Frequencies of Thought

Stephen Meredith argues a thesis that seems to me correct, important, and widely overlooked—the triple crown in the Interesting Assertions sweepstakes. It is that the scientific attitude must respect the nonscientific grounds of its actions, or else it shall slide into a dehumanizing instrument . . . . Continue Reading »

Who Were the Inklings?

The name they chose for their group was, J. R. R. Tolkien self-effacingly recalls, “a pleasantly ingenious pun . . . suggesting people with vague or half-formed intimations and ideas plus those who dabble in ink.” The description conjures a picture of “donnish dreaminess,” a rag-tag band of tweed-clad writers who met for a pint from time to time. Continue Reading »

Dismantling the Cross

Generally speaking, there are two principal vocations in the life of the Catholic Church: marriage on the one hand, and celibate priesthood and religious life on the other. Both are expressions of conjugal love. In the normal calling of marriage, an individual binds himself for life to another human . . . . Continue Reading »

Books of 2014

The books of 2014, like the books of any year, utterly exceed our grasp. In one aspect, they suggest (they mimic, we could say) the divinely gratuitous excess of Creation; seen from another angle, their multiplicity reflects our fallenness, our propensity to error, our confusion. We need to hold . . . . Continue Reading »

Honor Thy Child

Lila: A Novel by marilynne robinson farrar, straus and giroux, 272 pages, $26 Of Pieter Bruegel’s sixteenth-century de­­pic­­tion of Icarus crashing into the sea, W. H. Auden observes “how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster.” Bruegel’s painting shows a tragedy . . . . Continue Reading »

Get Ready for a “Quantitative Approach” to Reading

At Stanford, literary scholar and marxist critic Franco Moretti proposes a radical plan for English departments: less reading, more computing. With an ocean of texts yet to be studied, literary-historians must, Moretti argues, adopt the methods of quantitative history, geography, and evolutionary theory. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History (2005) frames the problem in layman’s terms: The whole canon of the nineteenth century British novel—about two hundred titles, Moretti estimates— Continue Reading »

A Witness, in Life and Letters

Born in Britain in 1923, and educated at Eton and Oxford, Philip Trower is a Catholic writer of notable achievement. This alone merits attention—as there is much talk about the relative dearth of Catholic authors today—but Trower’s life and work offer something more, as they speak to questions that are being asked within the Church today. Continue Reading »