Recent links of note:


“Agent Kristeva”
Kevin Williamson, Commentary Magazine

Julia Kristeva is a Bulgarian-French philosopher, literary theorist, and novelist who has waxed eloquent on such erudite topics as “abjection,” “the semiotic and the symbolic,” and “Experiencing the Phallus as Extraneous” (this last one took an entire book to fully parse out). This body of work has won Kristeva a fairly regular spot on syllabi for undergraduate and graduate English literature students. As is turns out, however, Kristeva also performed dutifully as a Soviet spy while working in France as a fledgling scholar in the 1970s. Of course, as Kevin Williamson points out in a recent article for Commentary Magazine, “indicting midcentury French intellectuals for covert or overt support of Communist dictatorships around the world is like writing speeding tickets at the Daytona 500.” Williamson actually finds more fault with Kristeva’s academic support of Communist totalitarian leaders such as Mao Zedong than for her direct intelligence work for one of the USSR’s most oppressive regimes. His argument that academia’s infatuation with such dictators has left the West in a particularly weak position to provide intellectual alternatives to the likes of Russia’s Putin and China’s Xi Jinping is certainly worth a careful read.

“Millennials Hit the Great Books”
Robert Bellafiore Jr., The Wall Street Journal

At the University of Oklahoma, a group of professors are taking inspiration from the poet and educator W. H. Auden in their decision to h0ld a reading-intensive course on the Great Books of Western literature. The course takes after Auden’s original; both are titled “Fate and the Individual in European Literature”; both cover upwards of 6,000 pages of the greatest writing of the European tradition “from Homer to Derek Walcott.” Robert Bellafiore Jr., a senior at the University of Oklahoma, writes on his experience taking the class, and argues that its popularity and success suggest that a large-scale return to the traditional canon would reinvigorate English departments around the country.


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“The user-centric university”
Julia Friedman