Praesidium, A Journal of Literate Analysis

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A Journal of Literate and Literary Analysis

The quarterly journal of the center for Literate Values

ISSN  1553-5436 (online) and 1553-5339 (print)

To view the current issue of Praesidium, click here.

To revise my essay on previous issues in the Archive Directory of Praesidium, click here.

The Center is a Texas non-profit, charitable corporation.  It has no legal or financial link to any commercial endeavor, nor does it deliberately promote the positions of any particular political party or candidate.

"We can endure neither our vices nor their remedies."  ~  Livy


Morality and Literature in the Western Tradition

Morality and literature... a fascist slogan?  Visions of thought-police making arrests because a preacher (or a freedom fighter) is cast as the villain?  That's not what we meant to imply, of course, in our organization's former name, The Center for Moral Reason.  Such hatchet-work pertains neither to morality nor to literature, but is a symptom of our cultural meltdown.  Our sustained, literate interest in the fusion of beauty and goodness, rather, might be presented in this fashion.  A metaphor is "good" in all senses when it stirs thought.  Its open-endedness rehearses the mind for the kind of speculation involved in seeking the highest moral good--in practicing an intellectual kind of faith.  By contrast, when it pigeon-holes thought into the tight receptacles of an ideologue (or a pornographer), it is propaganda.  Or consider the art of story-telling, which is more structured than metaphor-making.  A story is "good" if its parts fit together.  A key part is human nature--the essential element of motive; yet in our present moral chaos, we seem to reject the notion that anything is written in the human heart.  Hence contemporary stories are often "bad" both in the aesthetic and the moral sense!    They are altogether too lean in accounting for why characters do what they do, which seems more and more to be some sequence of grotesquely sadistic acts.  The Western tradition has opted for the integration of psychological reality into stories.  It accepts free will: hence what people think has much to do how what they act.  We endorse that notion at Praesidium: and in the context of that notion, we endorse morality and literature.



Our criteria are refreshingly indulgent, in terms of both length and content. We have never turned away a good essay or story because it was too long. In extreme cases, we might run the entire work serially for several issues. Material may be submitted electronically to Conventional mailings, of course, must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope if their return is desired. Note address below.

Regarding content, we are very interested in the following kinds of matter: any original short stories or poems which do not court tastelessness for mere shock effect; translations into English of stories, poems, or even novels; essays which critically examine the contemporary academy, especially its politically correct zealotry, its contempt for Western tradition, and its Byzantine inner workings as a system; reassessments of our literary or cultural past where it has been deemed "unusable" by the imperious arbiters of such things; and comparisons of literary works not usually viewed together because they belong to different times or cultures.  For a more complete account of our interests, visit Frequently Discussed Topics and Issues.

Naturally, this "wish list" is not all-inclusive. We are eager to consider any kind of submission which reflects honest and profound thought. Footnotes should be minimal: citation should be used to clarify rather than to overwhelm.  Praesidium is highly receptive to young authors!



Faithful readers of Praesidium are mostly professors and students; but they include thoughtful people of many other callings who are concerned about our world's moral chaos and what has been aptly called our "cultural meltdown".  We publish original poems and short stories and enjoy receiving material from creative writers. Yet the journal’s contents consist mostly of a unique kind of essay: highly readable, never jargon-ridden, perhaps documented but not swamped in footnotes, and (most important) honestly and intelligently assertive without being opinionated. Literature is often the subject of these papers; but we have published ruminations on topics as diverse as our frenzied automobile culture and the dumbing down of baseball.  The “cutting edge” tends to hack away at its avant-garde pronouncements elsewhere.  Here we go back, revisit, autopsy, and sometimes revive. Our audience is united by a willingness to think maturely and responsibly (though it shares specific tastes, too: e.g., aversion to PC fascism and fondness for the Western tradition). Scholars can kick off their shoes--or, if they prefer, take off their gloves.

We are especially interested in receiving essays about morality and literature (including film), about “dated” works wrongly relegated to our cultural attic, about issues raised by surprising juxtapositions of works, and about the peculiar problems of academic snobbery and cultural meltdown. (See Frequently Discussed Topics for more.)  Length open: electronic submissions encouraged.

"Grammar is hard, especially if it is poorly taught. Correct diction is the struggle of a lifetime, and each day conceals little blunders. Yet when the goal of all this toil and struggle is an open marketplace of ideas whose value is pegged, not by their point of origin, but by their intrinsic coherence and common humanity, isn’t the effort worthwhile?"  (Winter 2003)

"… Let us agree that what’s going on in the world right now is not, properly stated, a slugging match between the Bible and the Torah and the Koran—between the differing revelations of different prophets, that is. People know in their hearts that they are incapable of perfect goodness: they always have. The great war for people’s hearts, rather, is between those who openly confess this truth and those who refuse to admit it. Holy books are enlightening only to the former kind of heart. The latter rides and flails the book like a poor winded colt on an expedition to insanity: Don Quixote with real bullets and real blood."  (Spring 2002)

"… Women are forever trying to draw the real man back from the edge of his precipice—to get Marshall Kane out of town before high noon, to convince Sitting Bull that today is not a good day to die. The men, in their turn, are forever trying to keep this moderate influence, welcome and civilizing though it is, from corrupting their bedrock of belief. Something must be worth dying for, if not today, then tomorrow."  (Summer 2001)

“The most celebrated scholars of the last forty years... have been determinists.  They all accept without question that the art work vindicates the conservation of mass and energy--that it is the sum total of what culture, tradition, and the artist's own toilet training and endocrinology have put into it.  Of all the calamities which have befallen the study of the human spirit in this sad century, none has so sealed off the oxygen to whatever life remained under the rubble."  (Winter 2000)

“Postmodern authors… never really demystify--they only substitute one mystery for another, usually in such muddled style that they become their own dupes and are left proudly beckoning us into black holes of enlightenment.” (Fall 1999)


To contact us with comments or questions, phone us at (903) 566-4985;  or you may e-mail the editor at .

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Topics and Issues

Frequently Discussed in Praesidium

Below are several rubrics which help to define the focus of such publications as The Center's journal Praesidium.  In many cases, our editorial stance is clear, since we regard a crucial issue as having been created precisely by a common excess or high-handed imposture; but in some, our interest is entirely open-ended (due to a worthy subject's having been sadly neglected in this blinkered age of "passionate conviction").  What this page offers is neither an inclusive inventory nor and exclusive prescription.  Our ken circles far beyond the matters sketched out below.


contemporary academe

 The decline of the system due to mandatory ideology.

The "under-cover" service of ideology itself to career advancement (e.g., "principled" stands like the denigration of meticulous scholarship, the trimming of reading lists and narrowing of research projects, the promotion of subjective writing, the validation of anything new or trendy as a "discipline").

The self-annihilation of Humanities programs in their pompous theoretical rejection of the disinterested and the universal.

The perversion of conventional methods of candidate interview, course evaluation, and promotion on the contemporary campus to bring faculty on board with certain narrow agendas.



The decline of student preparation for higher education.

The decay of the broader culture's respect for honest study.

The acceptance of "fun" over rigor and of "relevance" over enduring truth.

The politically motivated selection of texts.

Various quotas pursued in texts and syllabi at the expense of coherence and depth.


The case for classical aesthetics--i.e., beauty as largely independent of conditioning and universally grounded, instead, in the human mind through ratiocinative structures of processing sensory data.

The absurdity of recent literary theory which dismisses the possibility of aesthetics merely because some small degree of cultural conditioning affects the perception of some objects.

The relationship between artistic cultivation and moral maturity or spiritual subtlety.


religious issues

The confrontation between charismatic rapture and the sober pursuit of moral duty.

The "right-wing" rejection of personal insight, inner revelation, and individual conscience as equivalent to rabid self-indulgence.

The "left-wing" elevation of scientific (often pseudo-scientific) measures of truth to serve as the basis for analyzing moral and social issues.

electronic media and technology

The relationship of electronic habits to pre-literacy (orality)--likenesses and differences.

Electronic media and technology as a delivery system for values (e.g., the superiority of speed and change, an ever-whetted appetite for more, a radical disjuncture of everything present with the past, a hostility to quiet and patient reflection).

The effect of computers on writing, both in the classroom and for popular consumption.

The effect of media-immersion on the perception of reality.

The unwholesome ramifications of having our economy, national defense, and best-funded educational initiatives all heavily dependent upon computers.