9-4 index

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.

 

P R A E S I D I U M

A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

9.4 (Fall 2009)

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The previous issue of Praesidium (Spring 2010) may be viewed by clicking here.

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John R. Harris, Ph.D.

President

Thomas F. Bertonneau, Ph.D.

Secretary

Helen R. Andretta, Ph.D.

York College-CUNY

Director

Michael H. Lythgoe

Lt. Col. USAF (Retd.)

Director

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CONTENTS

The Adventure of Melóra and Orlando     translation (Gaelic)

Translated from Irish Gaelic by John R. Harris

This early-modern Irish romance, though recorded in the late seventeenth century, has roots that run centuries deep.  The delightful figure, common to many romances of the time, of the female clad in armor and holding her own among male knights, is the story’s focus.

Community and Identity in Late Modernity

Mark Wegierski

“Postmodern” existence is characterized by a frenzied proliferation of group-identifications.  Will the individual’s multiple membership in such fraternities, minorities, and cults permit individualism to survive the onslaught of centralized power–or will it, rather, at last serve that onslaught in reducing individualism to shreds?

If A, Then B: Straight Answers in Twisted Times

Peter T. Singleton

As public debate begins to verge upon popular uprising, students of language have an obligation to figure out deeper meaning rather than wave clichés.  This author finds a broader understanding of the progressivist mind to be especially pressing.

Four Sounds, and Then a Fifth (poem)

Alan McGinnis

This is a poem for the fall, and perhaps about The Fall.  To feel time suspended for a few moments in the heart of suburbia as mindless routine simmers away behind neighborhood noises is to perceive The Missing with awe.

Love Story: Version 0.5 (short story)

    Ivor Davies

Communications technology changes in a major way almost every year—and as it does so, the way people express their most intimate feelings must keep pace.

A Few Words from the Editor

     I have often reiterated that The Center for Literate Values is a 501(c)3 organization forbidden by its charter to engage in political advocacy.  This does not mean, however, that contributors to Praesidium may not address issues having political implications.  Indeed, that same august charter implies several political positions.  Consider these simple syllogisms: 1) If The Center aims to promote literary accomplishment and an introspective, analytical habit of life, then it is fundamentally (though not superficially or provisionally) opposed to “e-life”, which must always promote the “quick-’n-easy” when left to run its course.  2) Inasmuch as literary achievement was of a higher caliber in the past—i.e., before our cultural life was undermined by instantly gratifying switch-flipping and mouse-clicking—The Center’s endeavor includes “conserving” classics of the past and the mentality which produced them.  3) Inasmuch as “progress” is increasingly defined in such material, objective terms as length of life and freedom from disease, The Center’s work may be said to obstruct progress by advancing such subjective (though scarcely less healthy) measures of success as inner peace, liberation from selfish obsession, disparagement of material comfort, and love of disinterested beauty.  4) Retaining the definition in 3), we may even say that The Center is anti-progressive inasmuch as it invincibly opposes the notion of transforming human life into a longer, more “efficient”, more machine-like existence at the expense of such virtues as intellectual humility, compassion for the weak, and willful self-sacrifice.

Pursuant to the last assertion, I might dare to float yet another: 5) The Center, based upon two and a half millennia of fertile literate thought, rejects any crude indexing of human life’s success to the postponement of the biological organism’s terminus, but rather endorses the view that the scientific understanding is always and necessarily limited and that, therefore, one may reasonably believe in a durable spiritual reality—that one indeed must do so to ground essential affective truths which otherwise can have no credible origin and can enjoy no respectable authority.

Is this a conservative platform?  Patently so; yet I have fallen into the habit of describing it as “conservatory” to the curious, since the other “c” word carries too much unwanted baggage.  Too many people, that is, believe that a “conservative” wishes to wage preemptive wars all about the planet, gauges economic health through stock prices rather than employment figures, and shares FOX tycoon Rupert Murdock’s view of culture as anything that sells on the mass market.  I have often confided publicly, in other spaces if not this one, than self-styled conservatives have expressed more active hostility to The Center’s work than liberals.  Yet I refuse to surrender any of the “c” word’s forms.  I contend, rather, that upon those who would submit all of our moral, artistic, and social values to “cost effectiveness” falls the onus of proving how they are conservative in any intelligent sense.

Liberals, in contrast, have tended simply to avoid The Center and its message.  Though our prizing of small, stable communities (even within large cities), of objects whose value lies only in their being spiritually uplifting (even for the agnostic), and of virtues which scorn material profit in favor of noble service (not forced, however, by government programs) is likely to resonate with their own convictions, our attraction to metaphysical reality scares liberals away.  In their self-contained, self-contradictory academic cosmoi, they must conform to certain arbitrary and isolated positions rather as cultists must observe the rites of their prophet.  If only liberalism would maturely examine and repudiate the secular millenarian ravings of its progressive dervishes, I believe those of the Right who do not worship in a slightly (only slightly) different denomination of Social Darwinism would cheerfully meet them halfway….  But that, of course, would spoil the Romance of the Rebel which drives the tedious lives of so many young people (and of so many old people arrested in adolescence).

I offer these opening thoughts not in apology for, but in explanation of the atypically political flavor of this issue.  Though I am not at all sure that Messrs. Wegierski and Singleton agree in their precise conclusions, both chide the Left in no small measure for sapping words of meaning and depriving logical equations of their balance.  What is less apparent—but equally true—of both pieces is that they feel disappointment in the current self-declared Right.  That I have no single word to characterize this ni l’un ni l’autre position has caused me much distress in my efforts to hawk The Center over the Internet with “keywords”; but it is my own position, as well.  I have every confidence that our audience fit though few will discern that no facile politicking is under way here, but rather a sincere assessment of the human condition in an age hostile both to honesty and to judgment.

Look closely, and you will notice that even our poet, our short-story writer, and our translated medieval Irish romancier are far from contented with the status quo’s profane practices!      ~J. H.