Allen Wheelis: The Artist and the Impasse


Norman Friedman

To read through Wheelis’ fourteen books of stories and ideas is to see a man twisting and turning, impaled upon the horns of a dilemma. When Science replaced Religion, we thought we had a better way of understanding life, but now that we know that Science too is contingent, what have we left? Furthermore, even if Science were more dependable, it can only answer questions of fact anyway, so we’re still left swinging in the wind when it comes to knowing how to live. And when we look at History and Society, we must realize that, regardless of Ideals, things are run by the lust for power, the rebels against authority merely becoming authoritarians in their turn. Continue reading


G. K. Chesterton on Hamlet


Joseph Schwartz

G. K. Chesterton wrote critical books about a number of authors — Dickens, Shaw, and Browning to name a few. Missing from this list is Shakespeare, about whom Chesterton had planned a book which never got written. We do have, however, many references in passing to Shakespeare and twenty-nine essays on him including five on Hamlet. In these essays one would not expect to find a single systematic critical work, but there is a genuine consistency in them which makes it possible to discuss Chesterton on Hamlet. His analysis of this confounding drama contains splendid insights which will enlarge our understanding of it. Continue reading

The Flora Levy Lecture in the Humanities, 15 October 1996: Dedicatory Remarks On Diana Trilling


Tom Samet

It is both a very considerable pleasure, and a very distinct privilege, to celebrate the achievements of Diana Trilling, to whom this evening’s Flora Levy Lecture is dedicated. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge publicly my strong sense of indebtedness. I have neither seen nor spoken with Mrs. Trilling for nearly twenty years; but a long while ago she took an interest in the efforts of an anxious young graduate student—like Yeats’s old man, I too “had pretty plumage once.” She treated me with a seriousness I had not yet earned, gave me the encouragement I needed, and urged me to get on with my work. I was and remain most grateful. Continue reading

The Sixteenth Flora Levy Lecture in the Humanities: Some Ups and Downs of History


Eugen Weber

The oldest poem in our Western tradition opens with a quarrel about honor. The Greeks, who had spent several years besieging Troy, took some time off to sack a neighboring city. Among the plunder, a girl, the daughter of the priest of Apollo, had been allocated to the Greek commander, Agamemnon, king of kings. When the girl’s father comes to plead for her return, Agamemnon refuses the rich ransom that the father offers. So Apollo sends a plague among the Greeks, Agamemnon is forced to hand over the girl and, to save face, he confiscates another captive maiden who had been bestowed upon Achilles, the fightingest man among the Greeks. Achilles has a big ego and a quick temper, but he cannot resist, because Agamemnon has more men than anyone else; so he does the next best thing. He drops out of the siege and goes to sulk, while the rest of the Greeks get walloped. Continue reading

The House of the Creoles: The Fiction of Four Louisiana Writers


Catharine Savage Brosman

First colonized by the French, then a Spanish possession, again under French rule, then a territory of the young American union, and finally a state, which would join the Confederacy and undergo Reconstruction, Louisiana had an ethnic, linguistic, legal, and cultural history in the colonial period that set it apart and whose legacy has endured sufficiently to give it a distinctive character throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. All of its lasting distinctiveness is not, to be sure, a product of the French influence; the Spanish also left their mark on Louisiana during the eighteenth century, as did other groups then and later, chiefly autochthonous Indians, blacks, whether brought directly from Africa or from the West Indies, Acadians, English-speaking Americans (even before 1803), Germans, Isleños from the Canary Islands, and important waves of Irish, Italians, and other European immigrants, especially from the late nineteenth century onward. But it was the French Creoles who contributed most to shaping the mores and attitudes of southeastern Louisiana, notably New Orleans, in the colonial and immediate post-colonial periods, and whose legacy retained the most prestige thereafter. Continue reading

A “Catholic Fellow-Traveler”? Graham Greene and Communism


Adam Schwartz

In 1949, George Orwell felt the need to correct what he considered a friend’s misconception of Graham Greene’s politics. He told T.F. Fyvel that “You keep referring to him as an extreme Conservative, the usual Catholic reactionary type. This isn’t so at all, either in his books or privately. Of course he is a Catholic…but in outlook he is just a mild Left with faint CP leanings. I have even thought that he might become our first Catholic fellow traveler….”1 Subsequent observers have often echoed the essence of Orwell’s speculation; and some prominent Catholic political conservatives have chided Greene harshly for allegedly muddying religion and politics and becoming something of a Communist fifth columnist in the process. Shortly after Greene’s 1991 death, for instance, Ralph McInerny referred to his “vacillation between Communism and the Church;”2 and, as recently as 1999, Robert Royal wrote disapprovingly that Greene “flirted (and more than flirted)” with Communist beliefs and movements.3 A closer examination of Greene’s views of Communism, though, reveals a more nuanced position than Orwell detected or than his critics have acknowledged. Continue reading