Above the columns of Butler Library at Columbia University, inscribed in the stone frieze, you read permanent testimony that some writers are in fact important: Homer, Virgil, Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, Spinoza, Aquinas … These names are representative of importance, they are not a limiting “list” as relativists sneer. Butler Library stands across a series of geometrical terraces and walks from Charles Follen McKim’s Low Library, which dominates the whole scene with its ten Ionic columns and low dome inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The Columbia campus, designed integrally by McKim, Mead & White, represents architecturally a permanent defiance of the also permanent Scythians and Philistines. And you can argue that this campus is more convincing architecturally than the neo-Gothic of Princeton and Yale or the neo-Georgian of Harvard and Dartmouth.

To my college...

Introduce yourself to The New Criterion for the lowest price ever—and a receive an extra issue as thanks.
Popular Right Now