Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cultured conservatism
Much the point NLM makes writing about the Other Modern: Gothic, baroque and ’50s revivals are wonderful but not the only ways to go. Innovation and orthodoxy aren’t mutually exclusive and we don’t have to be stuck with pastiche if we don’t want to.
One of the things I run into in the conservative movement today is the notion that there is only one aesthetic style appropriate to a conservative vision — neoclassicism. I find that to be simplistic, this notion that all poems must be sonnets and all buildings must have Greek columns. Conservatives have a much more calcified attitude toward the arts than they should. They should be more Burkean in their understanding of how culture changes. They should remember that culture, in order to preserve the mystery of perennial truths, needs to seek new forms. This goes back to the issue of contingency and humility: no single style can encompass all of reality. Eliot wrote “The Waste Land” as a series of fragments that reflected modern fragmentation, and some conservatives have damned him for that. Yet if you read the poem carefully, you will see how those fragments point to a wholeness that can heal the divisions of modernity. Eliot, the non-classicist, imaginatively inhabits modernity but subtly undermines it, demonstrating a truly conservative vision.
That and being choosy about the present, like a less extreme version of the Amish.

From Joshua.

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