Topics and Issues

Frequently Discussed in Praesidium

and Other Publications of The Center for Literate Values


"Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem"--The only hope

for the vanquished is to have no hope of safety.  Vergil


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.

Previously published essays in Praesidium which bear upon one or more of these issues.


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.





Tom Bertonneau's two essays, Thinking is Hard: How a Damaged Literacy Hinders Students from Coming to Grips With Ideas, and Literature and Literacy: The Decline of Reading and the Stultification of Student Prose


John Harris's two essays, The Intimate Message of Foreign Language: One Small Curricular Step Toward Restoring Reason, and Foreign Language and the Enemies of Literacy: An Addendum


Mary Grabar's two essays, Academentia: Terror in the Tower, and Academentia: Making History


Steve Kogan, A Sampling of Pronouncements from Our Cultural Elites


Peter Singleton,  The Dusty, Dog-Eared Book: Space Well Wasted 


Kelly Hampton, No "Middle" in Middle America, No Aristotle in the Academy


John Harris Who Needs Enemies? The Peculiar Struggle of Literary Studies at Christian-Affiliated Colleges



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.


By no means, however, should our interest in Western tradition and the classical sense of limit be interpreted as dismissing the imagination's exotic journeys and landscapes.  The pages of Praesidium have often dropped names like Baudelaire, Kafka, and Ben Okri, and have carried original works in the genre of "magic realism".

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