- The Washington Times - Monday, August 11, 2008

Working heroes

“While the cultural divide grew as wide as flyover country between those who create television and those who watch it, we’ve seen the working class pretty much relegated to buffoonish sitcom husbands; balding, heavyset men, married to impossibly lovely wives who bubble with love but also deliver sharp zingers that manifest the contempt she (and the show’s creators) have for their mate’s humble station in life. Gone are the lunch bucket heroes. They’ve long been replaced by lawyers, doctors, perfectly tailored detectives, and Manhattan lofted friends.

“But something good is happening on the higher-numbered channels where the nobility of hard work plays out in such a fascinating way that The Deadliest Catch has been ‘synergized’ into a video game and a family of motorcycle builders are treated like movie stars by movie stars. Somewhere along the line, narcissism on parade took a back seat to the virtues of the men in flannel. Yes, it’s our dads, uncles, and neighbors.”

-“Dirty Harry,” writing on “Meanwhile, over at Pajamas Media,” Aug. 4 at Dirty Harry’s Place

New new critics

“Much more compelling is W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley’s careful argument in ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ (1946) that to insist on ‘the designing intellect’ of the author ‘as a cause of a poem is not to grant the design or intention as a standard.’ To put it simply: There may be much more to a work of literature - especially if one reads closely and thinks carefully - than the author intended.

“Their thesis is all the more impressive when compared with Roland Barthes’s histrionic - but much revered - ‘The Death of the Author’ (1968), in which he rejected the very notion of an individual author as ‘the epitome and culmination of capitalist ideology.’ Once the author is ‘removed,’ Barthes observed approvingly, ‘the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile.’

“For those who agree with Barthes, the close attention that the New Critics devoted to literary works is ‘quite futile,’ since all readings are equally arbitrary - and equally meaningless. And since economics and politics apparently present no such problem, why not replace literary criticism with cultural studies? Why waste time discussing literature when one can denounce ‘capitalist ideology’?”

-James Seaton, writing on “When Lit Crit Mattered,” Aug. 2 at the Wall Street Journal Online

Missed the point

“Tension between this life and the next, between human desire and divine command, is indeed at the heart of [Evelyn] Waugh’s story. The problem with the film [‘Brideshead Revisited’] is not that it secularizes the story in the way that, say, the recent film version of The Children of Men eliminated the theological import of P.D. James’ novel. …

“The real problem is the filmmakers’ entirely conventional conception of love, their utter incomprehension of the novel’s understanding of desire and longing. … In a major departure from the book, the film reduces the cause of Sebastian’s decline into self-destructive behavior to his jealousy over Charles’ affection for Sebastian’s sister, Julia (Hayley Atwell).

“The character of Julia dominates the film version of the story. In the final frames, when Charles comes to terms not just with the past but with his own reluctant faith in God, the film makes it unclear whether his act of faith, if it can even be called that, is faith in God or just reverence for the memory of Julia. Having reduced eros to sex, the film ends up distorting Waugh’s thoroughly Augustinian theology of faith and providence - of the way grace operates through the moments of time.”

-Thomas S. Hibbs, writing on “Brideshead Revisited,” Aug. 4 at First Things

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