32/CHRONICLESnof the 50’s and 60’s — Donne, Marveil,nAusten, Fielding — all wellnworked over, the comment well withinnthe expected, aimed straight at annacademic audience. Only a very thinskinnednacademic will object to thencarefully oblique censure of the revoltingnBrecht. Like Enright, mostnacademics will share Wayne Booth’snsurprise that a student’s paper on deerhuntingncould be sincere, and sympathizenwith Dan Jacobson’s shock onnrealizing that a line-’em-up-and-shoot-n’em Englishman’s talk was not a puton.nYet, can such surprises be genuine?nWhatever one thinks of bloodsportersnand gunboat diplomats, surely it is oddnthat the ironic attitude of raised eyebrownand gathered skirt (imputed irony,none might call it), once the protectionnof gentility against foul-smellingnmobs, should survive in academicncommon rooms.nHence a well-intentioned essaynproves to be a Hamlet without thenprince. Irony is not academic at all. InnAnglo-American tradition, whose literaturenis overwhelmingly Christian, thenfacts underlying the greater ironiesnderive from revelation — from suchnthings as the news that wisdom is folly,nthat the first shall be last, and that henwho gains the world will lose his soul.nIn that tradition there is nothing frivolousnor evasive in saying that things arennot what they seem. This gives thenironies of the masters their power,nwhether comic or tragic: Chaucer,nMore, Erasmus, Shakespeare, andnSwift among the classics, Chesterton,nWaugh, Powell, Spark, and Amisnamong the moderns. None of them,nexcept Shakespeare and Swift, figuresnin this book.n”There is apparently less irony to benextracted from Shakespeare,” saysnEnright, “than one might expect of ournnational poet.” If you think of Shakespearenas a national poet, and look fornverbal ironies, that may be true. Approachnhim as a Christian poet, and thencase is much altered. As Kenneth Muirnsaid years ago, the center of King Lear,nthe storm-scene of Act 3, turns on anverse from the Magnificat: He hathnput down the mighty from their seats,nand exalted the humble and meek.nEnright’s comment on Lear is trivialncompared to this. His treatment ofnSwift, though, focuses the point.nFor a long time. Swift’s A ModestnProposal (which, as Chronicles readersnwill remember, was that the state ofnIreland was so bad, its only recoursenwas to sell the children for food) hasnbeen used as a crash-course in irony fornunsuspecting freshmen and, more recently,nhigh-school students: an ineptnsolution, whether you consider thenfuture of literature or of the students.nSome students always take Swiftnstraight, and suffer bewilderment,nwhile some of their teachers makenmerry over the fact, and others expressnconcern. Yet, it might be that thesenstudents are victims of an unpleasantnpractical joke, of a kind that wouldncertainly disgust Jonathan Swift. Well:nit seems that a school board somewherenin New York state banned the pamphletnon grounds of bad taste, somethingnthat Enright finds “beyond thenbounds of credibility.” And up gonthose eyebrows again.nSwift would agree that A ModestnProposal is in bad taste, but then so wasnthe state of Ireland. As an orthodoxnChurch of Ireland priest. Swift mustnhave assumed that his readers wouldnrecognize the scriptural ground bass ofnhis irony. Any mention of murderingnchildren should make a Christian thinknfirst of the Slaughter of the Innocents,nalways explained to him as absolutenevil, and aimed at the life of his ownnSavior, who came as a little child; thennof the Savior’s words:nWhoso shall offend one of thesenlittle ones whichnbelieve in me, it were better fornhim that a millstonenwere hanged about his neck,nand that he were drownednin the depths of the sea.nNo Christian reader can mistake Swift’snpurpose. Non-Christian readers in secularnschools, on the other hand, mightnmiss the point entirely, might evennthink there’s something to be said fornthe idea; the best they’ll be able to do isndiscuss something called “the irony” inna mirthless, self-satisfied way. Anyonenmight call that bad taste. Worse stillnfrom the standpoint of a school board,nreaders with Christian inklings mightnconnect Swift’s variation on the Slaughternof the Innocents with their ownnAmerica as well as with 18th-centurynIreland. In schools where abortion is notnunheard-of. Swift’s bitter indignationnmight sear some consciences. And thatnnnwould be in even worse taste.nNeither I nor D.J. Enright knowsnwhat lay behind the school board’sndecision to keep Swift out of theirnclassrooms. It would be equally interestingnto know why Enright would includenhim. No sensible person wants to seenSwift banned; no sensible person wantsnto see him intruded upon youngstersnnot ready for him, either, or made thensubject of academic trivialities. And howncurious that Enright should be so scornfulnof these New Yorkers when he hasnleft so many of the greatest ironists outnof his own collection! This is a morenserious lacuna in a book on irony thannthe omission of Swift—for whatevernreason — from an 18-year-old’s readingnlist. Where is Chaucer’s trendy monknwho wanted to know how the worldnshould be served, Erasmus’ Folly whonsaid that Christianity could be very hardnon the clergy? One suspects that theynand their modern descendants, alsonmissing, belong to another world andnanother book.nAgainst a ClockworknGodnby Douglas GroothuisnThe Pagan Temptation by ThomasnMolnar, Grand Rapids, MI:nEerdmans.nWestern civilization dare not rest onnits laurels, warns Professor Molnar,nbecause its laurels are laced withnphOosophical and religious errors thatnthreaten to topple it. The “paganntempation” — the ancient pantheism,nmonism, and mysticism largely displacednby the Christianization of the West—nnow threatens to “repaganize” thenWestern world. And, ironically, ifnChristianity cannot alter its own “desacralizing”ndynamics it will unintentionallynassist this repaganizationnby default.nMolnar’s thesis is that “the pagannworld view persists behind the Christiannworld view and that favorablencircumstances . . . allow it to manifestnitself with renewed vigor.” Although hendoesn’t cite him, Molnar agrees withnC.S. Lewis that “pantheism is . . . thenpermanent natural bent of the humannmind. … It is the attitude into whichn