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People Don't Write That Way Anymore [Freeper-run magazine article]
The Tarpeian Rock ^ | February 2005 | Claudio R. Salvucci

Posted on 02/07/2005 12:27:33 PM PST by Antoninus

    Tastes and interests change in literature. Different themes, different styles, indeed whole different genres come in and out of being depending on the spirit of the age.

    Nevertheless, there is something to be said for a “classical” style—not in a restricted sense as the style of Greco-Roman antiquity, nor any later genre which took inspiration from it—but rather a super-cultural literary style that rises up above its own genre and belongs as much to the ages as its own time period.

    This is the old concept of the “Republic of Letters”—a community not of time and space but of ideas, stories and words. A community where a Roman Vergil can pick up the story of a Greek Homer 800 years later. Where an Italian poet can construct an epic around a tome of Christian theological questions and answers, which in turn was a response to the musings of a pagan philosopher. We have heard these works collectively called the Western Literary Canon—but the Republic of Letters is more than just a collection of books, it is a society of people who read, appreciated and added to those works great works of their own.

    The citizens of this Republic form a school of literature unlike any other. And like any great school, it is not merely a haphazard collection of teachers, but a carefully selected faculty all tied together by a common philosophy of moral virtue.

Every author who enrolled in that school imitated and modeled his work on the giants that went before him. Literary imitation has become a dirty word to those modernists who insist on being “creative” and “finding their own voice.” Creativity, however, is made fruitful by discipline, and there is no denying that a man well trained in the rather unforgiving laws of physics, can build a more impressive monument than the man who piles bricks to the best of his “natural” ability.

    Modernists like to point to a straight line of Western cultural development that goes through all the greats but ends, quite inexplicably, with themselves. In their own self-serving histories of Western art, modernism is the pinnacle, the culmination, the completion of all the advances that went before. Art has indeed turned down a path of modernized secularism and moral indifference these last hundred years. But a convincing case could be made that it is a path not of development, but rather of diversion—that in the very act of deliberately rejecting the Western Canon (and its morality), they have written themselves out of it.


Dante in Limbo
Dante, Vergil, and the classical poets by Doré.
    After all, the soul of man is no different now than it was in Homer’s time, nor Vergil’s, nor Dante’s. Morals are eternal—and moral art is the truest art in the sense of being true to the whole beauty and order of human nature. Any art that rejects such morality can certainly enjoy a prestigious perch in its own age, but it cannot last. Immodest and downright vulgar art has been unearthed in archaeological sites throughout the world, some even in privies (a happily serendipitous confirmation of where such works truly belong).

    However, note well that they have not, like Holy Writ, like Aristotle, like Vergil, been scrupulously copied and recopied and rerecopied by hand and then published and reprinted and rereprinted through countless generations to the present day. And why not? Because indecency, however titillating, was simply not worth that effort. Morality, truth and beauty were.

    A “chronological snobbery”—as C. S. Lewis called it—has deluded many into thinking that the classical, moralistic style of the Republic of Letters is an outmoded concept. It is no longer in fashion to emulate Aristotle, Livy or Aquinas, nor even Bede, Shakespeare or Hawthorne. People just “don’t write that way anymore.”

    Yet remember, writers, that the door to the classics is a door in eternity not bound by time or space. Those who wish to join the great Republic of Letters have no need for contemporary accolades. They need only accept the responsibility of writing not only for their own age, but also for their fellow pilgrims on Earth many ages removed. They need only be guided by a desire to reflect, in some dim way, that moral and physical beauty which their Heavenly Father has invested His creation.

    It is not an entirely useless exercise to criticize modernist literature, but let us not dwell excessively upon its many faults. Time will pass a sentence of its own. Let the dead bury the dead, and let us spend our days more fruitfully by reforging our own link in the literary chain of the ages.

    People may not write that way anymore, but by the grace of Almighty God, they will indeed write that way again.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: aquinas; aristotle; classicism; creativity; dante; hawthorne; homer; lewis; literature; livy; modernism; shakespeare; vergil
Presented for your consideration is the lead article from the 2005 issue of a Freeper-run literary magazine, The Tarpeian Rock. Enjoy!



It's free, so you may request a gratis copy here.
1 posted on 02/07/2005 12:27:34 PM PST by Antoninus
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To: Claud

ping


2 posted on 02/07/2005 12:28:07 PM PST by Antoninus (In hoc sign, vinces )
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To: Antoninus; RightWingAtheist


3 posted on 02/07/2005 12:32:01 PM PST by farmfriend ( Congratulations. You are everything we've come to expect from years of government training.)
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To: Antoninus
and that is all I am going to say. :-)
4 posted on 02/07/2005 1:05:54 PM PST by elli1
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To: elli1

Well, that's either a rag on the author's writing style, or a potential solution to the problem. Or both. You'll have to clarify. :-)


5 posted on 02/07/2005 2:02:55 PM PST by Antoninus (In hoc sign, vinces )
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To: Antoninus

Nice essay, and an interesting website (Arx), too. Thanks for posting.


6 posted on 02/07/2005 2:08:12 PM PST by livius
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To: narses; maximillian; ultima ratio; Coleus

Thought you might find this interesting.


7 posted on 02/07/2005 2:51:32 PM PST by Antoninus (In hoc sign, vinces )
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To: Antoninus

Thanks...and if anyone out there DOES write like that anymore, Freepmail me posthaste :)


8 posted on 02/08/2005 9:45:36 AM PST by Claud
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To: nickcarraway; Tax-chick; Physicist; Xenalyte; x; sionnsar; GVgirl; NicknamedBob; cyborg; ...

literary ping.


9 posted on 02/08/2005 12:26:02 PM PST by Antoninus (In hoc sign, vinces )
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To: Antoninus

bttt


10 posted on 02/08/2005 12:29:34 PM PST by cyborg (Department of Homelife Security threat level is GREEN.)
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To: cyborg
Ping for later.

Oh, and hi, cy!

11 posted on 02/08/2005 12:40:32 PM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: cyborg
Ping for later.

Oh, and hi, cy!

12 posted on 02/08/2005 12:40:45 PM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: Oberon

Hellooo :-)


13 posted on 02/08/2005 12:42:00 PM PST by cyborg (Department of Homelife Security threat level is GREEN.)
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To: elli1

Bump for E. B. White. (Wish I paid more attention to "the little book".)


14 posted on 02/08/2005 1:10:47 PM PST by GVnana (If I had a Buckhead moment would I know it?)
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To: Antoninus

I dunno. It's about what works for the author. Hemmingway's style certainly isn't classical in any manner--indeed, it's simple to the point of being juvenile, but it works. He's a titan. Vonnegut also comes to mind.

Hard to say, this "art" stuff.


15 posted on 02/08/2005 1:16:56 PM PST by Publius Valerius
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To: SittinYonder

Pong


16 posted on 02/08/2005 1:18:08 PM PST by eyespysomething (Vous pouvez vous rendre au garde de securite!)
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To: Antoninus

Thanks. Some interesting points. It makes me think of some of the letters and diaries I've read of Civil War soldiers. Their spelling and punctuation, in those unstandardized times, were truly bizarre; however, if you read aloud, their composition is usually very clear and elegantly phrased, because they were used to listening to the Bible, some of the classics, and newspapers written by journalists with a classical education.


17 posted on 02/08/2005 1:58:27 PM PST by Tax-chick (Wielder of the Dread Words of Power, "Bless your heart, honey!")
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To: Tax-chick; Antoninus; cyborg

Truly good writing is not about people -- heroes and villains, victims and victimizers, strong men and weak -- but about the ideas that make them somewhat more than human.

Michael Sharra's "Killer Angels" is not exclusively about the Civil War, but about the influence of belief systems in giving superhuman strength to the weakness of human flesh, and such is the nature of the literature of ideas.

Humanity is an animal made most remarkable by its ability to communicate. It is language ability which elevates us, and it is the ability of language itself to rise above its origins by making it possible to describe ideas and concepts which have no clear analogues in the physical world. This is world which is accessed in this remarkable realm of letters.


18 posted on 02/08/2005 4:04:49 PM PST by NicknamedBob (Too many folks never put anything into the collection plate, yet they still expect change.)
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To: NicknamedBob

>>Michael Sharra's "Killer Angels" is not exclusively about the Civil War,

That's a great book. Might need to dig that out of my bookcase and re-read it.


19 posted on 02/08/2005 4:10:22 PM PST by Betis70 (I'm only Left Wing when I play hockey)
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To: NicknamedBob

Interesting point, Bob. "Killer Angels" was very good. Jeff Shaara's books are not as good.


20 posted on 02/08/2005 4:13:16 PM PST by Tax-chick (Wielder of the Dread Words of Power, "Bless your heart, honey!")
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To: Petronski

ping


21 posted on 02/08/2005 4:16:19 PM PST by cyborg (Department of Homelife Security threat level is GREEN.)
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To: Tax-chick

A lot of poor folk were taught to read using the Bible.


22 posted on 02/08/2005 4:18:29 PM PST by cyborg (Department of Homelife Security threat level is GREEN.)
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To: cyborg

True, and it's got plenty of advanced vocabulary, too!


23 posted on 02/08/2005 5:17:49 PM PST by Tax-chick (Wielder of the Dread Words of Power, "Bless your heart, honey!")
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To: Tax-chick

Oh yes it sure does. 'Dumb downed' bibles really concern me. If a person can read and understand the King James version, then they can read everything else. I realize that debate is about as fun-filled as a civil war discussion :-)


24 posted on 02/08/2005 5:23:48 PM PST by cyborg (Department of Homelife Security threat level is GREEN.)
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To: cyborg

LOL! I'm giving up Civil War argument for Lent :-). But the boys are going to Confederate Boot Camp at a local historic site in July. I can't wait to see my slug Tom marching an hour at time in the heat!


25 posted on 02/08/2005 5:28:15 PM PST by Tax-chick (Wielder of the Dread Words of Power, "Bless your heart, honey!")
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To: Tax-chick

I'm giving up junk food and errr... I was about to say Internet but who am I kidding? :o) Confederate boot camp?!


26 posted on 02/08/2005 5:41:20 PM PST by cyborg (Department of Homelife Security threat level is GREEN.)
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To: cyborg

It's four days of drill, outdoor cooking, and plenty of dirt.

We're going on short rations of Internet ... 2 hours a week each is goal. Can't give up FReeping entirely, because we've got a big event coming up in March.


27 posted on 02/08/2005 5:46:49 PM PST by Tax-chick (Wielder of the Dread Words of Power, "Bless your heart, honey!")
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To: Tax-chick

Do you have any pics of the boot camp? I could not do two hours a week. Two hours a day maybe. What's the event?


28 posted on 02/08/2005 5:48:13 PM PST by cyborg (Department of Homelife Security threat level is GREEN.)
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To: cyborg

This is the first year for the boot camp here. The director said it was very popular at his previous job on a historic plantation in Virginia. I'll make sure I get pictures when they go.

In March, the leftists are demonstrating at Ft. Bragg, against the Iraq war (and everything else they're against.) FReepers have organized a counter-protest. It happened last year, too ... Rolling Thunder was there, some of the DC Chapter, South Carolina people ... but I missed it. Our whole family is going, unless there's a disaster. I can't wait to meet Doctor Raoul!


29 posted on 02/08/2005 5:52:09 PM PST by Tax-chick (Wielder of the Dread Words of Power, "Bless your heart, honey!")
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To: Antoninus

Isn't that like, so yesterday???


30 posted on 02/08/2005 6:30:30 PM PST by Old Professer (When the fear of dying no longer obtains no act is unimaginable.)
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To: Tax-chick

Keep us posted about the March thing.


31 posted on 02/08/2005 6:31:10 PM PST by cyborg (Department of Homelife Security threat level is GREEN.)
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To: Publius Valerius
I dunno. It's about what works for the author. Hemmingway's style certainly isn't classical in any manner--indeed, it's simple to the point of being juvenile, but it works. He's a titan. Vonnegut also comes to mind.

For what it's worth, I despise both Hemmingway and Vonnegut. I found their writing dry, lackluster, and generally unmemorable except for a few purely titillating lines here and there. JMHO, of course. I remember asking myself in high school when forced to read those two, "is this really the best that America has to offer??"
32 posted on 02/08/2005 7:29:00 PM PST by Antoninus (In hoc sign, vinces )
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To: Tax-chick
Thanks. Some interesting points. It makes me think of some of the letters and diaries I've read of Civil War soldiers. Their spelling and punctuation, in those unstandardized times, were truly bizarre; however, if you read aloud, their composition is usually very clear and elegantly phrased, because they were used to listening to the Bible, some of the classics, and newspapers written by journalists with a classical education.

Exactly. I often think of Civil War era prose when I think of great American writing. One of the radio talk show hosts, I can't remember which one (maybe Hugh Hewitt) recently read the entire text of Lincoln's second inaugural address on the air. It was pure poetry from start to finish. I thought to myself, "now, that fellow knew how to get an idea across with style!"

For what it's worth, the ancient Romans didn't bother too much with punctuation either...
33 posted on 02/08/2005 7:41:14 PM PST by Antoninus (In hoc sign, vinces )
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To: Tax-chick; Antoninus
if you read aloud, their composition is usually very clear and elegantly phrased, because they were used to listening to the Bible, some of the classics, and newspapers written by journalists with a classical education

Exactly! I'll also add by way of comparison some of the Indian orations from the 1600s and 1700s (Logan's among them). They read amazingly well even today. The tribes, even though illiterate, had an esteemed tradition of rhetoric. But they had a mini "Republic of Letters" where the youth learned to imitate the council speeches of their elders.

34 posted on 02/09/2005 4:33:05 AM PST by Claud
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To: cyborg

Will. (I'm on my 20 minutes for today :-).


35 posted on 02/09/2005 5:13:27 AM PST by Tax-chick (Wielder of the Dread Words of Power, "Bless your heart, honey!")
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To: Antoninus; Claud

I'm a grammar nut, I confess. However, it's not truly necessary to punctuate for oral communication.

The point about the Indian orations is well-taken, too. Sadly, it seems most people today can't communicate orally or in writing!


36 posted on 02/09/2005 5:15:30 AM PST by Tax-chick (Wielder of the Dread Words of Power, "Bless your heart, honey!")
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To: Tax-chick
The point about the Indian orations is well-taken, too. Sadly, it seems most people today can't communicate orally or in writing!

Ain't dat dee trut.
37 posted on 02/09/2005 11:59:04 AM PST by Antoninus (In hoc sign, vinces )
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To: Antoninus

I think Vonnegut is the best author of the last half of the 20th Century, domestic or foreign. Hemingway I am less fond of, but some of his stuff (The Sun Also Rises comes immediately to mind) is very good.

As for Vonnegut, the structure of his stories were completely different than anything else ever published. His early stuff was less experimental and more straightforward (Player Piano, Cats Cradle) but by the time he got to Slaughterhouse-Five, wow, talk about really, fundamentally, altering the playing field of the American novel! It WAS different. The different makes it great. I think the plot "structure" of Slaughterhouse-Five (and other Vonnegut works) is why every attempt to make them into a movie is an utter failure. It can't be captured linerally, as is necessary for a movie.

I remember one time walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my mother. The Met has several Pollock's on display. My mother couldn't believe that these were considered great art. Now, admittedly, Jackson Pollock's work seems a little more blase, but in 1950, no one had ever done anything like that before. Pollock, in no small part, "created" modern art. I think Vonnegut holds a similar place in literature as does Pollock in the world of art. Hemingway and Vonnegut changed the way novels are written and looked at. They are titans.


38 posted on 02/09/2005 12:01:48 PM PST by Publius Valerius
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To: Antoninus

Bump for a later read.


39 posted on 02/09/2005 12:24:23 PM PST by Buggman (Your failure to be informed does not make me a kook.)
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To: Publius Valerius
I think Vonnegut holds a similar place in literature as does Pollock in the world of art.

That about says it all, frankly. You meant it as a compliment to both, I'm sure. But you might as well have said: "Vonnegut holds a similar place in literature as Marx does in political history." All it means is that he pointed the way down a path that was radically different--and ultimately shallow, foolish, and wrong.

Hemingway and Vonnegut changed the way novels are written and looked at. They are titans.

Just becomes someone does something "different" doesn't automatically make that person "a titan." Give it some time. I'll wager that guys like Vonnegut, Hemingway, and Pollack for that matter, if they are remembered at all 100 years from now, will be considered in much the same way we treat the puerile art and stunted panegyric literature of the late Roman period today.
40 posted on 02/09/2005 3:05:24 PM PST by Antoninus (In hoc sign, vinces )
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