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Literature and the Conservative Ideal

Edited by Mark Zunac - Contributions by Mark Bauerlein; D. Marcel DeCoste; Mary Grabar; Thomas L. Jeffers; Todd H. J. Pettigrew; James Seaton; Thomas W. Stanford III and Barton Swaim

By examining the ways in which the conservative vision of the world informs certain modes of literary study and has been treated in various works of literature throughout the ages, this book seeks to recover conservatism as a viable, rigorous, intellectually sound method of critical inquiry. While it stops short of promoting political conservatism as an antidote to the dominant progressive strain of today’s university, it recognizes literature’s transformative power as an artistic reflection of the universal human condition. In this way, it operates against the grain of today's prevailing approaches to literature, particularly the postmodernist wave that has employed literature as a recorder of injustice rather than as evidence of artistic achievement. Therefore, the agenda is restorative, if not revolutionary, returning literature to its place as the center of a true liberal arts curriculum, one that celebrates human freedom, the unimpeded pursuit of truth, and the preservation of civilized life.
Perhaps this book's greatest service is that it seeks to define conservatism in highly distinct contexts. Its authors collectively reveal that the conservative ideal lacks formulaic expression, and is thus more richly complex than it is often credited for. Conservatism is not easily defined, and by presenting such divergent expressions of it, the essays here belie the reductive generalizations so common throughout the academy. Ultimately, the conservative ideal may have much more in common with the stated goals of higher learning than has previously been acknowledged. Thus, while this book in no way seeks to directly apply conservatism to curricular matters, it does revive a competing vision of how knowledge is transmitted through art and history, while also affirming the ways in which literature functions as a forum for ideas.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 214Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/2
978-1-4985-1238-1 • Hardback • April 2016 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
Mark Zunac is associate professor in the Department of Languages and Literatures at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Foreword: What Graduate School Was For

Part 1: The State of the Academy
  1. Conservatism, Liberal Education, and the Promise of the Humanities
Mark Zunac

Part 2: The Conservative Critical Tradition
  1. Early Leavis: Who He Was, and What He Is
Thomas Jeffers
  1. Toward a Conservative Aesthetic: The American New Critics
Thomas Stanford III

Part 3: Reviving the Canon: Some Reconsiderations
  1. Popular Reception of Shakespeare's Shylock in The Merchant of Venice
Todd H.J. Pettigrew

  1. Carlyle the Wise
Barton Swaim
  1. Conservatism and the Genteel Tradition: George Santayana and
Henry James
James Seaton

  1. ‘Tony madly feudal’: Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust and the
Conservative Critique of Secular Conservatism
D. Marcel DeCoste
Part 4: Non-Canonical Texts
  1. Private Property and the Anti-Jacobin Defense of Liberty and the Nation
Mark Zunac

  1. Black and American: George Schuylers Battle against Black
Mary Grabar

About the Contributors

Scholarship on conservative literary traditions, conservative approaches to literary analysis, and conservative writers has become increasingly rare in the Humanities. I welcome with more than ordinary gratitude the wisdom and moral balance of these otherwise silenced voices.
Ruth Wisse, Harvard University