alt art criticism

Something in this op-ed from Ross Douthat, on the trouble with any political entity latching onto the culture of the past — in this case the “alt right” and Jane Austen and the obvious attempts at reclaiming standardized gender norms — caught my eye.

This is an idea with a powerful hold on the liberal mind — that great literature and art inoculate against illiberalism, that high culture properly interpreted offers a natural rebuke to all that is cruel, hierarchical and unwoke. The idea that if Mike Pence really listened to “Hamilton” he would stand up to Donald Trump … that Barack Obama’s humanistic reading list was somehow in deep tension with his drone strikes … that had George W. Bush only discovered his talent for painting earlier he might not have invaded Iraq … these are conceits that can be rebutted (with Wagner or Céline or Nazis-at-the-symphony references) but always seem to rise again.
In part they endure because contemporary liberalism has substituted aestheticism for religion, dreaming of a universal empathy sealed through reading rather than revelation.

In one of the liberal magazine symposiums of reactions after the Trump victory (I leafed through the issue of Harpers, didn’t find it there), there was a college Literature professor who reports having this nightmare that s/he’ll assign Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and get back student responses of “Can’t relate”, in consideration of current political results, s/he’s taking care to emphasize “empathy” in choice of class readings — which struck me as a little wearisome in its totality of repercussions.

And maybe you don’t much like this guy, but here’s your bait for you wild eyed liberals.

So now that everyone seems to be coming around to Trump as Jimmy Carter [?], it’s time to ponder … Bernie Sanders as Ronald Reagan.

With his run against Hillary as his Reagan-in-’76, his age as a supposed impediment, his wild-eyed socialism as a supposed liability …

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