literature Archives - Ethics & Public Policy Center

The Genius of Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was the greatest of the English Romantics, innovative in form and content, yet with a lasting influence on the conservative sensibility in culture and politics. Now he, along with Shakespeare and perhaps John Milton, belongs to the exclusive company of English poets whose names even the minimally educated are almost certain to have heard.

Thinking Is Self-Emptying

Wounds can be a gift to the world, if they can help other people to know themselves.

Flannery O’Connor and Friends, Revisited

Good Things Out of Nazareth fills out the portrait of Flannery O’Connor, a Catholic seeking to plumb the depths of the tradition and finding professional inspiration and spiritual liberation in doing so.

Nelson Algren: Chicago’s Bard of the Downtrodden

Critics once compared the novelist Nelson Algren to Dostoyevsky and Dickens, but even at his best, he lacks Dickens’s warmth of soul and love for middle-class normality, and he does not possess the least trace of Dostoevsky’s intellect or spiritual magnificence.

The Fellowship of the Cursed Poets

Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and John Berryman, all of whom died more than 40 years ago, remain the most famous American poets born in the 20th century. They are known even more for their tortured, prematurely extinguished lives than for their poetry.

Denmark’s Challenge and Hamlet’s Task

The title of Shakespeare’s play—The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark—suggests that Hamlet has a public role to play in Denmark. But what is that role and how should we understand it? To do so, we must first understand what is rotten in the kingdom of Denmark—and try to understand what Hamlet the prince can and should do about it.

The Tragic Sense

Joseph Conrad remains the greatest English language novelist since Charles Dickens, and many of the best writers of the 20th century, including H.L. Mencken, Ernest Hemingway, and T.S. Eliot, paid homage to his excellence or came under his influence.

The Noble Goethe

There have been very few Renaissance men since the Renaissance—and they weren’t exactly thick on the ground even in their glory days. No modern figure is more worthy of that appellation than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Jane Austen: The Personal

Happy is the reader who finds his or her way to Austen, whatever impediments might seem to block the path.

Between Heaven and Hell

The Divine Comedy is one of the great works of humanity, but it is good to remember that this extraordinary poet never transcended the sharply circumscribed thought and feeling of human nature. Dante’s is an unforgettable poem, but before you go changing your life on its authority, you should recall that the most reliable authority on the afterlife you will ever have is yourself.