical Theory

In his 1935 essay “Religion and Literature,” T.S. Eliot argued that modern literature had become progressively secularized. In response he proposed that “literary criticism should be complemented by criticism from a definite ethical and theological standpoint.” Eliot introduced his arguments

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Our Postmodern Age

Eliseo Vivas once said, “I would not for a minute pretend solidarity with men who do not realize that one of the essential marks of decency today is to be ashamed of being a man of the twentieth century.”

Reason and the Ethical Imagination
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Reason and the Ethical Imagination

“A perfect democracy is . . . the most shameless thing in the world.”
—Edmund Burke

More than 50 years after his death, Irving Babbitt continues to evoke a sympathetic response horn minds and temperaments attuned to the ethical world

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Sums of Disenchantment

Zulfikar Chose was born in Pakistan, grew up in British India, emigrated to England in 1952, and since 1969 has taught in the English department of the University of Texas. He is married to a Brazilian and has enough

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Boomtown Philosophers

Why is it that America has noticed the “Boom” in Latin American fiction but has ignored Latin American philosophy? One obvious reason lies in the unavailability of translated texts. While novelists have energetically and strategically combined efforts to publish translations

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Babbitt in the Eighties

Six of this book’s 10 essays were presented at a conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of Irving Babbitt’s death. Held in Washington, DC, at The Catholic University of America in November 1983, the conference brought together scholars of various disciplines

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The Great Spirit of Form

Malcolm Bradbury describes Peter Handke as “unmistakably one of the best writers we have in that selfdiscovering tendency in contemporary writing we have chosen to call postmodernism.” And, true enough, Handke is eminently skillful at what he sets out to

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Postrevolution Blues

The situation is familiar to any student of socialist revolutions: The revolution is over, and the political apparatus has become authoritarian and alienated from its popular base. The lives of real people become less important than the economic programs and

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Decent Folk From Georgia

“Livin’ is like pourin’ water out of a tumbler into a dang Coca-Cola bottle. If’n you skeered you cain’t do it, you cain’t. If’n you say to yoreself, ‘By dang, I can do it!’ then, by dang, you won’t slosh

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The Maze of Metaphor

Jacques Derrida has in recent years made himself one of the most influential figures in literary criticism on American college campuses. The movement he has inspired, alternately known as “deconstruction” or “poststructuralism,” asserts that all language is metaphorical and that

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Forget This Alamo

This is the kind of novel that inspires slick reviewers and writers of publisher’s blurbs to new outrages in inflated but tacky description: “lusty,” “brawling,” “pulsing with ambition,” “passion and greed,” “an epic saga.”

The story begins in Mexico in

Tales of Apocalypse
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Tales of Apocalypse

“Therefore nowe is it tyme to me 
To make endyng of mannes folie.”

The Last Judgement, York Cycle Plays 

Nothing seems very certain nowadays for writers of fiction. Traditional religious and moral values have been under attack for

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Revolution and Its Discontents

Winner of France’s Renaudot Prize, this autobiographical Bildungsroman is a first-person narrative of a young man from a Belgian village who begins as a seminarian and ends as a disillusioned anarchist. Under the direction of his widowed mother and the

Babbitt and More in the Eighties
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Babbitt and More in the Eighties

“Every artist is a moralist, though he need not preach.”
—George Santayana

Accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature on December 12, 1930, Sinclair Lewis used the occasion to attack academic traditionalists, who, he said, “like their literature clear and cold

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So Long, St. George

This collection, announces Franz Rottensteiner in his introduction, gives us none of the traditional “high” fantasy of heroic quests in imaginary lands, filled with magic and sorcery and pitting good against evil. Such fantasy, Rottensteiner argues, can provide little insight

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Prime-Time Whitman?

The title alludes to Whitman’s Democratic Vistas, and David Marc, a professor of American Civilization at Brown University, begins, ends, and sprinkles the middle of this study with quotations from Whitman. The preface announces “a Whitmanian faith in the

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Life by Teaspoonsful

Peter Handke: The Weight of the World; Translated by Ralph Man heim; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; New York.

This combination of writer’s notebook and personal diary by the German novelist, playwright, poet, film writer and director Peter Handke is

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In Focus

The Light From the East by Lee Congdon

 

Martin Jay: Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept From Lukacs to Habermas; University of California Press; Berkeley, CA.

 

Like the exponents of Critical Theory, the subjects of his first

Webs of Culture
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Webs of Culture

Clifford Geertz: Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology; Basic Books; New York

Paul Elmer More once noted the presence of demons in human society: “The Malec of violence, the Beelzebub of treachery, the Belial of lying flatteries, the

Reality by the Tail
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Reality by the Tail

Luisa Valenzuela: The Lizard’s Tail; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; New York.

 

The Lizard’s Tail reflects two important tendencies in Latin American fiction. One is a sense of obligation to make social and political commentary. Few Latin American writers escape

Correspondence
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Correspondence

Letter from Brazil: The Consuming Crisis

Returning to Brazil for five months as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer after an absence of seven years, I expected to see considerable change. Things happen rapidly in such a developing nation. And indeed Brazil

Avoiding Questions
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Avoiding Questions

ThAmericaNoveand the Way We Live Now is a gem, one of those con­cise little books that coruscate with gleaming wisdom and flashes of insight. As the title suggests, it is a study of cer­tain