Wilfred M. McClay is professor of history at Hillsdale College. His latest book is Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story.
The meaning of performative in contemporary parlance is almost exactly the opposite of the word’s original meaning.
We need more profanity? Aren’t we already being inundated with it?
We might do a better job of living together if we believed that we are meant to do so.
Like a lover of endangered species, the lover of endangered words jumps for joy when he sees a word being rescued.
Food is a strong proof of our animality; it is equally strong evidence of how we transcend it.
Who could survive such a feast, let alone digest it?
A human person is a historical being, in whom the past remains immanent in the present, and whom the wear and tear of time enhances rather than diminishes.
Why do we need to have the pretentious and mystifying notion of “curation” drifting in and fogging up the air?
Belief in the bad behavior and collective arrogance of the nationstate has become an article of faith for baby boomers.
Scholars have not always been the most objective students of populism, partly because their own interests are at stake, scholarship and expertise being so often numbered among the chief targets of populist abuse.
The therapeutic view of guilt seems to offer the guilt-ridden an avenue of escape from its power.
Rule by merit is, after all, no respecter of persons.
It would be absurd, not to say futile, to argue that languages and words should never change. But there is also a great deal to be said for the idea of language as a lamp, an instrument for the promulgation of ideas and ideals, one that does not merely take its bearings from the things it seeks to illuminate, but in fact reverses that set of relations, and brings its light to bear on a world that badly needs its guidance.
Membership without inquiry is bland and unthinking traditionalism; inquiry without membership is little more than captiousness or kibitzing.
The written word is more fully in the world, even as it shows a greater capacity to transcend the world, to raise our gaze above the immediate, replacing the world’s ephemera with enduring objects of contemplation.
Our dignity derives not only from our relentless drive for mastery but also from our graceful acceptance of limits.