Monday, October 29, 2012

Barzun's The House of Intellect

This is a quote from R. R. Reno's column appearing today on First Things' website. It's a reflection on Jacques Barzun's book written 50 years ago called The House of Intellect and the entire column, not to mention the book, is well worth reading.

Barzun was right to view the future with foreboding. Our Bohemian Era is and will be crude and thoughtless. All you need to do is go to P.S. 1, the contemporary gallery run by the Museum of Modern Art in Long Island City. It is full of flat, ideological gestures and great gushers of the id. But Barzun was also naive. The Bourgeois Era ended because so many came to feel it as a lifeless, artificial posture. “Fineness” and “virtuosity”? They seem awfully thin and precious. And what, exactly, do they serve? Without the commanding voice of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Western culture lost is ability to claim our loyalty. A soul-shaping demand shorn of divine sanction can easily come to be seen as an inhumane invasion.

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