Friday, December 4, 2009

Around the Web

For the week of Saturday, November 28 through Friday, November 4.

1) In Standpoint Magazine, a shallow discussion of the staging of oratorios.

2) In The Washington Post a shallow review of, "The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithridates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy" by Adrienne Mayor.

3) At The Hoover Institution, Liam Julian on "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage" by H.W. Fowler and edited by David Crystal

4) In City Journal, Michael Knox Beran asks "Can the polis live again?"
It was left to Thomas Jefferson to show that it was possible to preserve the public virtues within a nation-state. To protect civic artistry in a changing America, Jefferson sought to re-create the civic life he had known in his youth. As a college student in colonial Williamsburg, he had been drawn into little communities of sympathetic scholarship that he would always characterize in Athenian terms: “They were truly Attic societies.” It was in communities of this kind, he believed, that men’s civic impulses could flourish as they could not in a larger space.

“A great deal of love given to a few,” he wrote, “is better than a little to many.” Jefferson’s University of Virginia reflected this ideal: he intended it to be an “academical village,” and in designing its Lawn, he made ingenious use of the classical arts to frame one of America’s most beguiling public spaces.

Arendt didn’t heed Jefferson in this, and she offers little prescriptive guidance for those seeking to reclaim public space today. Yet her work remains a useful statement of the part that such spaces might play in resisting the social revolution, if only a way could be found to salvage them. A new generation of civic artists is seeking to revive the old public spaces. “New Urbanist” architects, among them Léon Krier, Andrés Duany, and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, want to restore the town square to its old pride of public place. Their effort is noble, but Arendt showed just how fierce the opposition is.

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