P.I.G. Literature Ch. 6 The 19th Century: Revolution & Reaction (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, the Shelleys, Keats, Jane Austen vs Feminists, Celebrating Patriarchal Values, Benefits of ‘Sexist’ Conventions, Victorian Literature, Dickens) 10
P.I.G. Literature Ch. 9 How the PC English Professors are Suppressing English Literature by Not Teaching it (Replacing it with “Theory” of Marxism, Feminism, Deconstruction, Bashing White Males; Postmodernist Jargon & Reality Denial as a Critical Stance) 18
P.I.G. Literature Ch. 11 How to get Started once you Realize you’re Going to have to Read the Literature on your Own (Close Reading, Details of Poetry, Literary Analysis, Words Themselves, & Grammar) 24
These are my notes highlighting a few key ideas from the text. It only scratches the surface of the awesome material in this book. Many of the things I’ve written here are paraphrased and not always matched up with who the author is quoting, so see the full text as these notes are merely introducing the principles.
See more of Kantor’s writing at conservativebooknotes.com (the site may be down). She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.A. in philosophy from Catholic University of America and has taught English literature.
Most great literature was in fact written by dead white males.
The greatest English literature is explicitly Christian and celebrates military courage.
Most great writers have been conservatives, if not reactionaries.
Today’s educational establishment is hiding great books and authors from you because they could change your life.
Beowulf teaches: If we don’t admire heroes, there’s something wrong with us.
Chaucer teaches: Chivalry has contributed enormously to women’s happiness.
Shakespeare teaches: Some choices are inherently destructive (it’s just built into the nature of things).
Milton teaches: Our intellectual freedoms are Christain, not anti-Christian, in origin.
Jane Austen teaches: Most men would be improved if they were more patriarchal than they actually are. Jane Austen was a fan, not a critic, of “the patriarchy”.
Dickens teaches: Reformers can do more harm than the injustices they set out to reform.
T.S. Eliot teaches: Tradition is necessary to culture.
Flannery O’Connor teaches: Even modern American liberals aren’t immune to original sin.
English teachers today are against teaching classic literature and spend their time teaching radical feminists Marxist theories. They try to say Jane Austen was expressing rage against the patriarchy. They try to say Lennon was secretly a capitalist. They teach anything and everything except classic literature. No Shakespeare, no Milton.
The politically correct line is that Western culture is the root of all evil.
This book teaches what every literate and humane person should know about English literature.
Even classes which say they will teach Shakespeare etc. are often classes that just use the text to indoctrinate politically correct principles. Politically correct professors see great works as relics of an evil past.
Literature teachers today think that the only human motives are racism greed etc. That’s all they can see. But the great literature shows other motives as well. It wasn’t that Shakespeare was pro slavery etc., he was just teaching about human nature.
Professors today don’t want you to analyze writing, they just want you to repeat back what they said about it.
Lancelot experiences a change of heart, a healing of his sick soul when he encounters the chalice of Christ.
Old English literature you can’t miss:
-The Dream of Rood
-The Battle of Maldon
Learning Old English Anglo-Saxon used to be a requirement for a good literature student.
Beowulf is full of attitudes opposite of the post-modernist. A manly hero goes around slaying dragons. It shows Christianity as a civilizing force. It emphasizes the tried and true rather than the trendy and new. It shows what’s wrong with the clever man who hates the warrior who is better than he is.
Marx said we no longer believe in heroism.
If we don’t admire heroes there is something wrong with us.
People who didn’t believe their reputation was worth defending with their lives were known as slaves.
Military command is necessary for freedom and the death of some is necessary for the life of others.
The dragon kills some but would have killed many more without the hero and the help of God.
Beowulf shows that bravery is the best measure of character.
Men who are faithless in battle have nothing but their lives, and they are better off dead.
The man who won’t give the hero the glory he has earned is envious.
The hero is stronger and more patient than other men.
In Beowulf the only things that are good are old; the old roads, the old swords etc.
Life is fragile, peace is short-lived, things are dying, precious things are hard to hold on to.
Prosperity leads to error in judgment, so prosperity is self-correcting.
It is noble to die in battle even if it’s due to a poor mistake from the leaders or the betrayal of companions.
Medieval English Literature you must not miss:
-Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales
-William Langland: Piers Plowman
-Gawain and the Green Knight
-Thomas Malory: Morte d’Arthur
Additional suggested books from this chapter:
-The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition by C.S. Lewis
-The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark
People believed they had souls and took a lively interest as to whether people would be going to heaven or hell.
Gender roles were traditional with men and women having different natures, different roles, and women being expected to obey their husbands.
Religious authority was present and strong.
Religious society does not look like the scary thing people say it would be. Only in ignorance can they make claims of religious society being bad.
Only through ignorance can people claim that Christianity is in the same category as radical religious terrorists who control everything.
Medieval writing loved to talk about morals and their favorite way to write about it was allegory.
Christianity made freedom of thought possible.
Today we are so timid about religion that we don’t even tell people what we believe. All we talk about is whether certain actions would violate religious freedom like publicly displaying a manger.
Medieval people saw debate as a legitimate method of arriving at truth by reason. The authority of the church didn’t bother them; it gave them firm grounds to stand on. They could say essentially “if what I’m saying is not in the Bible go ahead and burn me, but it’s right here in the Bible so I’m not worried.”
Medieval people did have some kind of separation of church and state. If the king overstepped his bounds he could be rebuked and disciplined by the church.
Totalitarian governments hate religion because it threatens their power monopoly.
Today if a lady gets drunk then has sex and feels used afterwards, we blame the man. But in medieval times they would say “if you want to stay chased, don’t get drunk.”
Medieval people highly esteemed advice of the ancients, whereas today fads from magazines rapidly change the way we think things should be done.
Feminists claim that putting women on a pedestal in a chivalrous way somehow demeans them. Feminists claim chivalry keeps the men in control, but their claim doesn’t explain all the freedom women have in the west. In the west a man is considered a real man only in as much as he is gentle with women. Where courtesy prevails, women are less enslaved.
Feminists say there should be no leadership in marriage. They say there are no fixed roles for men or women. They think the relationship should only last as long as it meets both parties’ aspirations. Medieval people believed hierarchy was necessary. Just treating marriage on equality of people’s wants doesn’t work out well for women because their window of attractiveness and fertility is much shorter than men’s. The chivalry method of marriage is about mutual service, obedience, and obligation. It doesn’t pretend people are just the same, and it doesn’t pretend people can live in a sexual relationship without giving and losing or without changing the other.
Wisdom of the past beats the latest expert opinion, hands down.
The Canterbury Tales teach that traditional sex roles did not silence women, erase their sexuality, or blot out their personalities.
Renaissance Literature you must not miss:
-Edumnd Spenser: The Faerie Queene
-Philip Sidney: Defense of Poesy
-Christopher Marlowe: Doctor Faustus and the Jew of Malta
-William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew, As you Like It, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Henry IV (Parts I and II), Henry V, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, and Sonnets
Humanism is essential when you consider that God himself (Christ) had to become man.
Theorists argue that right and wrong are merely social constructs.
Shakespeare’s plays have universal appeal, expressing nature in a way that no other literature does. He was not of an age but of all time. Today professors are trying to say Shakespeare was a man of his own age and not of all time.
Shakespeare loved the world as it is, that is why he was able to make it so clear.
Shakespeare shows you the warts but makes them fascinating. The characters of Shakespeare plays are real. The play seems more intensely real than the reality you live in, the characters saying just what they should say. Shakespeare teaches us that there really is such a thing as human nature, and he does this without making his characters vague.
Hamlet is smart and wise but tragically unable to shoulder responsibility to improve things.
Richard III isn’t just an upset man out to get people, he is wildly successful.
Eago isn’t just bent on revenge, he is spite incarnate. He is a believable individual, not an allegorical stick figure.
Like the Renaissance paintings being more realistic, so the Renaissance literature of Shakespeare shows very realistic characters, including aspects like the justice of God and the mechanics of lust, approaching things from many different angles. His characters are known to give speeches on all kinds of philosophical, psychological, and other topics. Shakespeare isn’t about ideology, he isn’t about pushing a narrative. His work includes many contradictions, just as real life does. He doesn’t impose alien structures on his work, he captures natural structures, and those fascinate him.
Politically correct folks deny human nature and hate human nature. They deny reality. They debate the meaning of the word ‘it’.
Shakespeare shows that some choices are inherently destructive, built into the nature of things.
Shakespeare’s intent in writing is delight and happiness. His comedies are very much like his tragedies. They mix joy and sorrow in the complexities of life. The tragedies end in death and the comedies and in marriage. Marriage is the best image of happiness in this world.
Shakespeare sees marriage as an essential union of opposites. Entire schools of queer and feminist studies exist to deny this. Shakespeare shows marriages that take gender differences seriously, which all the more offends the radicals.
Marriage in Shakespeare’s day was to marry into a package deal with its own definition; it wasn’t about negotiating childbearing, it wasn’t about negotiating property rights, it wasn’t about negotiating happiness. It was an institution defined by religious authority, human nature, and the complimentary natures of men and women. It was not defined by the decisions of the people getting married.
Feminists advocate the idea that sex before marriage is good for women. Shakespeare shows the virtue of virginity before marriage, and the shame of unfaithfulness. His sonnets show that love and sex are serious things, that if you treat them lightly, someone is going to get hurt.
Shakespeare shows that the one thing men can’t do without in marriage is respect. He shows men are more ambitious and adventurous, while women want more security. He shows that an intelligent strong woman wants to marry a man who, in some sense, is superior to her. He shows that men and women can both look to marriage for happiness because of its complementary nature.
Love between man and woman includes a desire for the greater good of humanity through childbearing, it is not like homosexuality which is just about self gratification and childlessness.
Shakespeare shows us the heights and depths of the human soul.
17th Century Literature you must not miss:
-John Donne: Songs and Sonnets and Holy Sonnets
-George Herbert: The Temple
-Thomas Browne: Religio Medici
-John Bunyan: Pilgrim’s Progress
-John Milton: sonnets and Paradise Lost
-Andrew Marvell: To His Coy Mistress
This literature is about Christianity and shows that such has a place in the public square.
John Donne teaches that God is even more important and exciting than sex.
John Milton was the most educated English author. He knew Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Italian and all the literature of those languages, and saw writing as the best method to use the talents God gave him. He knew sciences, histories etc. and traveled the world meeting smart people. You can learn from John Milton that fundamentalist Christians aren’t uneducated, easy to command to people. Puritans were not easily abused by government or church, they didn’t let that happen.
For Milton the most important events in human life were in the Bible, and the best kind of heroism was patient resistance to temptation. Temptation is the theme of Milton’s poetry. He emphasizes the importance of chastity, a very politically incorrect virtue. He shows that people rise by resisting temptation. He shows that patient obedience is more valuable in the eyes of God than valiant crusading.
Paradise Lost & Paradise Regained are about whether people will patiently do God’s will, or do their own thing. Adam and Eve think they have to take heroic action instead of obeying God’s commandment. Satan is shown as a strong rebel.
Is it is a beautiful thing for a man to love his wife more than his own life, so Milton is able to get us to sympathize with Adam, but also he shows the folly of the fall, that Adam is not just valuing his wife, he’s devaluing good sense, integrity, and God. He abandons the right way only so he can keep a woman who he knows is corrupt.
Note- in the restored gospel we do have a very positive view of both Adam and Eve, but we can still learn important lessons from this story.
In Paradise regained Milton shows patient obedience as a noble trait.
It’s all about the devil throwing everything he can at Christ, and Christ not giving in.
Freedom of speech & freedom of the press were not invented by enlightenment rationals. Milton did not advocate freedom of press out of indifference toward religion or out of exhaustion from fighting about religion. Intellectual freedoms are Christian not anti-christian in their origin.
Note- its the same with science, it was the Christians who said “let’s pay close attention to nature and discover the laws that govern it”; the Pagans considered nature to be governed by random impulses of a series of deities. Christians knew from the bible that there is order in nature. This is covered in greater detail in “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible”.
People today advocate keeping religion private because religion has caused controversy in the past. So they now sadly build their lives around less meaningful things.
Today we aren’t willing to talk about religion in the public square to involve it in our politics, but now our politics etc. involve things like abortion, euthanasia rights, etc., and we’re learning that excluding religion from public is a matter of life and death as we are now getting all these important issues wrong in connection with our rejection of religion.
Even bad books are useful to the truth seeker because they use them to point out error and expose it.
Note- such is a difficult but necessary task. People can’t know about the battles going on if we never point out what the opposition is saying and why it’s wrong. Truth taught without the context of falsehood is only minimally meaningful. We teach people how to apply true principles by pointing out how others are botching it.
Respect for human life really does depend on the belief that humans are created in God’s image. People who don’t believe that don’t think humans are more valuable than chimps.
Note- mass murderers often learn Darwinism as a pretext to their crimes, we’re just animals, after all.
The works of Milton about sin temptation obedience etc. are, contrary to popular opinion, very relevant today.
Restoration & 18th Century literature you must not miss:
-John Dryden: Absalom and Achitophel, MacFlecknoe
-Alexander Pope: The Rape of the Lock, The Duncaid
-Jonathan Swift: Fulliver’s Travels
-Samuel Johnson: Preface to his Shakespeare edition
-James Boswell: Life of Johnson
-Samuel Richardson: Clarissa
-Henry Fielding: Tom Jones
-Thomas Gray: Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
They expose vices for what they are.
This is a refreshingly not politically correct era of writing.
P.I.G. Literature Ch. 6 The 19th Century: Revolution & Reaction (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, the Shelleys, Keats, Jane Austen vs Feminists, Celebrating Patriarchal Values, Benefits of ‘Sexist’ Conventions, Victorian Literature, Dickens)
19th Century literature you must not miss:
-Wiliam Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience
-William Wordsworth: Tintern Abbey, Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Ode Intimations of Immortality, The Prelude
-Samuel taylor Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Kahn, Biographia Literaria
-George Gordon Byron: Don Juan
-Percy Bysshe Shelley: Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark
-John Keats: Ode to a Grecian Urn, Ode to a Nightingale, To Autumn
-Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
-Alfred Tennyson: Ulysses, In Memoriam
-Robert Browning: My Last Duchess
-Charles Dickens:, David Copperfield
-George Eliot: Middlemarch
-John Henry Newman: Apologia pro Vita Sua
-Matthew Arnold: Dover Beach
-Gerard Manley Hopkins: Pied Beauty
-Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest
Today English professors reject the geniuses of Wordsworth and Keats etc because they are revolutionaries who want to change everything and do everything new. What they don’t realize is that the geniuses once thought that way as well, but were much smarter, and learned to rise above the notion that everything needs to be changed to be improved. They learned convention and tradition are good. Intelligent radicals become conservatives when they grow up, if they grow up at all.
The romantic English writers were able to think about and express feelings in a meaningful way. They had the same feelings as the revolutionaries had but put them to use in more than just in a short-lived way. The romantic English writers accomplished sensitive and intelligent reflection on human emotion.
Wordsworth said that poetry could help us experience excitement and pleasure in healthy ways. Ways that elevate rather than debase us.
The human mind, the passions of men, the Great complexity of our nature, this is what the romantic poets captured, the great and simple affections of our nature.
Blake calls the imagination the real man. Contemporary philosophers have gone to the other extreme and suggest imagination doesn’t even exist. They only believe in mechanical processes of history. (Note- particularly a purely economic interpretation of history.)
These books teach that the human mind is enormously imaginative, creative, and can also be very destructive.
In the Frankenstein story we read of how the creator of Frankenstein was genius, but unaware of the damage he was causing, and you see his character develop as well as the monster’s interesting character.
Charles Dickens made fun of liberals.
On Jane Austen
Jane Austen was a fan not a critic of the patriarchy, and was a Conservative Christian.Jane Austen is often rightly compared to shakespeare, she is the perhaps greatest woman author.
Austen lived a humble life, her father supporting her financially, living in a crowded home, but always pausing her work to cater to guests, etc.
Austin lived a typical woman’s life, playing the piano, reading lots of books, and when she realized none of the men she was interested in were going to propose to her, she settled into being an old maid.
Austen was not indignant and bitter like the feminists of her time and after. The essence of feminism is that life is horribly unfair, and that the other half of the race is in on some kind of conspiracy, conscious or not, to keep women down. For feminists, everyday life is full of occasions justifying rage, outbursts, harboring grudges, and making sarcastic remarks.
(Note- the sin of ingratitude reeks to high heaven. “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21).)
Feminists refuse to realize that the differences between men and women are natural, necessary, and based on reality of the differences of men and women, which are ineradicable. Austen knew that misery is not from societal structures, but from individual sin. The drama in her novels is the struggle within, not the struggle against systems.
Austen promoted old fashioned marriage where the woman enters marriage to be protected and guided by her husband. That the woman was to look up to and please her husband, and manage the household, and was to nurture the children. She understood and taught that these things were the most usual and intense source of female happiness.
Critics of Austen find any sign of complaint in her books and drag it out to make it a big protest. They ignore and explain away the obviously anti-feminist messages of the novels themselves. They write off Austen’s obvious message which supports patriarchal society. Feminist Virginia Woolf does not dare to analyze Jane Austen’s six books, but does recognize her greatness, and instead Woolf writes about six imaginary books that Austen might have written, but didn’t.
Austen is funny and makes fun of all the pretentiousness of men and women. She would have made fun of modern feminism too.
Austen promotes the idea that women would benefit from more self-control and silence. Most of her heroes engage in a high amount of self-censorship.
Austen shows that women who don’t have a man in charge of them develop an oversized ego. Emma is a character who is spoiled because her dad does not put enough restraints on her.
Austen shows a key problem of men is they aren’t patriarchal enough. The men often become a doormat to their selfish wives.
She shows a father who, rather than speak the truth to his children, allows his kids to do whatever they want. He isn’t willing to criticize and counsel his daughters, and tragedy ensures. She shows a father who believes what he wants to believe about his daughters rather than seeing the uncomfortable truth about them.
She shows that young men are dangerous because they don’t take responsibility and they tend to try to keep their options open rather than commit. She shows the most common danger in men is that they don’t tend to stick around, that they avoid responsibility. In all of her books there’s at least one man who pays the sort of attention to a woman that indicates his intentions are serious when they really aren’t.
Austen shows that most men would be improved if they were more patriarchal. Everyone must admit that there are more men who are avoidant of responsibility and commitment then there are men who are jealous abusing control freaks. More underly patriarchal than overly patriarchal.
A young woman is shown to make a great mistake by writing letters to a young man that she is not engaged to.
Note- getting married is less about who you marry and more about when. The fact of the matter is you need to do it, and stick with it. That’s the mark of integrity, that’s the making of a good man. There is no sense in going around breaking everyone’s hearts, no sense in giving false hopes. Don’t leave a legacy of a decade of fooling around. You could actually use that decade to do something meaningful like blessing your wife’s life, raise children, and contribute to society in meaningful unselfish ways.
Austen teaches that societal conventions exist for our protection, and we discard them at our own risk.
See also the author Elizabeth Kantor’s book, “The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After”
On Charles Dickens
Dickens was the best Victorian writer.
He points out social issues, but not just issues in capitalism and the harshness of the law. He shows problems on both sides.
His book called Hard Times exposes radical modern education.
Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House shows the problems with liberalism. She neglects her family and even persecutes her children in pursuit of her high social ideals. In the pursuit of some grandiose project she neglected her personal responsibilities.
Dickens shows that actions can have unintended consequences. Reformers often cause more harm than the systems they were trying to reform. Charity begins at home.
He shows that the end does not justify the means, it’s never right to do evil in the name of a good cause. You don’t know that good will come of it, you never know the results of your actions. It is the intrinsic nature of an act not your motivation for the act that determines the long-term consequences. Acting in cruelty and greed may be done with good intentions but it will nevertheless result in bad fruit.
Note- in the ender’s game book by Orson Scott card he makes the point that it’s not what a person did, but why they did it that matters. That alone of course is false. I suppose you could look at these books in another way, but so far as that principal goes, it’s no good. There’s more about this to consider: did he have any other choice? Did he know better? Etc. The book features a youth who likely did the only thing he knew how to do, and I do like the book, just beware taking that idea too far. The end doesn’t justify the means, you can’t do something bad for a good cause. Shakespeare does a good job of teaching that some acts are inherently bad, regardless of the motives. Thankfully God is merciful and takes into account what we do and don’t know, what we can and can’t do, and some situations are so trying that even partial success in them is laudable. But at the end of the day, every person has the light of Christ, and is accountable for their actions.
Modern literature you must not miss:
-Thomas Hardy: Channel Firing, Far from the Madding Crowd
-Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness
-A.E. Housman: A Shropshire Lad
-William Butler Yeats: Among School Children, The Second Coming
-T.S. Eliot: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land
-James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
-Wilfred Owen: Dulce et Decorum Est
-W.H. Auden: Musee des Beaux Arts
-Dylan Thomas: Fern Hill, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
-Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited
Additional suggested reading from this chapter:
-The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, by Joseph Pearce
Dorian Gray is a Victorian moralistic novel. Due to his hidden bad character, Dorian’s friends and lovers ends up as suicides and prostitutes. He doesn’t look like he could harm a fly as he looks so young etc. In the end his own life ends very badly.
The tragic story of Dorian Gray is really a reflection of the author Oscar Wilde’s personal life. In Wilde’s personal life he found that the artsy sinful lifestyle does bring very bad consequences, and he came full circle returning to the Christian traditional life, including baptism into the Catholic church. The pursuit of art For Art’s sake led Wilde in a full circle back to the black and white moral universe. Wilde learned there are in fact such things as moral and immoral books, and that some of them are even poisonous. He went back to traditional Christianity, back to confession and repentance.
Many avant-garde artists who explore the outer realms of immoral activity come back. They fled from what they found at the outer edge of human experience returning to traditional western culture and religion. Christianity trumps the edgy art world, and you can learn this in modern literature. The text goes over several people who were advocating atheism and other wild lifestyles who found religion, conservative Christianity in particular, in their later years.
The modern era has now become a time where beauty is rejected and skilled art and creation are frowned upon. Art is supposed to be attractive. Now we have supposed art which it’s only aim is to annoy and upset the audience. Of course it’s not really art. The urinals in the museum displays, etc.
TS Eliot showed how after World War I, the whole world was more dead, life wasn’t the way it used to be.
TS Eliot shocked his audience by announcing his conversion to conservative Christianity and classic style writing. From TS Eliot we can learn that tradition is necessary for creation of great art.
James Joyce started out as a Conservative Christian and did stray from that, but never strayed too far. He never got further from his conservative roots than his peers who didn’t have those roots to begin with, many of whom turned to conservative Christianity later.
From Evelyn Waugh we learned that without religion, human beings are disgustingly selfish and shallow. She also shows that the loss of Christian faith means death to Western civilization. Waugh rejected socialist living leveling as the cure for all evil. She shows that Western Civilization is not possible without Christian faith.
Waugh shows in “Sword of Honor” that many go to war for the wrong reason, to satisfy their own sense of honor. They often end up compromised.
American literature you must not miss:
-Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
-Nathaniel Hawthorne: Mosses from the Old Manse
-Herman Melville: Moby-Dick
-Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
-Emily Dickinson: Poems
-Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass
-Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn
-Henry James: The Portrait of a Lady
-F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
-William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury
-Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
-Ezra Pound: The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter
-Robert Frost: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, The Road Not Taken
-Flannery O’Connor: Everything That Rises Must Converge
Politically correct English professors gravitate towards authors who share their disdain for America. But there is more to offer than anti-Christian paranoia.
In America the best writing has been short. We have short attention spans here. We specialize in short stories and short poems. Perhaps it’s because the American experience is more about fresh starts than perseverance.
The great theme of American literature is the mystery of evil. That evil is not just out there, it keeps reappearing.
Faulkner said the only things worth writing about are the conflict of the human heart with itself.
In Moby Dick there’s this creature that is painted as the great focus of all evil, but you find out that the real evil is in the main character himself.
In Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, the only thing that keeps him from getting away with his murder is his guilt.
Hawthorne tells the story of a man who goes to the woods to make a pact with the Devil. He is shocked to see other people are there too such as his wife. He gets out of the pact last minute, and the Devil’s kingdom disappears as he cries out to God, but he’s left with a lifelong distrust in people and becomes bitter. He was eaten up by the suspicion that others shared his secret sin.
Hemingway’s heroes are always always on the run from something which turns out to be from themselves.
The Great Gatsby is about the futility of the American dream of endless wealth, the meaninglessness of climbing the never-ending social ladder.
Multiculturalist propaganda says that the crimes of the past are continually brought to our attention so that we can remind ourselves of the wickedness of our culture. It’s a ‘blame America first’ attitude. They want to scrub our language clean of masculine pronouns and get rid of every Confederate memorial. They want to forget about our past crimes. This kills the study of literature. Dropping our history down the memory hole doesn’t insure past injustices won’t happen again. The problems that brought on slavery and racism were in the human heart more so than institutions. So even if you tear down institutions you’re still going to have similar problems.
Injustice always reappears in a different form. The parades against injustice can become the excuse for the next injustice.
It is certainly counterproductive to cut ourselves off from the knowledge historical literature contains, even if it’s sometimes offensive like Huckleberry Finn which shows some of the sad realities of those times.
People that bad things not because they were Southerners, or because they were poor, or because of being colonial imperialists, no, they did those bad things because they are human beings. Human nature will always be with us no matter how many fresh starts we get. Knowledge of that nature is a weapon not a liability.
Faulkner writes in a style that’s not about “who-done-it”, but why he did it.
Old sins have long shadows. you can’t just start again easily. You have responsibilities related to people in the past. Salvation is the only real fresh start available to us.
A fatally flawed culture beats no culture at all.
Today enlightened liberals feel superior to their parents and their unenlightened neighbors in a similar way to how historically whites felt superior to blacks.
P.I.G. Literature Ch. 9 How the PC English Professors are Suppressing English Literature by Not Teaching it (Replacing it with “Theory” of Marxism, Feminism, Deconstruction, Bashing White Males; Postmodernist Jargon & Reality Denial as a Critical Stance)
Suggested books in this chapter:
-Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Higher Education by Roger Kimball 1998
-The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, by David Horowitz 2006
-Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus by Dinesh D’Souza 1998
-Theory’s Empire: An Anthology of Dissent by Daphne Patia and Wilfrido Corral 2005
-At War with the Word: Literary Theory and Liberal Education by R.V. Young 1999
-Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities by John M. Ellis 1999
There are more advertisements for positions in multicultural literature than in Shakespeare.
Even when a class is about classic literature, they often learn feminism or Marxism instead.
The ugly politically correct jargon of politically correct professors is a barrier to understanding literature.
We can’t transmit Western Civilization to future generations without teaching classic literature.
Stanford University protesters in 1987 shouted “Hey hey ho ho Western civilization has got to go!”
Politically correct professors teach anything and everything but classic literature. Most English literature classes aren’t about literature at all!
People hiring English professors don’t want professors trained in the classics, they want professors trained in anywhere but America and England.
English used to be about teaching English, now it’s about teaching all the outcast theories of other disciplines. Economics has disproved the core of Marxist theory, yet it still gets taught regularly in English. Marxism caused the murder of tens of millions and the untold misery of many yet politically perfect correct English professors are still teaching it. Universities are the only places in the world aside from a few communist states like North Korea where Marxism is still taught seriously.
Mainstream psychologists don’t use Freudian analysis anymore, but English professors do.
English professors are teaching pornography to undergraduates.
Classic literature is very entertaining and very informative of the real past, not the horror story leftist professors are pushing about racist sexist history. Professors don’t dare teach classic literature because students might actually like it and begin to support Western culture. They will learn that our forebears were not brutish oppressors of women and minorities. They won’t any longer fall for the lie that life was hell before feminism, or the lie that leftist politics set us free.
You can’t get rid of classic literature, it is a universal cannon that students will always go back to.
Marxism, deconstructionism, feminism, and bashing dead white males are the name of the game in literary criticism today. Deconstructionist English professors teach there is no meaning whatsoever. Many English professors harp on feminist gender studies all day.
Your English professor will likely be a multicultural expert who specializes in post-colonial writing, teaching an endless variety of (fill in the blank) studies which are more about bashing Western Civilization and highlighting insignificant work than they are about highlighting the work of minorities.
Literary Theory can now be described accurately as resistance to literature itself. Students are now taught to read in a way that keeps them from learning anything from literature and inoculates them against ever learning anything from literature in the future. If you’ve never read Shakespeare you can always read him later, but if you’ve taken a theory course you’ve been inoculated against it, being taught that it’s full of racist patriarchal bad stuff. Then you’ll never take Shakespeare seriously as a source of insights into human nature or the meaning of life.
Politically correct language is remarkable in how it excludes entire categories of thought. They learn not to refer to poets in terms of their individual genius. They don’t refer to poems as having been created or composed or written. They only call it ‘productions’ to suggest those works of art came from an impersonal automatic process similar to making a car. Don’t say work of literature, say literary production.
Don’t say ‘the book or the novel’, say ‘the text’ because how dare we claim great literature is different from a telephone book. Don’t say ‘human being or person’ say ‘the subject’ because they reduce the complexity of humans, because they doubt that there are such things as human beings intelligent and capable of action, freedom of action, and real knowledge, and suppose that all of our thoughts and actions are controlled by race gender and hegemonic culture and power structures and class .
Don’t say intellectual history, say ‘reception history’ because why acknowledge the possibility that human beings discover acknowledge judge and accept or reject ideas for good reasons when you can instead talk about intellectual history as though it was someone pouring something into a cup which someone else is holding.
Don’t say a poet novelist or critic emphasizes something or brings it to our attention, instead say that he ‘foregrounds’ it because they’re trying to make the creative and rational activities of the human mind sound like mere physical events.
Don’t say opposites, in particular truth and falsehood, good and evil, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness, happiness and misery, say instead ‘binaries’ or ‘presence and absence’ because why acknowledge that any of these things really exist when you can pretend that binary opposites are generated from some kind of irrational compulsion which human beings have to compare and contrast and divide things into twos rather than from the nature of reality.
Don’t say communists, say Marxist because that way you won’t have to defend communism which for some mysterious reason has acquired a bad reputation.
Don’t say Marxist, say new historicist because then you won’t have to defend Marxism much for some mysterious reason that has acquired a bad reputation.
Don’t say new historicist, say cultural studies professor because then you’d have to defend new historicism.
Don’t say you will criticize analyze or disagree with a piece of literature, say instead you’re going to ‘interrogate’ it because to people who find Marxism appealing, torture sounds more exciting and valuable then just literary critic.
Don’t say the imagination of a poet or novelist or his readers, instead say ‘the imaginary’ making the ideas limited to a certain time and people because they ignore our power to create and the existence of the mind itself.
Don’t say benefits, say ‘privileges’ because if something benefits someone it supplies them with some real objective good that human beings can enjoy, but if it privileges them, it merely makes them superior to someone else, it gives them status and power, the only goods that postmodernists are willing to acknowledge that actually exist.
Don’t say male and female, say masculinity and femininities, because they insist that gender is a construct.
Don’t say belief in nature or even an objective reality, say ‘essentialism’ so that way acknowledging differences between things like men and women can be made to be another nasty ‘ism’ like racism and colonialism.
To Shakespeare and Wordsworth writing poetry was not like an impersonal manufacturing process like these politically correct professors would make you think.
Comparative cross-dressing is an English class.
Individual thinking, beauty, free will, poetic creation, the salvation of the soul, virtue, they say all of this is just white male privilege and the perpetuation of the exploitative capitalist system. They say to promote these works of literature is to participate in the oppression.
The professors show themselves now to be completely absurd, and that alone shows us how important the classics are so we don’t become like the professors.
The professors assume that obvious realities are only artificial constructs, then they theorize about how and why it got constructed.
The idea that the word ‘whore’ is offensive because it’s a terrible thing for a woman to do, especially a woman who has made marital vows to be faithful, they don’t like at all. And saying such a thing about someone causes guilt, the politically correct professors now just say this doesn’t even exist. They say the word whore involves inherent patriarchal violence, even if the man saying it is not going to hit the woman, or even if it’s said by one woman to another woman. The feminists claim that women object to being called whores purely for economic reasons, because it could deprive them from certain economic privileges. (Note- they try to say any sexual relations are approved, that there is no shame in being a whore, and only reject the term whore as it implies economic poverty. endnote) Explanations from religion morality nature, these explanations from ordinary experience are excluded by the feminists and only purely economic reasons are given for why women object to being called whores.
They refuse to acknowledge obvious realities, which creates a vacuum, and they fill that vacuum with impersonal systematized supposed prejudice.
English literature essays submitted by undergraduates are often brilliant, then essays submitted by the same people after graduate studies were incomprehensible crap. They learned it from the professors.
It’s unmitigated arrogance to assume that all the beliefs of people in the past were from ignorance and impersonal forces they were too stupid to understand. Western culture more than any other culture we know of has fostered a an environment where criticism including self-criticism is even possible. Postmodernists try to stand outside of this culture and outside of human experience.
Suggested books in this chapter:
-The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis 2001
Art isn’t just for art’s sake.
Great works of literary art teach us to love what’s noble, and spurn what’s base. Great literature civilizes us.
William Faulkner said (not the exact quote) Man has a soul, he will prevail, he sacrifices and endures. It is the duty of poets to write about these things. He helps man endure by lifting his heart. He reminds him of the honor, courage, hope, pride, compassion, pity and sacrifice which have been man’s glory of his past.
You must know what you’re going to achieve in studying literature. Literature was the cornerstone of a liberal education before politically correct professors gutted it.
No, literature isn’t a substitute for religion. No it’s not propping up the patriarchy. No it’s not that we just need “transgressive” writers to upset conventions. Literature was at the heart of education because of its ability to civilize. Good poetry civilizes and makes people honest. It teaches you to love what’s noble and despise the debased. It changes how we feel and see. Aristotle said we should learn how to play music because the pleasure it gives affects the soul positively. We must delight in good. Goodness is naturally delightful when it is taught in songs and poems etc. Virtue isn’t obedience to an abstract rule, it is the embodiment of all that is good, noble and attractive in human life.
You must know how to know which literature really is great. Politically correct professors say the canon of classic literature must have just been established by white males. They also claim there’s no such thing as an objective standard of judgment for literature. They stopped judging literature by traditional standards. They infiltrated literary analysis by the various ‘isms’. It is possible to know which works of literature are truly great.
(Note- I’ll always remember by brilliant undergraduate literature teacher Larry Peer at BYU who taught us that measuring the greatness of music and literature are NOT subjective!)
Determining what literature is great is not entirely subjective. Rational arguments are made about why some literature is greater than others. These arguments appeal to certain capacities we all share. To some extent we all appreciate and admire beauty and goodness. We recognize truths. We feel compelled to seek them out and take pleasure in recognizing them. Art and music help us in this quest but literature in particular from its words can teach goodness and truth.
When we say literature is good it appeals to one of three categories:
1. it’s superior truth
2. it’s moral value or
3. it’s piercing beauty, or to some combination thereof.
The greatest literature opens your mind to powers and pleasures far beyond the everyday pleasure seeking and jockeying for power that take up too much of our mental energy.
Great literature are great literary works are touchstones by which you can measure your shifting desires from your experience of everyday life. You begin to measure your life by the standards of excellence found in the classic literature. You’ll want to begin collecting it so you have something to stew over in your old age.
The study of literature is a lifelong project begun in youth aided by teachers and continued by the continual exercise of the mind which enriches one’s experience far beyond formal education.
The one sure way to destroy any institution is to insist that nothing be done until everything is completely equal.
Yes you have a lot of classic literature by white males. Today we have helped women and minority races to be educated. But now that this has happened the cannon has been dismantled. So just when we could have seen a lot of more contributions from more diversified writers, we stopped valuing literature in general.
Any American can own the American classic literature as their own, regardless of the history, even the difficult history of that person’s ancestry. They are American now and American classic literature is theirs. Great English and American literature is an indispensable part of American heritage.
People who thought TS eliot’s writing was bad saw it as ugly. People who saw TS eliot’s writing as good were depressed people who somehow saw his work expressing their feelings.
Studying the great works of the cannon can help you develop powerful skills. Look what Shakespeare did for Winston Churchill.
No one beats the English when it comes to literature, just like how no one beats the Germans in music, or the Italians in the visual arts. Some wench pointed out that the French are second best at everything. The Russians excel in the novel.
In literature of the English language you find beauty, undying loveliness, heartbreaking pathos, breathtaking intensity, and truth – every kind of human experience distilled into meaning. You’ll find poetry that makes you hunger and thirst after noble acts, and novels that bring happiness.
Suggested books in this chapter:
-A Student’s Guide to Literature by R.V. Young 2000
-The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric: Understanding the Nature and Function of Language by Miriam Joseph Rauh, Paul Dry 2002
When you read great literature you also learn great reading skills because that was part of the point of the book built in by the author. You’ll learn the skills that English professors used to teach before the politically correct takeover. You’ll learn structural analysis of literature as recommended by the literary giants themselves. Great writers are also great readers.
Close reading and structural analysis are the two first things that should be taught in a literary analysis class. Great books with lasting impact and beauty are that way because of the way they are put together. Learning the structure of poems and novels helps unfold their mystery. There’s no need to be a deconstructionist in your close reading. Close reading came about in the romantic era, a more analytical and careful study of literature. The great poems have meaning behind every word and the placement of every word. The careless eye sees nothing but accident but the trained eye sees the patterns and is astonished at how the author put all that into the work. Highly skilled writers do things in their work even subconsciously which are reflections of their genius. It’s like how novice drivers have to pay careful attention to every detail but skilled ones get it all right without particular attention to it.
Get into the habit of reading literature by taking a lightweight small paperback with you.
Gutenberg.org has complete volumes of classical literature free.
Get to know the real genuine terms of literature not the politically correct terms.
Step number one in reading any piece of literature is to know what every word means, so your tool is a dictionary. Don’t let the language just wash over you like undifferentiated experience. The Oxford English dictionary is the best. A good dictionary will show you what a word means, what it used to mean, what words it’s related to, what particular strain of the English vocabulary it’s related to, and what language it’s derived from. You can learn what sounds are characteristic of what languages.
Grammar will also help you read poetry. The switch from present tense to past tense can change the mood from lively to sad, etc.
You’ll want to know meter and rhyme, the various genres of writing poetry.
The literature itself will teach you if you just keep at it.
Some books are undeservedly forgotten, but none are undeservedly remembered.
Great works are benchmarks against which you can measure your life.
Poetry is meant to be memorized.
Great plays should be seen or acted in, not just read.
It’s not naive to talk about fictional characters as though they were real people. Jane Austen looked for portraits of her characters, and learned more about them as time went on, and valued insights from others about them. “Ah yes, that looks just like him!” or “That’s something so-and-so would do/say!”
Reading Jane Austen will boost your moral intelligence. Women can manage their relationships with greater integrity because of Jane Austen.
Literature and poetry were not meant to be read by experts but by the common person. Great literature requires significant time and attention but it repays you well.
Literature can add steadiness and weight on one side, and peace and comfort on the other.
Knowing Henry V’s speech can help an army lieutenant lead his men in battle.
Reading John Dunn can help you love with greater passion and attention.
A believer can pray in the words of Milton or TS Eliot.
A widower can be helped by remembering Shakespeare’s “men must endure thy going hence”, carved on his wife’s tombstone.
Great literature shows you things that are intensely desirable, which then serve as a benchmark against which you can measure your life.
There’s no way you can measure up to the pop music standards of intense responses to love betrayal and everything else, but you can measure up to Shakespeare’s work, you can be true or false to the standard of love you find in Shakespeare’s sonnets.
You can learn humble piety from George Herbert and try to live it.
You can learn a thousand ways how to distinguish between what’s shoddy and false and what’s virtuous and good.
You learn what makes a person admirable or despicable.
You can try to be generous like Shakespeare and Keats.
You can try for Johnson’s intellectual integrity.
You can try for the honesty of anglo-saxon poetry.
You can’t learn these standards to measure up to if you never know the literature. You have to read and reread the classics. You have to memorize the great poems.
You should be learning poems by heart even if you have the time for structural analysis, and especially if you don’t.
Poems are meant to be memorized, not so much by the people who write them, as the very nature of the poem.
Rhyme meter and so on that distinguish poetry from prose are devices that assist in memorization.
The Shakespeare sonnets are high quality material for memorization. Sonnet 18 or 94 or 116 are a good place to start.
Read poetry out loud, it’s not properly appreciated with the eye only. Language has meaning but it is sound too.
Here’s how to memorize a poem: write the poem down, put it in your pocket, and practice seeing how much of it you can remember. Take it in parts. Because of the meter you know how much of what you remember is part of the current line and how much is part of the next, and the rough shape of what else you have to look for in your memory. Also practice writing the poem from memory. Continue at it until you can say and write your poem perfectly from memory.
People think of rote memorization as the opposite of truly understanding things, but you find out all kinds of stuff when you memorize it. Memorizing and analyzing a poem are two approaches to the same state of knowledge.
When you analyze something carefully enough you come away knowing it by heart without ever having tried to learn it. Once you know why each word is where it is, you know it has to be there and nowhere else.
Many modern poems are written in free verse, meaning each line is only distinguished by being on the next line. A natural genius like Milton can write poems that aren’t in any particular meter, but the novice who tries writing poetry without submitting themselves to any formal requirement inevitably produces results that simply aren’t memorable.
When people need to learn material they don’t understand they need to give it artificial meaning such as using silly mnemonics for strange terms. While the professional knows the terms from using them all the time, no one gets that way without being a student first. Rote memorization and understanding go hand in hand.
Note- there is a trend today to downplay the role of memorization, flashcards, note taking, repetition, board drills, and other traditional tried and proven learning methods are increasingly undermined today. End note.
Appreciating literature is even more politically incorrect than understanding it. The politically correct way to approach English literature is contempt.
We appreciate literature when we see that the master poets choice of words is better than what we would have chosen.
Literature is the one kind of art you can take with you everywhere you go.
Here are some medium length poems you can try to memorize after you mastered some short sonnets of Shakespeare: Milton’s Lycidas, Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale, T.S. Elliot’s Ash Wednesday.
It’s best to act in a play or at least help with the production of it so you can learn it inside and out. Another great option is to get together with some friends and read a drama, each person reading their own part. Soon enough you’ll see which roles which people will best fill.
Shakespeare’s insights to human nature are unparalleled.
Read the great novels, share them with your friends and gossip about the characters. There’s no reason why we can’t make these our entertainment today.
In today’s literature you can’t really take the characters seriously, you can’t really treat them like real people and like or dislike them, approve or disapprove of their actions.
Graduate studies in literature can make you forget why you love literature. The professors don’t let you treat the characters like real people.
The whole point of writing good literature that people will read is making characters that are interesting.
Richardson’s Pamela goes through the struggle of keeping her motives pure and maintaining chastity in the face of temptation, and you keep turning the pages to see if she’s going to succeed, and to see to what level she understands and holds to correct motives.
Your moral IQ is not boosted by learning about Hollywood drama or criminal drama. Those things just distract you from the moral decisions you’re wrestling with in your own life. Good novels help you boost your moral IQ. They help you want to be your best. There’s more profit in gossiping about Jane Austen characters than movie stars. You’re not just indulging in idle malicious curiosity, instead you’re testing your instincts and your principles against one of the greatest moral imaginations in the history of Western culture.