Beyond Multiculturalism

By Cohn, Robert Greer | The World and I, November 1998 | Go to article overview

Beyond Multiculturalism


Cohn, Robert Greer, The World and I


The world's finest writers are always universal (as well as local), not "multicultural" in the current, politically correct sense.

In universal masters of literature, depth--continuity with the common origin--leads to coherence, integrity of composition, and harmony, even when material from sister cultures is incorporated. Further, rootedness in nature and/or the sacred arouses a full resonance in the sister souls of foreign readers, even when details of native scene and idiosyncratic personality vary considerably from country to country. The same is true from era to era: the essential endures.

But in the multiculturalism of today the only major agreement occurs at a shallow, linear, tunnel-visioned level of common, programmatic, tendentious political agenda. And since the emphasis is obsessively on militant action and dissident revolt--engagement as opposed to disinterested truth and beauty--a fanatical polemics against "mandarin" excellence, "elitism," and "static art" or "epiphanies" (Joyce) is inevitable. Ironically, although the multicultural program claims to respect and explore "other" cultures, these other cultures are not truly respected, or known. Instead, they are merely enlisted abstractly in the radical international power perspective, generally originating in the long intellectual tradition of revolt in the West, which uniquely fostered it. Aside from the boringly single-minded theme of revolt, little of substance links the various cultures in undergraduate or, often, graduate study today. The result is an indigestible incoherence, a mishmash, confirmed by the official report of the Committee of Undergraduate Study at Stanford and by widespread student disgruntlement. This is not at all what Leland Stanford and other founders of universities had in mind when they expressed the desire that every student be exposed to great literature.

Homer, Confucius, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Milton, Keats, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Mallarme, Proust, Joyce, Camus--these are universal writers, and their profoundly rooted appeal is practically worldwide as well as timeless.

Celine's hateful campaign of anti-Semitism and Sartre's antibourgeois, score-settling engagement, along with that of all the Nazi and Soviet scribblers and their politically correct equivalents today, are relatively ephemeral. (At least Sartre and Celine had talent, but that's not enough.)

Not everyone is cut out to be a classic. For most of us, however--whether common readers or academics--whom you admire makes all the difference. Millions of ordinary folks flock, typically on Sundays, to adore da Vinci, Vermeer, Shakespeare, Mozart, Debussy, Chekhov, Bergman -- perhaps after paying subtler homage to their God as origin of that serious joy.

That is the opposite of resentment (or ressentiment, Scheler's special brooding and revengeful sense of the word).

What do the politically correct do? They are apt to flock to hear the latest iconoclastic firebrand exhort them to tear down Western (Judeo-Christian) universalist culture and values, the nuclear family, male-female relationships, meaning itself. Pop music, rock, cheap-shot electric guitars and dime-a-dozen wailing voices are likely to accompany this mediocre mass scene of Lumpen revolt.

JACOBIN PERFECTIONISM

Because we are far from the French Revolutionary Eden of ubiquitous fraternity and equality, the ruthless less Jacobin perfectionists among the politically correct are perfectly willing to scrap, along with the wisely balanced and realistic political vision of our Founding Fathers, whatever wistful achievements our expressive geniuses made in the direction of big-souled intimacy--what Flannery O'Connor called "a promise of wholeness"-- all this for the sake of a totally unconvincing claim that they know the way and can lead us to Utopia. Meanwhile, they have left a shambles of art and humanities on our campuses, as everyone now knows. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beyond Multiculturalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.