Author: James Walker

Conservatives Aren’t the Only Voices Silenced by Academia’s Intellectual Orthodoxy

Over the last three or four decades, the humanities have witnessed a shift so massive that it is barely noticed anymore. What was once an upstart movement has achieved the status of a truly successful usurper—normality. The leather arm patched ancien régime has been exiled to the land of past things. Horn-rimmed glasses, tattoos, and dyed hair no longer occupy the periphery, but the center. It is a revolution so thorough that it has completely painted over the canvas of our mental imagery. If you consider the stereotypical picture of a literature professor at a major university today, a myriad of images might come to mind—so many, in fact, that it might be impossible to conjure a single, coherent figure. However, what almost certainly won’t come to mind is a Byron-quoting septuagenarian in tweed. This revolution has been political. Entire disciplines—Literature, Anthropology, Sociology, and the various interdisciplinary programs that end in the word “Studies” – have all become more strongly associated with a particular species of left-wing interpretation that now influences the broader discourse in …

The Virtues of Inwardness: Reclaiming the Life of the Mind in a Politicized World

Prior to his seminal work on consciousness which would make him one of the eminent philosophers of the late 20th century, John R. Searle had served as an activist, first as a student, then later as a young professor, during the period of social upheaval to which our current era is often compared — the 1960s. Three decades later, Searle, who had the venerable distinction of participating in student efforts against the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy and would later take part in the nascent Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, would make a statement that might ring bizarre to our ears in the year 2016. When asked about his role in the Free Speech Movement, Searle informed his interviewer that, “Given a choice between intellectual life and political life, I’d take intellectual life any time. It’s more fun. In the long run it’s more satisfying.” To many, Searle’s answer no doubt appears to assert a false dichotomy — isn’t the role of the intellectual, particularly the so-called “public intellectual,” to insert herself into the political discourse, applying her …

Authenticity and Experience: The Problem of Identity Politics in Literature

In a seemingly shrinking poetry community, increasingly quarantined to the academe, a small maelstrom, barely visible upon the cultural radar, appeared, dissipated and vanished. Our culture, dominated by the 140 character limit, is particularly apt at creating tempests in teacups, each evoking an explosion of drama that exhausts itself in a mere matter of days (or in some cases a matter of hours). This particular incident might never have developed the cultural momentum to even garner the attention of even a few hundred people had it not involved a world renowned writer and the cultural bête noire of our time. After submitting his poem “The Bees, The Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve” forty times and each time receiving rejection, Michael Derrick Hudson, a 51 year old white poet, submitted his work under a new name: Yi-Fen Chou. Under Hudson’s new pen name, the poem was published by The Prairie Schooner and then later selected by the esteemed Native American writer Sherman Alexie for inclusion in the 2015 edition of the anthology Best …

Harold Bloom and Aesthetics in an Age of Piety

Decades ago the literary critic Harold Bloom predicted that a new cultural and historical epoch would emerge in the West, perhaps in the world, determining, to some extent at least, the course of literature in the 21st century. Bloom believed that a new “Theocratic Age” was on the horizon — a moment in which aesthetic values and artistic forms would again be governed by a religious Weltanshauung. Bloom’s prediction must be understood in the context of the global political climate of the post-Cold War age, in which the resurrection not only of religious belief, but of faith-driven life-worlds, godly ways of conceiving morality and politics, were ascendant in North America and the Islamic world. Bloom seems to have believed that Evangelicals, whom he wrote about frequently in his books and essays on American Christianity, would be the dominant force in the West’s most powerful nation (a prediction that from our vantage point of 2016, we can see turned out to be false.) However, his prognosis was correct in a manner in which he may not have …