Book reviews

Richard Antall’s The X-Mas Files (Atmosphere Press, 2021)

Antall’s latest novel is a delightful review of the mistake called “Christmas” from a perspective that every pro-abortion Democratic politician would appreciate: Satan himself.

If the preceding sounds emotionally charged, then you’ll love Richard Antall’s latest novel, an account of how Satan and his minions would view the birth of Christ if, as the novel suggests, “computer” files were obtained of “reports” from Satan’s demons, trying to explain how they let the baby Jesus slip through their hands and failed to kill Him.

The novel is an attempt of reportage from Hell.  No one has ever considered the birth of Christ from the perspective of Satan, who calls the Incarnation the “Invasion” by the “enemy” angels who chose to remain with God.  Antall does a remarkable job of filling in the gaps of what a demonic account of this supreme failure would be.

And “failure” is what Christmas is, if you’re a fallen angel working for Lucifer.  Since devils despise human life (which explains why they would promote abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia), the birth of Jesus is the ultimate failure for the third of the heavenly host which fell from Heaven instead of the joyous time that the Christian world knows it to be.

The novel is certainly not simple, as in naïve.  It contains several erudite passages, including sophisticated Persian or French terms like “Dahak” or “mauvaise foi”, most of which, fortunately, are translated for us ignorant American readers (9, 58).  Also, some literary allusions require diligent readers to check DuckDuckGo.  For example, “who said that history might have been different if a certain Egyptian queen [Cleopatra] had had a longer […] nose”?  Answer: Blaise Pascal (172).

But that’s the fun of this fictional account of Satan and his minions covering their asses for the failure of stopping the birth of the Messiah.

Antall has a wonderful ability to create characters with whom us ordinary people can identify, probably because he has decades of experience not only reading the quantities of books that he has (when you think of Antall, think of an educated man), but also “reading” people who come to him for spiritual counseling or remission of their sins.

For example, even though she was a most exuberant whore and conveyor of abortifacients all of her life, readers will cheer when Pulcheria has a change of heart near the time of her collapsing in death (118).  Similarly, readers feel joy when the drunkard Nathan acts like a little child, urging his animals to warm the Holy Family as the Virgin Mary gives birth (178).

Moreover, the novel’s comedy is obvious and sophisticated.  I laughed out loud on reading the hilarious “transcriptions” of what are purported to be court records of the trials of the devils who were unable to stop Jesus’ birth.  A filmmaker would have a delightful time producing a Perry Mason-like version of many of these passages (cf. 58ff).

Technically, the novel has merits which should endear it to college and university faculty and students.  The polyvocal contributions of devilish commentary on the Messiah’s birth, the sometimes erudite literary allusions, and the plausibility of what can be categorized as a spiritual allegory should make this novel popular with students in secular institutions, which love anything which seems to attack Christianity.  Orthodox Catholic colleges and universities, of course, will appreciate the novel for its contrarian perspective.

Not only to be read during Christmas, Antall’s latest work can supplement one’s faith journey throughout the year since the topic is universal: the importance of Jesus’ Incarnation.  Who would have “thunk” that a novel written from the perspective of devils could increase someone’s faith?

Book reviews

Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (Vintage International, 1992)

Written by a lesbian writer, this novel affirms heterosexual normativity and Christian belief in the sanctity of marriage seen through the lens of adultery.  Gay and lesbian literary critics, therefore, and, even worse, transgender literary critics, would probably abuse Winterson the same way they have tried to cancel J. K. Rowling.

A genderless and unnamed narrator has an adulterous affair with a woman, who either has died or merely vanished from the scene.  That this entire novel is merely a linguistic exercise and not a fictional work meant to have some type of meaning in reality or didactic value for contemporary readers is obvious on the penultimate page, when the narrator asserts that “It’s as if Louise never existed, like a character in a book” (189).

That’s it.  Nothing else to say about the plot.  Typical adultery novel.

What’s fascinating, though, is that the gender of the narrator is irrelevant.  If the narrator is female, then the adultery involves a lesbian relationship.  If the narrator is male, then the adultery involves a heterosexual relationship.  So what?  Adultery is still adultery.  The narrator is still contributing to a wife breaking her marriage vows.

What’s more fascinating are the literary allusions to Scripture and Christianity throughout the novel.  Being a British work and set in Britain, the type of Christianity is Anglicanism grown flaccid in its theology and practice as the descriptive passage about a feeble worship service on pages 151-3 illustrates.

Also interesting are casual comments from various characters who show that a vibrant Christianity was desperately needed in the Britain of 1992 as it is still needed now, in 2022.  The philosophy of one of the narrator’s boyfriends is not that love is God Himself and the greatest distinguishing feature of humanity, but that “love had been invented to fool people” (93).  Another typical void-of-religion statement comes from a cancer doctor who says that taking care of cancer patients is “wasting your time”; the question “Why bother?” posed to this doctor is unanswered (149-50).

Pro-life readers, whether those who have same-sex attraction or those who are secure in heterosexual normativity, can cite one statement from the seemingly irreligious narrator as evidence against suicide.  Commenting on being separated from his adulterous lover, the narrator affirms that “Although I felt that my life had been struck in two I still wanted life.  I have never thought of suicide as a solution to unhappiness” (155).

Book reviews

Vivek Ramaswamy’s Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam (Center Street/Hachette Book Group, 2021)

A lucid and cogent analysis of corporate America’s distortion of social justice and its support of racist groups like Black Lives Matter, Vivek Ramaswamy’s 358-page work is an indictment of corporate greed and should be an embarrassment to those who swallowed the woke ideology without stopping to think about its anti-American positions.

So much of the book is worthy of annotation that it may be best to purchase it.  Of course, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, don’t buy this book on Amazon.  Purchase it from Hachette Book Group directly:

I will, however, highlight some major ideas which will help conservative and pro-life persons fight against the Big Tech and Wall Street billionaires who (invariably) support Democratic politicians who finance the racist, pro-abortion, and anti-American woke activists.  After some initial remarks, the balance of this review will provide quotable quotes to help high school and college students fight back against the leftist tyranny of teachers and faculty, since academia, also, has swallowed the woke nonsense whole without thinking about its negative effects on the nation.

While ordinary patriotic Americans intuitively know that the woke agenda is anti-American, Ramaswamy defines it as clearly as possible for his reader.  “Basically,” he writes, “being woke means obsessing about race, gender, and sexual orientation.  Maybe climate change too” (5).  From this, he asserts that “the point of this book is to expose the dirty little secret underlying […] corporate America’s act, its Prestige.  Here’s how it works: pretend like you care about something other than profit and power, precisely to gain more of each” (3; italics in original).

It helps, too, that, like every American who has been saturated with woke politics obstructing the administration of President Donald Trump, Ramaswamy is “fed up with corporate America’s game of pretending to care about justice in order to make money” (3).

Ramaswamy’s discussion of specific legal and financial concepts can be daunting, requiring several rereadings of the text, but, overall, his language is eminently understandable to the layperson and often quite comical in its metaphors.  For example, “So, in a nutshell, here’s how wokeness and capitalism shacked up: large corporations knocked up woke millennials.  Together they birthed woke capitalism.  And they put Occupy Wall Street up for adoption” (136).

Ramaswamy does not hesitate to identify corporations which succumbed to petulant woke agitators, and his list of companies which follow the “woke-industrial complex” (1) is disturbing, making it seem as though no one can buy anything or use any electronic service without supporting the leftist lunacy of woke activists.  The companies include:

Goldman Sachs, involved in the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad Fund) scandal, while boasting of its purported “ethics” in the United States (15);

L’Oréal, Coca-Cola, and Delta, all of which endorsed the positions of the racist group Black Lives Matter (16-7);

Apple and Uber, fearful of being tainted as “racist” companies after the death of the criminal George Floyd because it would have hurt their business (58);

Volkswagen, which perpetuated the sham of being green after it installed “’defeat devices’ […] to circumvent EPA emissions standards” (91);

Airbnb’s collaboration with the Chinese Communist Party (162);

LeBron James, who fiercely defended the dictatorial regime of the Chinese Communist Party (167-8); “The whole affair exposed a darkly hilarious truth: the NBA and its stars felt duty-bound to criticize America’s president and judicial system but considered it beyond the pale to criticize China’s” (168);

Google’s cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party in censoring its people (172);

YouTube censorship in the United States (183-4);

Facebook censorship in the United States (186);

Mailchimp censorship of conservative groups (187);

the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center, which Ramaswamy calls “the charitable world’s equivalent of a Ponzi scheme” (188);

Big Tech’s suppression of Hunter Biden’s extortion crimes (190);

Twitter censorship of the New York Post (191);

Regarding Facebook and Twitter censorship: “Don’t be fooled by their [Mark Zuckerberg’s and Jack Dorsey’s] practiced vulnerability.  Was it merely a coincidence that Facebook and Twitter adopted the exact same policies with the exact same political effect at the exact same time?  Nope.  This wasn’t a case of two bumbling gentle giants that simply couldn’t get out of their own way.  It was a case of nefarious coordination” (191-2);

and finally Coca-Cola and Delta caving in to the boycott by the racist group Black Lives Matter (283).

Of course, while much of the book is devoted to highlighting the insincere support of woke politics by American companies, Ramaswamy does suggest several solutions to counter the disastrous effects of wokeness on the nation.

The first solution is philosophical.  A recurring theme is Ramaswamy’s belief that “I believe the best way to achieve diversity of thought on a corporate board is to simply screen board candidates for the diversity of their thoughts, not the diversity of their genetically inherited attributes” (14).  The idea of selecting intellectual diversity over skin color or gender identity recognized at birth is often repeated.  “True diversity is very valuable,” Ramaswamy judiciously affirms, “both for a nation and for a company.  But it’s diversity of thought that’s supposed to matter, not a kind of diversity crudely measured by appearance or accent” (219; italics in original).  A further insight shows that Ramaswamy can rightfully accuse woke companies and academia themselves of practicing racism: “when institutions conflate racial and gender diversity metrics with diversity of thought in their organizations, they implicitly reinforce the incorrect assumption that genetic characteristics predict something important about the way that a person thinks—the most fundamental assumption underlying racism itself” (266).

Ramaswamy’s remaining solutions to woke’s corrosive effects on the United States are more practical.  “The solution to today’s new dilemma isn’t to change capitalism, as Democrats try to.  But neither is it to ignore the inherently invasive qualities of capitalism, as many Republicans are prone to do.  Rather it’s to prevent capitalism from changing everything else, by building protective walls around the things we cherish most, like democracy” (54).

Moreover, he advocates that shareholders should be able to sue social activist shareholders of woke companies like BlackRock (76-7).  He also argues for a limit to the business judgement rule (97).

Ramaswamy thinks that Senator Josh Hawley is wrong about using antitrust law against Big Tech censorship because Big Tech will only feign a fear of being broken up.  Besides, Big Tech doesn’t restrict markets and raise prices; it censors ideas, a category not specified in the Sherman Act (194-5).  Ramaswamy does, however, recommend that “A more promising solution, at least in theory, would be for Congress to amend Section 230 in the following manner: any company that benefits from Section 230 is bound by the standards of the First Amendment” (208).

Ramaswamy’s final recommendations seem simple, but, if implemented, could halt and correct the damage done by Big Tech and corporations in their support of woke extremism.  Ramaswamy, a practicing Hindu, recommends that we should be charitable towards woke zealots as “Christ gave the Grand Inquisitor a courtesy that the Grand Inquisitor wouldn’t return” (238).  Ramaswamy, the Yale law graduate, argues for protection of political beliefs under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against private actors like Big Tech (244).  Ramaswamy, the multimillionaire entrepreneur, proposes that, instead of divisive critical race theory (CRT), we should practice “critical diversity theory” (CDT), hallmark concepts of which are “Excellence, Opportunity, and Civility—an Alternative to ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’” (267, 270).

While the volume has extensive notes (329-53), there is no index, a grave disservice for students who may need to locate his commentary on a given topic.  For example, researching how woke activists support abortion would be enhanced if an index would collate the references to the Chinese Communist Party’s forcing abortion on Uighur mothers (165); or the book’s discussion of Disney, the CCP, and abortion (169); or vaguer references elsewhere.

Here are some quotable quotes that high school and college students may find compelling to argue in class and in their research papers:

“[T]here’s a difference between speaking up as a citizen and using your company’s market power to foist your views onto society while avoiding the rights of public debate in our democracy.  That’s exactly what Larry Fink does when BlackRock issues social mandates about what companies it will or won’t invest in or what Jack Dorsey does when Twitter consistently censors certain political viewpoints rather than others” (19).

“When companies make political proclamations, employees who personally disagree with the company’s position face a stark choice: speak up freely and risk your career, or keep your job while keeping your head down.  That isn’t how America is supposed to work, yet that is a reality for many Americans today” (20-1).

“As a society we should allow and even embrace the corporate pursuit of financial self-interest above all.  The only thing we should ask in return is this: keep it naked, instead of dressing it up as altruism” (39; italics in original).

“Personally while I believe racism exists and should be eliminated, I don’t believe in ‘systemic racism.’  In fact, I don’t even know what it means: to me, it sounds like a catchall phrase designed to allow political leaders to escape accountability for solving real-world problems like poverty and failure in education” (63).

“By adopting these new ‘woke’ values, America’s business leaders stumbled upon a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leap from heresy to sainthood.  Corporations were no longer the oppressors.  Instead, corporate power—if wielded in the right way—could actually empower the new disempowered classes who suffered not at the hands of evil corporations but instead at the hands of straight white men—the real culprits who had exploited their power not only since the birth of the corporation but throughout all of modern human history” (135).

“The wedding of wokeness to capitalism offers a tempting, individually rational choice that harms the nation as a whole by handing corporations social and political power.  They don’t truly have wokeness’s best interests at heart, and the two systems aren’t truly compatible.  Wokeness and capitalism simply tolerate each other because each feels it can use the other.  They will turn a blind eye to each other’s faults as long as they themselves can still benefit.  But a marriage in which each side secretly has contempt for the other cannot end well” (140).

“Large publicly traded technology companies, as of this writing, have added over a trillion dollars of market capitalization since the start of the pandemic in early 2020—an order of magnitude more than the GDP of most nations in the same period.  Why?  Because lockdowns meant more people decided to get their groceries on Amazon rather than go to the local store, because more people were able to meet via Zoom rather than travel to a conference, and because more people chose to subscribe to Netflix rather than go to a movie theater.  Meanwhile, small businesses across America suffered for the very same reason.  It’s no wonder that Big tech stacked the decks of public debate to favor lockdowns” (186).

“A recent report from the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology found that over a third of conservative academics and PhD students in the US have been threatened with disciplinary action for their views, and 70 percent of conservative academics report a hostile departmental climate for their beliefs.  The report contains a number of other grim statistical findings, like the fact that more that 40 percent of US academics would refuse to hire a Trump supporter” (265).

“Committed liberals should be concerned about what woke capitalism does to pure ideals like service, altruism, and social good.  Anyone who sincerely cares about important causes like female empowerment, racial equality, and environmentalism ought to be offended when these causes are cheapened by corporations that pawn them off to advance their own goals” (304).

Book reviews

David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl (Penguin Books, 2000)

A fictionalized account of a transgender person whose life supports traditional heterosexual values; worth reading to counter the idiocy of today’s transgender zealots.

Reader warning!  Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, don’t buy this book on Amazon.  Obtaining a copy for reading purposes free of charge through your local public library would suffice.

David Ebershoff, who has been on a gay serial’s “list of influential LGBT people” (biography page before the title page), views the case of Einar Wegener, who later became Lili Elbe, as “a pioneer of the transgender movement” (10 of the “Penguin Readers Group Guide”).  However, it would be foolish to claim her case as evidence to support today’s aggressive transgender political movement that Ryan T. Anderson cogently warned us about in his 2018 book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.

From my application of the five principles of right-to-life literary theory to Ebershoff’s novel, Einar Wegener’s unfortunate case of hermaphroditism and eventual transformation into Lili supports heterosexual and Jewish and Christian sexual values more than it attacks them.

First, regarding whether the literary work supports the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless, it is obvious that Einar, his wife Greta, Lili, and other characters believe that living is worthwhile, despite the anxieties created by Lili’s bodily and sexual confusion.

Second, the literary work does respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life.  The action of the novel is supposed to occur in Denmark and Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s when eugenicist thinking was pronounced and, in the case of the latter nation, forming the ideological basis of the Nazi party.  Yet no instance of support for killing a sexually-confused person like Einar is suggested in the novel.  Even those doctors who attempted to assist Einar in resolving his sexual confusion should be cited as advocating treatments deemed scientific at the time, but quackery in our supposedly sophisticated medical elitist era.

Third, does the novel respect heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?  Granted, the depictions of family life show the flaws of poor parenting.  Einar’s father’s disciplinary methods were typical of the time.  When Einar at age seven wore his mother’s beads, his father exclaims, “’You can’t do that!’ [….]  ‘Little boys can’t do that!’”, to which Einar’s counter question of “But why not?” goes unanswered (28).  Similarly, some statements about married life illustrate a negative view that some have towards marriage.  For example, Greta equates marriage not as the sacramental union of a man and a woman, but as “the great cave of wedlock” (19).

Lili, however, utters several heterosexual affirmations which run contrary to transgender political correctivity.  “’Marriage is like a third person,’ Lili said.  ‘It creates someone else, more than just the two of you’” (79)—a statement which can attest to her own “creation” within the marriage of Einar and Greta and to the life-giving sexual function of marriage.  Carlisle, Greta’s brother, affirms Lili’s desire to be a wife and mother when he asserts the rhetorical question, “What little girl doesn’t want” to be a mother (251).

Moreover, the third question of right-to-life literary theory offers some lightness at this point.  Gay and transgender zealots (and even ordinary readers) would delight, chuckle, and (if the reader is a high school or college student) thrill with the desire to write a standard literary research paper loaded with the usual crap about sexual imagery in the similes and metaphors which Einar uses to describe his penis.  Einar identifies his penis as a part “as small and useless as a white radish” (10) or “the garish lump in his groin” (11).  The penis of his boyhood friend, Hans, is described as “pink […] flopping around like [a] schnauzer tail” (31).  Later, when Einar is transforming into a woman, Lili considers Einar’s shriveled penis (or his scrotum; the text is ambiguous) as “vile” (107).  When he anticipates the first of his sex surgery operations, Einar describes his penis as “parasitically worthless, the color of a wart” (173) and later “spongy flesh” (192).  After the surgery, the author colorfully (and weirdly!) writes that “Einar Wegener has passed from man into woman, two testicles scooped from the pruned hammock of his scrotum” (200).

It would be litotes to say that Einar’s/Lili’s attitudes towards the penis are not consistent with any male who thanks God for his ability to use such a tool for sexually pleasing his wife and being open to the creation of new life.  Oh well, what else can be expected from an author like Ebershoff who writes characters who seem to be devoid of religious values?

Fourth, determing whether the literary work comports with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist could be challenging since this novel concerns neither abortion, infanticide, nor euthanasia as topics.  However, the attitude towards respect for human life is evident in two seemingly insignificant passages.  Greta’s child by her first husband is a stillbirth, and, even though Greta “sometimes hated the baby growing inside her” (42), the author notes that she had the child baptized.  While religion or religious incidents and values are virtually absent in the novel, this notation is surprising.  Why would Greta even bother to have her stillborn son baptized if she and her husband lead lives devoid of any religious activity?  Is this act of faith perfunctory or a sign that a deeper set of values is inherent in human life as manifested in these characters?

Similarly, when her first husband asks her to kill him as he lay dying from tuberculosis, Greta refuses to perform the euthanasia, but only on aesthetic, not religious or moral grounds.  “She couldn’t do it.  Such a horrible way to die, beneath this smelly old thing, rubber the last scent of your life” (168).  While this is a feeble reason not to kill someone, it is at least a reason, so credit must be given to Greta for affirming that her husband’s mature (and diseased) human life has an inherent right to exist.

Finally, when they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?  The reader cannot determine this question with certainty.  Lili dies at novel’s end, and Greta leaves Denmark to marry and live in California.  While the film version of this novel may suggest a “spiritual” ending, finding such in the novel requires a subjective, if not tortured, analysis which would detract from this novel being a quick read.

I can understand how transgender zealots may use this novel as literary evidence of ambiguity about bodily integrity that supposedly afflicts many in contemporary culture.  However, the bodily or sexual confusion that transgender zealots think people experience may be located more in Ebershoff’s following claim in the “Penguin Readers Group Guide”: “We struggle throughout our lives to learn to accept the shell that transports us through this world” (15).  Jews and Christians, especially Catholics who know about St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, would dispute such a negative view of the human body. Maybe that’s why transgender zealots are so furious when the rest of us affirm heterosexual normativity.


Contemporary Literary Theories, Problems with Those Theories, and Why Students of Literature Will Benefit from Right-to-Life Literary Theory

Abstract:  After summarizing contemporary literary theories used in colleges and universities, this paper highlights both the positive aspects of the literary theories and their gaps and deficiencies.  The paper then demonstrates how right-to-life literary theory is a more comprehensive foundational tool to help readers appreciate and critique literature before they apply the standard literary theories.  A passage from Nicki Minaj’s rap song “Autobiography” (abortion), an excerpt from Thomas Rydahl’s novel The Hermit (infanticide), and a portion of the Teri Schiavo television episode from Family Guy (euthanasia) will be examined, using the five questions of right-to-life literary theory.  This paper corresponds with the companion PowerPoint presentation used in the video for the LifeTech 2021 conference. The organizers of the 2021 LifeTech conference posted the video presentation here:

          I would first like to thank the organizers of this year’s LifeTech conference for asking me to consider presenting the following material.  I am not only impressed that a pro-life organization would continue its work despite the social upheaval of a pandemic, but also honored that conference organizers asked me to discuss one of my current research projects.

          [slide 1]  Attendees and, since it will be remotely conducted, viewers of this year’s conference are encouraged to submit their comments and questions either by email or phone.  Since I would like to present this continuing research project at other academic and pro-life venues, comments obtained here may refine my ideas about right-to-life literary theory and therefore improve the presentation.

          [slide 2]  The structure of this presentation is as follows.  After providing a functional definition of “literary theory”, I will first review contemporary literary theories used in academia; most of these theories have been taught in colleges and universities for decades, while some are recent innovations in literary study.  I will then discuss problems, gaps, and deficiencies in most of these theories, particularly from a pro-life perspective.  The presentation then advances to what I call right-to-life literary theory, which consists of five questions.  I then apply the five questions of right-to-life literary theory to three contemporary examples of literature: Nicki Minaj’s rap song “Autobiography” (which concerns abortion), an excerpt from Thomas Rydahl’s novel The Hermit (which includes the topic of infanticide), and a portion of the Teri Schiavo television episode from Family Guy (which attempts to promote euthanasia).  “Literature” is broadly defined in academic circles to include all formats (the written word, the spoken word, the sung word, etc.), but this study will examine the texts of the three examples to demonstrate the utility of right-to-life literary theory.

          Normally, I end this customary introductory slide of my presentations with the notation that time will be reserved for questions and answers or the joke that I would give my audience utterly hopeless deer-in-the-headlight stares.  Since this presentation is online (and not merely online, but asynchronous), any possible embarrassment of my looking like the deer in this slide is obviated.  Joking aside, I would greatly appreciate participants’ comments and questions for the reasons stated above and will answer any queries as quickly and efficiently as possible.

          [slide 3]  Before delving into the various literary theories used in colleges and universities (and, increasingly, high schools), a simple functional definition of “literary theory” may be helpful.  A literary theory is a way to look at literature, and, since there are many perspectives or ways to approach the study, appreciation, and application of literature, many theories have developed over the centuries.  Since ancient times, literary criticism was essential not only to heighten the appreciation of literature, but also to help us learn something from the literature.  Moreover, as mentioned above, “literature” includes not only written works (poems, short stories, dramas, and novels), but also lyrics of songs (for example, the contemporary genres of rap and trap) and material in other formats such as films (both traditional and internet-based) and other items.  Finally, this listing of literary theories is alphabetical for the reader’s/viewer’s convenience.

Archetypal or Jungian Criticism

          Developed by Carl Jung, archetypal criticism concerns dominant symbols, called archetypes, which are common to our culture and which generate the same reactions and responses in all of us.  Colors, seasons, and other symbols can become such archetypes.  For example, red is standardized as the symbol of passion, martyrdom, and whoredom, and white is symbolic of holiness and purity.  How we “universally” react to these colors is culture-bound; for example, while white symbolizes purity in the West, in China white symbolizes evil.  Seasons, similarly, are highly symbolic and conjure the same images and ideas for all of us.  Spring represents the beginning of new life.  Summer is that time or age when our lives are most productive.  Autumn is that time period when we can harvest our goods (either literally, as in garden or farm products, or figuratively, as in 401k wealth).  Winter is the time which symbolizes lives well spent and an era of resting, realizing that death will end our physical existence.

          Archetypal criticism is important for pro-life readers for an obvious reason: we all have the same negative reaction to an abortionist as we all have the same positive reaction to the terms “mother” and “unborn child.”  These reactions occur no matter how forcefully authors may try to change the archetype of an abortionist to a positive one by calling him or her a “doctor” instead of the killer that he or she is.  For instance, the abortionist Dr. Swain in Grace Metalious’ 1956 novel Peyton Place is, for all the “good” work he does for the community, still an abortionist.

Biographical Criticism

          It seems much too simple if not tautological to assert that the facts of a writer’s life may be important to help us understand what he or she wrote.  If one is interested in the background of an author, then one has chosen biographical literary theory as a way to appreciate the literature.

          Biographical criticism—curiously, a method of appreciating and interpreting literature which is often ignored in the academy and in textbooks of literary criticism—is crucial for pro-life readers.  Knowing that John Irving is an active supporter of the abortion business Planned Parenthood, for example, will affect one’s reading of his famous abortion novel, The Cider House Rules (1985), as mere propaganda for the abortion industry.  This may account for the film version being beloved by anti-life Hollywood and severely criticized by pro-life critics.

Critical Disability Studies

          The analysis of able-bodiedness and disabilities in literature is a newer literary theory which has produced some interesting interpretations and re-interpretations of literature.  This theory challenges the anti-life idea of “life unworthy of life”, a Nazi concept embraced by anti-life writers and activists in contemporary society, thus contributing to the pro-life movement recognizing this theory as life-affirming.  It is striking, however, that, with notable exceptions, many academics using this theory are hesitant to connect anti-life philosophy with the movement which supports abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia of persons with disabilities.

          Pro-life readers, therefore, have an opportunity to affirm the value of human life depicted as inferior or disabled by adopting the principles of this theory.  Literature which shows disabled or differently-abled characters ranges from the mid-nineteenth-century character Hetty, called “retarded”, in James Fenimore Cooper’s 1841 novel The Deerslayer to the contemporary example of F. X. Toole’s 2000 short story “Million $$$ Baby”, which later became an Academy Award-winning film.

Critical Race Theory

Contemporary activists and parents protesting at school boards have pointed out the inherent racism of critical race theory, yet that was not the original purpose of the theory.  While some textbooks may use confusing nomenclature, critical race theory as a type of literary criticism functions to highlight racial differences between characters, showing, for example, how African slaves were mistreated by white slave owners.

It would be a serious challenge for any pro-life reader to use critical race theory for any purpose except to assert the equality of any human being, no matter his or her race.  Accepting the principles of the aggressive political movement which bases its ideas on radical race consciousness is abhorrent to the pro-life community, since pro-lifers follow the principles of respect for all human life, no matter its condition of dependency, gender, or, in this case, racial identification.  Furthermore, as pro-life social media commentators have noted, critical race theory does more to divide humanity in terms of race instead of uniting them in what should be a concerted effort to stop assaults on human life, the most egregious being the much ignored fact that African-American mothers abort at a rate three times that of whites.  Activists in pro-abortion race-conscious groups and businesses, like Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood, can learn much from Ramona Treviño’s 2015 biography Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back.  Nowhere does Treviño, a Latina, blame white society for her abortion decisions, unlike race-centered groups, which deflect responsibility for women’s abortion decisions onto whites.


          While formalist literary criticism (see below) focuses on the meanings of words as an author intends and looks for the inherent unity of a literary work, a deconstructionist critic argues that words are so inherently unstable that a standard meaning can never be obtained.  While this idea may be a fun exercise in the classroom, this essential criterion is farfetched for many ordinary, competent readers.

          Pro-life readers, of course, can use deconstructionist principles to argue a life-affirming interpretation of literature, especially literature which advances a pro-abortion, pro-infanticide, or pro-euthanasia position.  Thus, pro-life readers can critique Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? not merely as a classic science fiction work, but as a fulfilled prophecy of how abortionists and others degrade human life.

Feminist Criticism

          The earliest form of gender criticism, feminist literary criticism should be distinguished from feminist political activism.  This theory argues that literature shows women as victims of “patriarchy”, the idea that men are oppressing women.  Feminist literary criticism attempts to highlight female characters who overcome such oppression; moreover, the theory argues that women’s writing is different from that of male authors.  One can be a feminist literary critic and still accept the Judeo-Christian heritage of the father being head of the family; one simply looks at literature from a woman’s perspective.

          While the above paragraph severely oversimplifies feminist literary criticism, it should be obvious to all pro-life readers that this criticism is particularly fertile as a means to advance pro-life interests.  After all, if the idea of feminist literary criticism is to emphasize the oppression of women by men, then abortion can easily be documented in fictional literature as the most oppressive force against women and their success in society.  Unfortunately, contemporary anti-life feminist pro-abortion fiction still suffers from the myopic perception that abortion is necessary to overcome patriarchy, as evidenced by Elizabeth Keenan’s tedious 2019 novel for teens, Rebel Girls.  Pro-lifers will enjoy countering biased work like Keenan’s novel, however, by using the principles of feminist literary criticism against what such literature advocates.

Formalism and New Criticism

The standard literary theory used in the academy, if one ever had a teacher or faculty member ask what a term in any story, novel, drama, or other literary work means, then that teacher or faculty member was using formalist literary criticism, the idea that, unlike deconstruction, words have stable meanings and the ideas expressed by an author can be understood.  Moreover, a formalist critic is concerned about the unity of a literary work’s plot, consisting of four steps: the exposition, the problem to be addressed in the literary work; the crisis or crises between the protagonist and antagonist characters; the climax, the essential conflict between the characters; and the denouement, the literary work’s conclusion, which may or may not be satisfactory in the reader’s estimation.

Formalist criticism is certainly beneficial to a pro-life reader since such a reader adopts, consistent with pro-life principles, the idea that words have stable meanings; “mother”, for example, refers to a female parent, and no corruption of the idea of motherhood with a verbose phrase such as “birthing parent” can destroy the essential meaning of the term.  Regarding the unity of the literary work, a pro-life reader or critic would find much anti-life fiction faulty, especially if the ending of that work results in the killing or death of a human being.  Such is the case with Lisa De Niscia’s 2011 novel Momentary Mother; the denouement leaves the reader wondering why the main character aborted, given what seems to be loose ends in the plot.

Gender Criticism/Gay and Lesbian or Queer Studies

          The category of gender criticism originally consisted only of feminist literary theory, arriving in academia around the time of the second wave feminist movement.  It quickly became apparent that, if literature can be appreciated and interpreted through the lens of a feminist, then it could also be viewed from a man’s perspective, thus creating a masculinist approach to literature.  Persons with same-sex attraction established the gay, lesbian, or queer studies division of gender criticism, the last term sequenced in the title of this heading being politically-correct usage.  Transgender activists have added another aspect to gender literary criticism, and no doubt the category will expand when adherents of other sexually-confused categories claim their right to interpret literature according to their agendas.

          The political machinations of extremist gay and lesbian activists aside, pro-life students of literature can use gender criticism in support of human life threatened by abortion, infanticide, or euthanasia on the principle, stated above, that human life is sacred no matter what condition of dependency or gender recognition (or confusion) may obtain.  In fact, since the aggressive gay and lesbian political agenda has argued that actively homosexual persons or persons with same-sex attraction have the right to exist as heterosexual persons do, activists in any category would appreciate input from pro-life activists supporting their first civil right, the right to life.  After all, no person should be killed because he or she may be confused about his or her sexuality, as happens in, for example, Islamic nations, where gays and lesbians are executed in horrible ways.  Moreover, some gay and lesbian novels can generate sympathy that only pro-life people, who are by definition compassionate, would understand, as in Tim Murphy’s 2016 novel Christodora, a tortured account of persons with same-sex attraction who cannot understand that their actions suggest a yearning for heterosexual normativity.

Historical Criticism

          As with biographical criticism, knowing the milieu in which a literary work was created is eminently helpful to advance the appreciation of the literature.  Unfortunately, contemporary literary critics are more concerned about contentious, if not nonexistent, issues, like “white privilege.”  Knowing the world of 1850 when Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his masterpiece The Scarlet Letter should help any reader understand his complex and antiquated language and the importance of the effort to establish an American literature which could match the grandeur of European literature.

          From the pro-life perspective, understanding the historical circumstances of a literary work is crucial in its explication and application to contemporary life.  For example, knowing that a master writer like William Faulkner wrote his abortion novel The Wild Palms in 1939 when it was still an abhorred practice helps the reader understand how dire unplanned pregnancy may have been for hedonistic women at that time.  Similarly, understanding the history of abortifacients, touted as alternatives to risky surgical abortion methods, will help readers appreciate how an anti-life author like Sharon Biggs Waller could presume in her feeble 2019 teen abortion novel Girls on the Verge that what was once an abhorrent practice is standard procedure for young mothers who wish to violate the civil rights of unborn babies and possibly harm themselves with dangerous abortifacients.

Marxist Criticism

As with feminist literary criticism above, one does not have to renounce one’s (pro-life) Democrat or Republican affiliation or be a political Marxist to use Marxist literary criticism.  The theory is dominantly concerned with economic factors and power relationships.  The ideas of “ideology” and “counterideology” are important in this theory, since the conflicts resulting between those who arrange social life in certain ways and those who oppose or want to change society are necessary in Marxist thinking to lead to the creation of a better world.  For example, the United States once followed the ideology that Negroes (the politically-correct term in the 1950s) could sit only in the back of busses; a counterideology developed that Blacks or African Americans could sit anywhere they wanted.  Note that the ethnographic labels themselves indicate a shift in ideology.

The importance of Marxist literary theory to pro-life students of literature is obvious.  If a literary work suggests an ideology that the types of killing called abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are appropriate for society, then it is the pro-life activist’s counterideology to assert the opposite and to generate conflict so that those methods of killing human beings are stopped.  Fictional accounts of conflicts between anti- and pro-life factions are replete in the literature, ranging from the early days of pro-life fiction, such as Stephen Freind’s 1987 novel God’s Children, to Matthew Archbold’s 2020 work, American Antigone.

Moral Criticism, Dramatic Construction

Some compilations of literary theories, especially the Purdue University Online Writing Lab, categorize the ancient debate of Plato and Aristotle regarding whether literature serves moral purposes or not as moral criticism.  There is not much more to say about the utility of this category from a pro-life perspective, the assumption being that literature does serve a moral purpose.  That is, people read literary works or watch them enacted in drama or music videos (a format not available to the ancient writers) because they want to be entertained, yet the didactic value of these entertainments cannot be avoided.

Thus, pro-life readers and students of literature can certainly be entertained either by the drug-induced language of Richard Brautigan’s 1971 novel The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 or the linguistic free-for-all of Kathy Acker’s 1986 abortion novel Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream.  Pro-life readers will also learn something about the fantasy worlds that must be depicted in order for the brutal violation of civil rights called abortion to be validated.

New Historicism/Cultural Studies

          While some more leftist activists may have corrupted the purposes of this literary theory, the foundational principles still have merit.  That is, it is important to consider, or re-consider, past historical events from the position of contemporary life.  Also, it is a valid area of concern to study artifacts in any given culture which contributed to the rise of its literature.  Thus, for example, while Columbus Day is still known as a day to rejoice over the discovery of America, others reinterpret that historical event as the beginning of the European invasion of the Americas.  Reinterpreting a fact of history could lead to a political position justifying the destruction of European culture and ideas in the New World, let alone statues of famous Europeans who saved the aboriginal peoples from human sacrifice.

          Pro-life researchers have accomplished much according to the principles of these theories, as illustrated, for example, by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer’s 2017 Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, a biography of the infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell.  If it were not for their research and exposé, a man whom some thought was performing needed “services” for women would have remained that instead of being redefined as the infamous abortionist and serial killer that he is.

Postcolonial Criticism

Unless one reads literary works from former colonies of the European powers, this theory is rare to find in contemporary criticism of literary works meant for the general reading public, although some scholars are trying to rejuvenate this theory by considering the United States as an imperialist power which had “colonies” around the globe or by altering the definition of what constitutes a “colony.”  From a pro-life perspective, for example, if one were anti-life, can could claim that the unborn child is a “colony” implanted by a patriarchal “power” in the body of the woman/mother.  Arguing such a contorted idea may be an interesting intellectual exercise for a classroom when more important matters are completed (grammar or logical fallacies); however, the utility of such a classroom question would be deemed as more evidence that academia has become so leftist as to make anything coming out of higher education irrelevant for the real world.

However, considering fiction from former colonies of the European powers is often an enlightening educational experience, confirming how pro-life the cultures beyond Europe and the Americas are.  For example, pro-life readers will appreciate the angst and post-abortion syndrome which the aborted mother experiences in Buchi Emecheta’s 1994 novel Kehinde.  Similarly, pro-life readers can use this theory to advance the movement by pointing out that anti-lifers use the bodies of unborn babies, whether dead or alive, for “research” as much as colonial powers may have used the people whom they colonized for their purposes.  The difference, of course, is that anti-lifers use those bodies in ways which destroy human life instead of enhance and protect it.

Psychoanalytic Criticism

          While it has been my experience that incorporating Freudian ideas about phallic and yonic imagery in literature to discover the repressed desires of authors or characters often led to comedy in the classroom instead of serious discussion of psychological principles, the core beliefs of psychoanalytic criticism are useful.  It is important to know what an author may have been thinking in the creation of a literary work, as it is important to understand or try to perceive a character’s emotions in the work.  Sometimes the author him- or herself will identify those emotions in interviews or ancillary material; even those disclosures, however, may not be reliable, thus necessitating biographical research to affirm or negate an author’s claims.

          The psychological problems associated with post-abortion syndrome and the medical killing of euthanasia or the killing euphemistically called “assisted suicide” are creating a new genre of literature for pro-life readers and critics to explore.  This theory can assist pro-life readers in reevaluating the evidence of post-abortion syndrome in Graham Greene’s 1988 novel The Captain and the Enemy as much as the depersonalization of a human being, antecedent to euthanasia, in James T. Farrell’s 1978 novel The Death of Nora Ryan.

Reader-Response Criticism

          Of all the literary theories introduced to students over the last two decades, I think most students appreciate reader-response criticism more than any other since this theory gives the reader the authority to interpret a literary work instead of relying or, worse, adopting, how the teacher or faculty member interprets it.  While proponents of this theory argue that a reader must be competent before he or she can derive a valid interpretation of a literary work, reader-response criticism is liberating for ordinary readers who may not be versed in all the literary terms and concepts in which faculty have been trained.  After all, literature is not produced for academics to study and determine if the literary work comports with their ideological positions.  Literature is meant for consumption by ordinary readers, whose opinions about a literary work could differ greatly from those who think they are more qualified not only to read literature, but to discourse and to write about it.  In fact, among today’s highly leftist higher education elites, readers must counter the often contorted opinions of a literary work with their own commonsense interpretations.

          The utility of this theory for pro-life readers is clear.  Pro-life readers are not obligated to accept the received academic opinion of the abortionist Wilbur Larch as a hero in Irving’s The Cider House Rules, nor must they accept the idea that euthanasia or medical killing comports with pagan values, as April Genevieve Tucholke seems to suggest in her 2018 novel geared for teens, The Boneless Mercies.


          I know of no colleague or ordinary person who ever consciously thinks of structuralism or post-structuralist principles before he or she reads a novel, short story, poem, or rap or trap song, let alone anyone who consciously thinks of semiotic concerns of a literary work as academics demand.  If he or she is concerned with the meaning of words used, however, then that reader is probably concerned with formalism literary theory, where the meaning of the words that a novelist or a poet uses are important to determine.

          How difficult, if not irrelevant to the concerns of ordinary readers, the structuralist and post-structuralism theories can be is apparent by how scholars have defined (or attempted to define) them:

[Post-structuralism] concerns itself with the ways and places where systems, frameworks, definitions, and certainties break down.  Post-structuralism maintains that frameworks and systems […] are merely fictitious constructs and that they cannot be trusted to develop meaning or to give order.  In fact, the very act of seeking order or a singular Truth (with a capital T) is absurd because there exists no unified truth.  Post-structuralism holds that there are many truths, that frameworks must bleed, and that structures must become unstable or decentered.  Moreover, post-structuralism is also concerned with the power structures or hegemonies and power and how these elements contribute to and/or maintain structures to enforce hierarchy.  Therefore, post-structural theory carries implications far beyond literary criticism.

(Purdue University, “Post-Structuralism”)

I have written elsewhere about scholarly psychobabble.[1]  If the above quote is challenging for academics to understand, one can only surmise how onerous it is for ordinary readers who, while educated, are unfamiliar with the jargon used by literary critics who function in the academy and seem to be unaware of issues in the real world.

[slide 4]  In discussing the problems of the various contemporary literary theories, I will repeat the phrase “human life is not merely about” followed by the phrase “the total life of the human person is more important than.”  This repetition is necessary to show that, while the various literary theories used in colleges and universities (and, increasingly, high schools) have benefits, they all suffer from a myopic view of human life, ignoring the essential reason why human beings have literature in the first place: literature is written for humans not only to enjoy, but also to aid them in learning deep cultural values.

What, therefore, are some gaps and deficiencies in the standard literary theories?

          Regarding archetypal or Jungian criticism, human life is not merely about symbols or our universal reactions to them; the total lives of people are more important than symbols.  Human life is not merely about the details of our lives as biographical criticism would dictate; the total life of the human person is more important than just the actions one performs or problems one endures.  Human life is not merely about physical conditions of our bodies; the total life of the human person is more important than our abilities and disabilities, as critical disability studies rightfully asserts.  Human life is not merely about the quantity of melanin in our skin, a fatal error in critical race theory; the total life of the human person is more important than his or her race.  Human life is not merely about how some words can be more playful and have multiple meanings than others or one’s inability to determine or establish the meanings of words which human beings have stabilized over the centuries (have deconstructionists never heard of a dictionary?); the total life of the human person is more important than the varied meanings of the words which he or she uses.  Human life is not merely about oppression of women by men, as feminist literary critics would have people believe; the total life of the human person is more important than oppression of one gender by another, whether men oppressing women or women oppressing men.  Human life is not merely about the meanings of words, a key idea of formalist literary critics; the total life of the human person is more important than determining whether the meaning of a term, like “mother” or “woman”, has been stable for millennia.  A near repeat of the entry for feminist literary criticism, human life is not merely about gender; the total life of the human person is more important than whether one’s sex is recognized—not “assigned”, but recognized—either before or after birth as male or female.  Human life is not merely about the chronological circumstances of an event or the historical period in which an author wrote; the total life of the human person is more important than his or her milieu.  Human life is not merely about economics or forces of power, demanded by Marxist literary critics; the total life of the human person is more important than the money that he or she uses or the political influences affecting him or her.  As appropriate and valid as moral criticism is, human life is not merely about whether one perfected one’s moral code or whether what one writes follows the four steps of plot development; the total life of the human person is more important than the sins one commits.  Human life is not merely about how history is interpreted or reinterpreted by one’s contemporaries; the total life of the human person is more important than redefining the importance of Columbus’ discovery of the New World as the beginning of the European invasion of the Americas.  Human life is not merely about the effect of European powers on Africa, Asia, and Latin America; the total life of the human person is more important than the political influences that may have hampered some cultural development.  Human life is not merely about one’s psychological repressions or sexual desires expressed through phallic or yonic imagery; the total life of the human person is more important than whatever deviousness exists in human minds.  Human life is not merely about whether one reader is able to force his or her opinion about a literary work on another person as the best reading; the total life of the human person is more important than any interpretation of literature.  Human life is not merely about worrying about what an author meant when he or she wrote something; the total life of the human person is more important than such intellectually stimulating, yet vapid discourse—especially vapid if people argue over the merits of the structures of works by human authors instead of, for example, understanding sacred scriptures.

          The above paragraph is one which no English professor would ever ask his or her students to write: more than one page, repetitive, complex, with no clear topic sentence.  However, I trust that I have made my point that every literary theory has a flaw, sometimes a fatal flaw, in that, while it may appropriately concern some aspect of human life, it neglects the essential criterion, the idea that the literary work exists to benefit human life.  Thus is born right-to-life literary theory.

          [slide 5]  I developed the idea of right-to-life literary theory for a paper in 2018 on the right-to-life issues in gay and lesbian literature.[2]  Having studied and used the various literary theories established in the academy and, most importantly, knowing what those theories leave out (the importance of human life), I formulated the following five questions which I use to examine all literature, especially works which concern the right-to-life issues of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.

  1. Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?
  • Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?
  • If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?
  • Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?
  • When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

The balance of this presentation will apply the five questions of right-to-life literary theory to three works of literature.  The questions are repeated for each literary work, followed by brief commentary for each question.  It is hoped that students of literature can perceive that each brief response can be expanded into a lengthier analysis or, for college and university students, a research paper.

          [slide 6 and 7]  Nicki Minaj is one of the most successful rap artists in the world.  I recently wrote about her because I wanted to understand what a contemporary cultural force such as Minaj had to say about abortion and what we, her auditors, can learn from her experience.  (Readers: please consult the appropriate slide for the text of Minaj’s “Autobiography” to be studied.)

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

          Critical thinking skills must be used to answer this first question of right-to-life literary theory, since, on the surface, life as a philosophical good is not explicitly stated in this excerpt of the song.  However, one can conclude that the persona of the song (Minaj herself or the “character” singing the song) does consider life as such a good.  Why would she want to have the child with her if she thought that existence in real life was not a noble thing?

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

Here, also, more critical thinking must be used to reply to this question since the words of the song do not seem to recognize the paramount inherent right of all human beings to exist.  The persona recognizes that the conception (fertilization) of a human being is a good thing and that “leaving” that human being is neither in the child’s or the persona’s best interests.  It is interesting to note that the idea of leaving suggests that our rights are connected with our responsibilities, and the persona in this song is keenly aware that she has neglected her responsibility to the aborted child.

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

          The integrity of the family is a glaring issue here; the persona is obviously the mother of the aborted child, and the child him- or herself is “present” because he or she is being addressed.  The father, however, is absent.  One could write much about the dire situation of the African-American family, which is dominantly matriarchal.

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

          That the mother talks to the aborted child is clear evidence not only of her compassion for him or her, but also of the hope that the child has an existence in the afterlife.

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

Using the words “God’s plan” is rare to find in a rap song, especially one which concerns abortion.  Their inclusion here indicates that the persona does have a sense of the divine presence in the world, one which can overcome even a seemingly definitive act of killing called abortion.

          [slide 8]  Thomas Rydahl’s The Hermit (2016) is noteworthy first as a murder mystery novel with a variety of interesting characters and, second, as a lengthy European work which contains a strikingly sympathetic view towards newborn human life.  (Readers: please consult the appropriate slide for the text to be studied.)

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

          This excerpt indicates intense sorrow over the child’s death.  The effort that the police and investigators have taken indicate that the child should be alive, and, if they think this, then they must consider that life is a philosophical good worth experiencing.

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

          This question, also, can be answered in the affirmative as question one, with an important notation: lacking a name, the dead child is called most affectionately the “boy”—not a cadaver to be buried, or a deceased newborn, but a more loving term.  The individuality of the dead child is thus affirmed.

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

          This passage clearly indicates that the heterosexual normativity which should obtain in any family has collapsed.  The characters note that the father and mother, “the mum and dad”, are gone and left only their son, affectionately called “the boy” (51).  The lack of heterosexual normativity of the dead boy’s family is further highlighted by the fact that the investigators have researched all the remaining couples who recently had newborns, even to the point of giving an explicit number, 187 children.  That the dead child cannot be included in that large number of children born to couples increases the pathos of the situation.

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

          While no commentary is apparent from this excerpt about the inherent right to exist of other categories of human lives (from the unborn to the elderly), the use of a vulgarism is further evidence of the sadness over the boy’s death.  The use of “fucking” (51) is entirely appropriate and consistent with the depiction of these male characters as tough men.  The term indicates the rage that men who see an innocent person killed would feel, their anger at such injustice manifested not by copious tears that a female character might display, but a solid vulgar term that a man would express.  The vulgarism demonstrates not only the man’s anger at the injustice of a dead baby boy, but also his frustration of not being able to rectify the injustice.

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

          Answering this question from this brief excerpt is not possible; the entire novel must be read and various other passages and references to religious entities studied.  One can suggest, however, that the unanswered rhetorical question, “How can someone abandon a child?” (51), set off as its own paragraph, indicates that at least one character has internally recognized a divine precept that no one should abandon a child.  If this recognition were not supplied, then the characters would be perceived as no better than male cats killing newborn male kittens as happens in nature.

          [slide 9, 10, and 11]  The final passage to be considered is the Teri Schiavo episode from the television program Family Guy, which attempts to justify her starvation.  As I argue elsewhere,[3] this episode is inherently not comical yet attempts to use humor to persuade the viewer that the killing of Teri Schiavo was justifiable.  (Readers: please consult the appropriate slide for the text to be studied.)

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

          This excerpt makes it clear that human life is not a philosophical good, and one can base this primarily on the high estimation placed on the technology used to maintain Teri’s life.  The respect for technology over human life is further evident when one character expresses disdain for vegetables, which, like human life, is another item of God’s creation.

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

          While all of us know the conclusion to the story (Teri is starved to death), one cannot determine from the excerpt whether individual rights are respected.  Again, as with question one, it seems that non-human entities deserve more respect than the human beings, whether it is the technology used or, towards the end of the segment, the reference to the United States Constitution, a document written by humans but more deserving of respect than the humans themselves for whom it was written.

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

          Since Teri herself is a silent actor in this episode, it is clear that Michael Schiavo does not meet the standards of what a husband should be, especially in his role as protector of the family.  In fact, one can argue that the excerpt shows not only Teri’s dehumanization by calling her “The most expensive plant you’ll ever see”, but also her reduction to a child instead of the adult that she was by calling her “a lively little bugger.”  The implication is profound; if Teri is a child and not the equal partner in sacramental marriage with Michael Schiavo, then Michael can treat her in a subordinate position as any parent would a child.

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

          The episode requires a negative response to this question, if only because mocking human life as happens here does not comport with the nature of comedy.  The episode does, however, illustrate well the disrespect of a human being who needed medical care and compassion more than a legal authority to sanction her starvation.

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

There is no evidence in this excerpt that any character recognizes a divine presence in the world.  If anything, Michael’s reliance on the Constitution shows that he and presumably the other characters have replaced God with a man-made legal instrument.  These characters apparently do not perceive how unstable their foundation justifying the killing of Teri Schiavo is.

          I trust that this presentation has been not only interesting, but also helpful for participants who must engage in the battle against the anti-life movement in the courts, in the sciences, at the sites where killing occurs, and in an area of great importance which pro-lifers have been slow to engage, the humanities, specifically literature.  I further hope that what has been discussed here will assist pro-life readers to construct significant reviews of literature that they have read on the life issues.  Great work needs to be done to communicate to the general public our objections to literary works which do not support the right to life and our affirmations of those works which do.  Whether conference attendees write reviews for Amazon,, some other social media outlet, or their own blogs, I hope that what has been presented here will increase the quality of their work significantly.

[slide 12]

Works Cited

Acker, Kathy. Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream. Grove, 1986.

Archbold, Matthew. American Antigone. Resource Publications, 2020.

Brautigan, Richard. The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966. Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Deerslayer. 1841. Philadelphia: Macrae Smith, [n.d.].

De Niscia, Lisa. Momentary Mother. Whitepoint, 2011.

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Del Rey, 1968.

Emecheta, Buchi. Kehinde. Heinemann, 1994.

Farrell, James T. The Death of Nora Ryan. Doubleday, 1978.

Faulkner, William. The Wild Palms. Random House, 1939.

Freind, Stephen. God’s Children. Morrow, 1987.

Greene, Graham. The Captain and the Enemy. Viking, 1988.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter and Other Tales of the Puritans. Ed. Harry Levin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.

Irving, John. The Cider House Rules. William Morrow, 1985.

Keenan, Elizabeth. Rebel Girls. Inkyard Press, 2019.

Koloze, Jeff.  “Critical Disability Studies and Fiction on the Right-to-Life Issues: Carlos Fuentes’ Christopher Unborn, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and the Million Dollar Baby Franchise.” Life and Learning XXIX: Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth University Faculty for Life Conference at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois, 2019. Ed. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J. Bronx, NY: University Faculty for Life, 2019. 225-52.

—. “Making Abortion, Infanticide, and Euthanasia Funny: Determining Whether Five Principles of Comedy Derived from Ancient Writers Apply to Attempts at Humor by Contemporary Comedians.” 30 July 2020

—. “Right-to-Life Issues in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Literature.” University Faculty for Life: UFL Life and Learning Conference XXVIII.

McElhinney, Ann, and Phelim McAleer. Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. Regnery, 2017.

Metalious, Grace. Peyton Place. Simon and Schuster, 1956.

Murphy, Tim. Christodora. Grove Press, 2016.

“Nicki Minaj–Autobiography (Official Music Video).” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Apr. 2013,

Purdue University. “Moral Criticism and Dramatic Construction (~360 BC-Present).” Purdue Online Writing Lab, 27 October 2021,

—.  “Post-Structuralism, Deconstruction, Postmodernism (1966-Present).” Purdue Online Writing Lab, 27 October 2021,

Rydahl, Thomas. The Hermit (Oneworld Publications, 2016).

“Terri Schiavo: The Musical.” Family Guy Wiki,

Toole, F. X. “Million $$$ Baby.” Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner. HarperCollins, 2000, pp. [61]-101.

Treviño, Ramona. Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back. Ignatius Press, 2015.

Tucholke, April Genevieve. The Boneless Mercies. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018.

Waller, Sharon Biggs. Girls on the Verge. Henry Holt, 2019.

[1] See my “Critical Disability Studies and Fiction on the Right-to-Life Issues: Carlos Fuentes’ Christopher Unborn, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and the Million Dollar Baby Franchise.”

[2] See my “Right-to-Life Issues in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Literature.”

[3] See my “Making Abortion, Infanticide, and Euthanasia Funny: Determining Whether Five Principles of Comedy Derived from Ancient Writers Apply to Attempts at Humor by Contemporary Comedians.”

Book reviews

Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)

Although dated, Bobbitt’s work, a scholarly treatment of statecraft, can help the pro-life world understand how Big Tech could corrupt the market-states, which, the author argues, is replacing nation-states.

Reading Bobbitt’s work is equivalent to a semester (or two) of college credit without the leftist lunacy that most colleges and universities now interject with their distortions of “social justice” (gender equality, which distorts heterosexual normativity; bashing the United States, which they think is the Satan of nations; or affirming racist groups like Black Lives Matter).  Thus, the general reader will delight in whipping out his or her smartphone to learn more about historical events and persons mentioned in the text or defining polysyllabic and rarely-used words, like the wonderfully mellifluous “vertiginous” (703).

Pro-life readers will especially appreciate being able to “connect the dots” of Bobbitt’s study with current events two decades later, and the epiphany that they will receive should motivate them to even greater action than reading Senator Josh Hawley’s exposé of Big Tech, demonstrated in his masterly book The Tyranny of Big Tech (Regnery, 2021).

Of course, while Bobbitt’s book is dated, all readers will appreciate his discussion of five developments that challenge the sovereignty of nation-states (xxii); or his commentary on cutting regulations and taxes (241), which will lead the reader to conclude ineluctably that President Trump was right on those topics and that the inept Joe Biden and his fellow anti-American Democrats are wrong in their $3.5 trillion tax increases; or the “the six modalities of U.S. constitutional law” (660).

Bobbitt’s work has at least one glaring omission of an important person who made world history.  There is no mention of St. John Paul II and his role in the discussion of the collapse of communism in Europe (61), nor is the saint mentioned in the discussion of Poland’s labor union Solidarnosc (622).  There isn’t even an index entry for John Paul II.  I trust that Bobbitt doesn’t think that it was only President Reagan or Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who worked to end Communism in Europe.

While some items in Bobbitt’s work, since it is dated, must be disregarded, such as the woefully outdated internet information (788), more items must be corrected or updated.  Reading that “The democratic, capitalist, and parliamentary state no longer faces great-power threats” (8) is cringeworthy; Communist China was an enemy of the United States in 2002 as it is now, even more so, as President Trump showed us during his administration.  Regarding his comments on the Second Amendment, a vital update is needed because of the destruction and death caused by Antifa domestic terrorists (237).  Similarly, there should be an update regarding enemy states; the claim that “None really threaten [sic] us” (268) is naïve when we Americans know that Communist China wishes to destroy American intellectual and political power or that the Taliban has seized an entire nation from which international terrorism has a base, no thanks to the inept Joe Biden.

Furthermore, since “corporations” in 2021 include the more powerful social media companies created by leftist billionaires who mine our personal data for their bank accounts, several of Bobbitt’s statements about corporations and their involvement in the market-state need revision.

For example, Bobbitt’s claim that “Business corporations cannot try people and jail them” (337) needs to be corrected.  Big Tech social media companies try (as in determine the political correctness of users’ opinions) and then jail (as in ban, block, censor, or quarantine) users if the leftist social media companies don’t like what is posted.

Similarly, Bobbitt’s claim that Nazi ideology as a governmental form has vanished from the globe is woefully premature: “The disgust and horror experienced by civilized people everywhere [over Nazi death camps] effectively removed fascism from the list of possible choices that nations might consider in forming states and marginalized it forever to the dormitory rooms of misfits” (610).  Abortions performed in “clinics” run by companies like the monolithic Planned Parenthood are the death camps of today, and the Nazi “misfits” of the 1940s are today’s Antifa domestic terrorists, financed by Democratic Party operatives.

Moreover, the claim that feminism “has thus far been quite marginal” (658) is either utterly naïve or blatantly ignorant.  Anti-life feminism, the kind that, unlike pro-life feminism, supports abortion, has managed to coerce corporations and governments to support abortion with donations (from the corporations) and tax dollars (from the governments) all in the name of “equality”, a corruption of the Western ideal so that the unborn child’s life is not equal to that of the mother and his or her father.

As a corollary, if Bobbitt cannot recognize anti-life feminism’s impact on the globe, then no wonder he can assert the tiresome and misleading statistic that AIDS is the “leading cause of death among Americans under the age of twenty-one” (709) and not perceive or be bold enough to state that abortion is the number one killer of youth.

Instead of faulting his research, contemporary readers can use Bobbitt’s commentary about the market-state to see how Big Tech is trying to corrupt (hopefully, not already has corrupted) the market-state.  According to Bobbitt, “the market-state promises instead to maximize the opportunity of the people and thus tends to privatize many state activities and to make voting and representative government less influential and more responsive to the market” [211].  If this definition is true, then Big Tech would love the market-state because it’s all about money: “the market-state is largely indifferent to the norms of justice, or for that matter to any particular set of moral values so long as law does not act as an impediment to economic competition” (230).

Bobbitt’s commentary about political leaders in the new market-state is almost prophetic.  “I speculate that leadership for this move [“to encourage the development of entrepreneurial states”] is likelier to come from the leaders of multinational corporations and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) than from leaders of the national security apparatus and the political establishment” (337).  While it would be disastrous to think that Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) or Jack Dorsey (Twitter) are those “leaders”, I think a better example of such a leader who can function in the new worldview and who supports the pro-life movement was and is President Donald Trump.  How desperately we need more leaders like him to counter the leftist ones in Big Tech who would destroy Western civilization!

Fortunately, Bobbitt clearly identifies the Achilles’ heel(s) of the market-state: “the market-state’s inherent weaknesses—its lack of community, its extreme meritocracy, its essential materialism and indifference to heroism, spirituality, and tradition” (290).  Thus, if Big Tech thinks it can flourish in such a political arrangement, its constituent companies (the leftist Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.) would need to battle billions of people who oppose materialism, who aim to be heroes, who are spiritual, and who believe and follow tradition.

Finally, Bobbitt specifies some areas where the market-state could promote anti-life ideas, so pro-lifers must be vigilant against Big Tech’s/corporations’ efforts to harm or kill human beings.  He recognizes that the market-state may ration health care by determining “to whom to give life-saving medical care” (710).  In a futuristic scenario of one category of the market-state, Bobbitt conjectures that “anti-abortion laws […] all vanished” (735) and, in another scenario, “assisted suicide […] organ harvesting” occur (736; italics in original in both cases).  A final example of a scenario for a future market-state lists “population control” as a “constitutional condition for a society of market-states” (802).

At 888 lugubrious pages, Bobbitt’s work is challenging to read, yet necessary to understand how the Big Tech billionaires could distort our twenty-first century.

Reader warning!  Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book on any service other than Amazon.  (Why give your hard-earned pro-life dollars to a company that censors books?)  Instead, buy this book directly from the publisher ( or from some other venue.

Book reviews

Kevin Clark’s and Ravi Scott Jain’s The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education (Classical Academic Press, 2013)

Everybody knows that public school secondary (and even primary) education is inferior.  Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain aim to convince us that the essential way to overcome the feeble educational structures of today is to do something truly bold, even revolutionary.  They want students to read books.

And not just any books, but the foundational, ancient works which are the canon of Western civilization, such as the works of Aristotle and the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas.  Clark and Jain discuss and argue for the return of the seven subject areas of the Trivium and the Quadrivium, categorized in the acronym PGMAPT, which stands for piety, gymnastic, music, the liberal arts, philosophy, and theology (3).

It is a joy to read authors who cite with approbation (and not ridicule as contemporary politically-motivated “educators” do) several dominant concepts from the ancient and medieval worlds which inform Western culture, including St. Anselm’s “credo ut intelligam”, “I believe that I may understand” (4), and the ancient maxim that “Imitation precedes art” (5).  Plato’s idea that “the songs we sing, the stories we read, and the art we make and admire, form our souls” (27) is damning for those who think that rap and trap music meet the transcendentals of goodness, truth, and beauty.

Moreover, it is an especially delightful ecumenical joy to read the authors’ opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica: “In this text the reader finds a careful consideration of every known perspective on every conceivable theological and philosophical problem” (43).  High praise indeed!

Contemporary readers may be shocked to learn that the people of the medieval period, dismissed as mere peasants under the domination of what some would criticize as a patriarchal and oppressive Catholic Church, espoused ideas strikingly “modern”, such as the fact that “appeals to reason were the strongest form of medieval proof” (8).  Reason, therefore, did not just pop into the world with the advent of the bloody French Revolution, which was supposed to be the philosophical summation of reason.

Similarly, the ancient and medieval periods believed that gymnastic was important because “the body and the soul are united in such a way that failure to cultivate the capacities inherent in either is failure to cultivate the whole person” (22).  Catholic readers know that this unity is an essential criterion of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.  Thus, it is good to see Protestant Christians recognizing the importance of the ancient belief in human beings consisting of both a corporal and a spiritual element, a belief always held by the Catholic Church.

One noteworthy idea needs to be emphasized.  Contemporary college and university professors will agree with Clark and Jain when they claim that today’s academics are like the ancient Sophists, as when professors argue, for example, that truth is relative (89).  Clark and Jain write further about “postmodern anti-realism, which is perhaps a variant of the ancient sophism” (112).  Any college or university academic who is forced into diversity or equity sessions promoting the  irrational and illogical support for the mental disorder of transgenderism will agree with the authors that such anti-realist efforts prove that contemporary academics are indeed more sophist than philosopher, let alone professorial.

There are two flaws in the work worth mentioning.  First, the footnotes expanding ideas in the text are often lugubrious—so thick that the train of thought in the original paragraph can be lost.

Second, the work is obviously a Protestant treatise, and the inability to identify the Roman Catholic component of Western civilization is not only intellectually dismissive, but also annoying.  The authors refer to the “medieval” world and its authors, but seem hesitant to mention an important descriptor of such authors: they were not merely Christian, but Catholic, and even more specifically Roman Catholic Christian (in contrast to Byzantine or Greek Catholic or Orthodox Christianity).  Maybe this hesitancy occurs because the authors wanted to appeal to a Protestant Christian audience which may not appreciate the efforts of 1,500 years of Catholic Christianity, continuing, by the way, well past the Reformation.  I hope that the hesitancy is not due to an inherent anti-Catholic bias, like the kind that secular and atheist thinkers in contemporary education have.

Despite these flaws, the work is a helpful handbook for those entering, for example, an academy which uses the Great Books or which operates in contrast to public or parochial schools which fail to stimulate sufficient wonder in their students, whether their charges are elementary or secondary students.

In fact, college faculty may find the authors’ premises helpful to reorganize their higher education curricula so that college and university education does not simply parrot the leftist nonsense promoted by certain political factions in society vying for their fifteen minutes of fame.  We college professors already know about the Trivium and the Quadrivium.  Clark and Jain make a compelling argument for their return to academia.

Book reviews

Ellen Glasgow’s Barren Ground (1925)

Steven Spielberg would never film this novel since it features an unfulfilled feminist, so Mel Gibson will have to do it.

Pro-abortion feminists in this twenty-first century may think of Ellen Glasgow as just another dead white female writer, but pro-life feminists will delight in and learn much from this quasi-autobiographical and thorough narrative of Dorinda, a late nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century woman who thinks that her life is a failure.

Maybe it’s a failure because Dorinda has been restricted by Presbyterian Christianity and therefore beyond the two-millennia tradition of orthodox Catholic Christianity and all that the religion has to say about love, marriage, and sex.

Maybe Dorinda is an unfulfilled woman because she (or the author) confuses the terms “love”, “marriage”, and “sex” throughout the novel.  These three terms seem to be used interchangeably when they obviously denote different things, as anybody steeped in Judaism and Christianity knows.  Dorinda’s comments on love and sex lead to the conclusion that she would have benefited from understanding the Theology of the Body as discussed by St. John Paul II, especially since the characters are Protestant.  Although the setting is decades before the saint first enunciated his ideas about the importance of sex and the human body, this claim is not anachronistic, of course, since Catholic Christianity has consistently taught that sex, instituted by the Creator, is so beautiful as the union of two bodies that it must be honored within marriage.  Dorinda utterly fails to understand that.

In fact, the terms and phrases which Dorinda uses to refer to the triad of love, marriage, and sex demonstrate the unfortunate ambiguity of her Protestant Christian heritage, becoming more nominal as she progresses through the decades of the plot.  Dorinda mentions the three terms in often obscured language, as when she talks about “this hidden knowledge of life” (27) or that she “became aware of her body” (63).  This hesitancy cannot be attributed to authorial fear of not being published.  After all, the novel was written in 1925, when Freud’s ideas about sex were emerging as popular topics; the author herself was as bold as most early feminists of that time were known to be.

Dorinda’s attitude toward life in general shows how pessimistic someone can become who distances him- or herself from the life-affirming Judeo-Christian ethos.  Dorinda equates life with “barren ground” (196), and she thinks the “will to love” is a “destructive process” (233).  It doesn’t help, either, that Dorinda was unwanted: “Dorinda and [her brother] Rufus both came while [their mother] was looking ahead, as she told herself, to a peaceful middle age unhampered by child-bearing” (39).

Closely related to sex, maybe Dorinda is such a lonely and unfulfilled character because she has a negative view of men.  Even though she encountered some men who were faithful and loving, Dorinda (like a typical teenaged girl) cannot get over her “first love”, who is more a disgrace to the male gender than a possible husband and father of Dorinda’s child.  This episode of fornication with a man who just wanted to get into her pants is the cause of her enduring negative views on men.  While asserting that she could live without any man is innocuous enough (106), agreeing with her mother in being secretive with men (124) and saying that “No good had ever come […] of putting questions to a man” (318) illustrate her inability to work with the male half of humanity—a fatal flaw in a person who should be a fully-developed feminist.

Overall, Glasgow paints a depressing portrait of an aging feminist, but it is a portrait which can not only educate us in the twenty-first century, but also force us to support traditional sexual norms in a twenty-first century culture which accepts the leftist idiocy of a distorted gender ideology and the mental illness of transgenderism as alternative lifestyles.  While Dorinda hopes for “something in life besides love” (198), contemporary readers must counter that love is the essence of life.  While Dorinda reduces love, marriage, and sex with the demeaning phrase “all that” (252) and babbles about “sex vanity” (292), contemporary readers, again, must reaffirm what the Creator originally intended: love leads to marriage, which enables a man and a woman to engage in the rapturous physical activity of sex.  Pity the man who marries a woman like Dorinda, who has “a distaste for physical love” (471)!

A final comment is necessary about the denouement.  Although she is a warped feminist, Dorinda is a successful businesswoman.  Moreover, she overcame her first experience of fornication and married another successful businessman in her home town.  Why, then, at age thirty-three, doesn’t she feel “complete” (355)?  Similarly, even though she has overcome major obstacles to her financial and social success, why does she still assert a hundred pages towards novel’s end, “Three months of love, and you pay for it with all the rest of your life” (412)?  Finally, near the end of the novel—a mere four pages away from the ending—why does Dorinda regret “the love that she had never known and the happiness that she had missed” (522)?  While she does claim “better by far the drab freedom” of simple women than the life of married women (88), the adjective clearly indicates that Dorinda disparages the single as much as she denigrates the married state.  Does she not know that being a single woman is a fulfilling vocation like being a married woman, or a woman devoting herself to a religious order?  Apparently, not.  Remember: Dorinda hails from a Presbyterian form of Christianity in a rural Virginia area, so religious diversity and the two-thousand year history of Catholic Christianity are closed to her.

Hopefully, some of the above conjectures and ideas may help students working on literature essays for their secondary or college courses.  The rest of us can simply delight in reading an early twentieth-century novel which functions as evidence that, even then, feminist writers were aware that a woman who closed herself to love led to an eventual unfulfilled life.

Book reviews

Josh Hawley’s The Tyranny of Big Tech (Regnery, 2021)

Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and other Big Tech Democrats should worry: young Republican elected officials, who will soon replace them, are targeting Big Tech on behalf of the American people.

Reader warning!  Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book on any service other than Amazon.  (Why give your hard-earned pro-life dollars to a company that censors books?)  Instead, buy this book directly from the publisher, Regnery:

Senator Josh Hawley’s book is a masterly analysis of how Big Tech completes the efforts of the robber barons of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to amass wealth at the expense of hardworking, ordinary American citizens.  Hawley summarizes how the monopolies of the late nineteenth century began through the efforts of millionaires like J. P. Morgan, who worked tirelessly to guarantee that the federal government did not interfere in their plans to hoard as much money as possible for themselves.

Hawley illustrates cogently how the robber barons’ ideology, called “corporate liberalism”, was strongly opposed by Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, only to become enshrined as the economic ideology of the United States under Democratic President Woodrow Wilson.  This ideology divided the American workforce into the elite industrialists and bankers who hoarded wealth; management, which did the bidding of the wealthy elite; and ordinary people who slaved for management and the plutocratic wealthy.  Since corporate liberalism was the foundation economic theory of the rest of the twentieth century, Hawley thus concludes that Big Tech’s primary goal of amassing wealth succeeds where J. P. Morgan and his fellow plutocrats failed.

And we ordinary Americans suffer accordingly at the hands of Big Tech monopolists.

Fortunately, though, not all is lost because, as Senator Hawley experienced firsthand when he interrogated Mark Zuckerberg in several interviews regarding Facebook’s censorship, “Big Tech is desperately afraid of public criticism, of someone taking a public stand” (126).  Hawley proposes several initiatives to stop Big Tech’s attacks on American life, including: placing the Federal Trade Commission, which can prevent monopolies, under the Department of Justice (152); ending Big Tech’s Section 230 immunity (153); giving social media users the “Do Not Track” option (154); and treating Big Tech platforms like publishers so that social media users can sue them for censorship (156).

Although he doesn’t say it, all of these positive efforts to combat the Big Tech monopoly can only occur, though, when Democrats are kicked out of the House, the Senate, and the White House.  While he points out that both Republicans and Democrats support the concept of corporate liberalism and have benefited from Big Tech’s major donations to their campaigns, both Hawley and we ordinary Americans know that the billionaires of Big Tech consistently support Democratic Party candidates over Republicans.

And the reasons why Big Tech supports the un-American values of the Democratic Party are obvious.  Big Tech endorses the LGBTQ agenda (which distorts heterosexual normativity) and the racism of Black Lives Matter (109).  Finally, Big Tech promotes abortion, even to the point of censoring pro-life groups; Hawley got Zuckerberg to admit that that Facebook “wrongly de-platformed a pro-life group, Live Action” (2).

Buying the book is absolutely necessary, not only to reward Hawley for having written a guide for future legislative action against Big Tech billionaires (remember: Simon & Schuster reneged on its plan to publish his book), but also to serve as a reference.  My own annotations spanned three full single-spaced pages, so purchasing the book from Regnery was essential instead of breaking copyright rules by photocopying relevant pages.  All of Hawley’s book is relevant.

Finally, here are some choice quotes for consideration, all of which can help students write solid essays on Big Tech abuses:

Hawley’s book “calls into question the reigning order of corporate liberalism, and it challenges the power of those who benefit from it” (ix).

“The book is an exercise in alternative possibilities, an attempt to recover a different way of thinking about society and politics; it is an attempt, most fundamentally, to recover the meaning of the common man’s republic” (xii).

Quoting Teddy Roosevelt: “And of all forms of tyranny […] the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy” (28).

On the influence of St. Paul: “What was revolutionary about Paul in a political sense was his insistence on the dignity of ordinary people and ordinary life” (32).

“For reasons the chattering class couldn’t quite pinpoint, couldn’t quite comprehend or even describe, the voting public became more and more out of sorts as the twenty-first century dawned, more resistant to the usual political platitudes and talking points” (53).

“Zuckerberg’s spoke of change, a fresh departure from the past, but in fact his pitch was the climax of the revolution his robber baron predecessors had initiated a century before.  It was the climax of corporate liberalism” (58).

“The Age of Big Tech, like the age of the robber barons, would be the age of monopoly” (59).

“Far from empowering everyday Americans, Big Tech was assaulting the habits and mores of democratic life” (76).

“Woodrow Wilson and his fellow corporate liberals had portrayed self-development as a form of liberty, the form of liberty most suited to, most needed in, the modern era.  And yet the advent of social media made painfully, brutally clear that the search for self-development, self-expression, and originality could be as much a burden as a relief” (81; italics in original).

“The private-choice liberty of corporate liberalism was, of course, a version of the liberty Big Tech assiduously promoted to sell its products and justify its power.  And the irony was thick.  Big Tech’s social media platforms, the things Mark Zuckerberg said would connect the world, were perhaps the most anti-social devices in American history: not connecting, but isolating; not uniting, but dividing” (82; italics in original).

“As outrage became the norm on the social platforms, researchers found that heavy social media users were taking their outrage with them into the workplace, the neighborhood, the church—in short, to those actual communities made up of actual people that had once been havens from the outrage-by-algorithm of online culture but were now increasingly subject to its contagion” (86-7).

Quoting Robert Epstein, “Google […] has likely been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections in the world since at least 2015” (102).

Big Tech “produced almost nothing, paid next to nothing in U.S. taxes, made virtually no significant capital investment relative to their profits, and extracted nearly all their value as economic rents from a customer base held hostage to their monopoly control” (112).

Section 230 succinctly explained: “Under the new and improved statute, tech companies could shape or edit content without liability, could take down content without any show of good faith or fair dealing, and could display content they knew to be illegal—and no one could challenge any of it in court” (128).

“Victory against Big Tech’s pathologies requires that we reinvigorate family, neighborhood, school, and church, the places where, in authentic community, we come to know ourselves and one another, exercise our responsibilities, and find our sense of belonging.  These are the places where we become citizens, where we become free, where we learn to exercise the sovereignty of a citizen in a free republic.  Genuine community is now, more than ever, countercultural—and opposed to the ersatz ‘global community’ pushed by the corrupt and power-hungry Big Tech” (143).

Book reviews

World’s Great Short Stories, edited by M. E. Speare (World Publishing, 1942)

Fight cancel culture zealots!  Read short story masterpieces from dead white male American and European authors.

I labored over the 334 pages of this anthology for weeks, not because the stories were so lugubrious that I had to whip out the dictionary or because I’m a slow reader.  The stories were didactic, yes, in the extremely positive way of teaching some beautiful truths about human life and expressing those truths in beautiful language.  (It is most unfortunate that the connotation of “didactic” is negative in today’s culture, which despises anything old—“old” being any tweet which has an age of one hour or more.)

Consider the range of topics from these dead white male American and European masters of the short story:

Steinbeck’s “The Promise”: a story about a mare who had to be killed in order for her colt to survive birth.  Issue to resolve: choice of life over death.

Saki’s “Tobermory”: a cat discloses secrets of the humans in its world.  Comedic, yet pertinent: why don’t we humans just say what we mean?

Benét’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster”: Daniel Webster wins his case, protecting Jabez Stone from going to Hell.  Webster convinces a jury of devils that men take pride in being men, even with our faults.  The devil recounts that he was present since America was discovered.  Antifa domestic terrorists and the Democratic politicians who support them and cancel culture zealots: you lose.  Benét already admitted that the United States may not be a perfect nation, but we’re becoming one.  Besides, your efforts to destroy property and erase history accomplishes nothing.  Idiots….

Hemingway’s “My Old Man”: a pathetic story (that is, a story filled with pathos) of a son who loved his jockey father who won fixed races.  Although the father is killed in a race, the son still admires him.  How stupid some fathers can be!

Wodehouse’s “The Custody of the Pumpkin”: a cute story about a British earl who resists his son marrying an American woman, presumed to be beneath him in social class.  The earl relents when he learns that the father-in-law has more than $9 million.  Moreover, his prized pumpkin wins a vegetable show.  Vapid people then, vapid people now who think that money cures all.

Maugham’s “Red”: a story of a young man, Red, who falls in love with a native South Pacific woman, Sally.  Red was kidnapped and presumed lost at sea.  Meanwhile, Sally marries Neilson.  Red returns years later, an old fat man; Sally also grows fat.  Moreover, Neilson no longer loves her.  A memorable line: “The tragedy of love is indifference” (104).

Lardner’s “Champion”: a story of a dishonest, money-grubbing boxer who cares nothing for his handicapped brother, his mother, his wife, or his child.  The public just thinks he’s a hero.  Disability rights activists can find a friend in Lardner long before disability rights became an issue because abortion-supporting people and Nazi eugenicists thought that the handicapped were unworthy of life.

Twain’s “A Mediaeval Romance”: a story about a woman, Lord Conrad, disguised as a man because her father envied another’s ducal throne.  The Lady Constance falls in love with Conrad, but Conrad rejects him because they obviously can’t marry.  For her revenge, the scorned Constance gets pregnant by someone else.  At her trial, she accuses Conrad as the father.  He either must confess the truth that he is really a woman and be executed for falsely sitting on the ducal throne, since no woman was allowed to do that, or renounce his claim to the duchy which his father envied.  The narrator doesn’t resolve the dilemma, leaving it to the reader.  And some think that transgenderism is a new idea in the world!  Twain thought of it first.  Fools….

Bunin’s “Sunstroke”: a story recounting the feelings of a military man who had an adulterous affair with an unnamed woman who is married and has a child.  He would never see the little whore again, yet he suffers emotionally from his adulterous sin.  Fool!  She used you, yet you yearn for her?  Double fool….

Ewald’s “My Little Boy”: an irreligious father instills general ethical principles in his son and fears that his son will become contaminated with society’s ideas when the child eventually must attend school.  This father reads too much like a copter parent.  Besides, his hostility to religious ideas clearly shows how backward he is.

Pirandello’s “The Fly”: a ghoulish story of a fly infecting a man with glanders, which will eventually kill him.  He was to marry the same day as his cousin, who was also bitten by a fly and presumably will die from the same disease.  An episode suitable for The Twilight Zone.

Parker’s “The Waltz”: delightfully funny story of a woman who gives her honest thoughts while uttering vapid and socially-correct statements while dancing with a bumbling man.  Applicability to our own society: distrust what anyone, especially Joe Biden, says.

Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw”: masterly story of a monkey’s paw giving an old couple three wishes.  The first wish is for 200 pounds to eliminate their debt, obtained at the cost of their son dying at work, mangled in his factory’s machinery; the second wish resurrects the son, without specifying that he would be made whole; the third wish restores him to death.  Exciting denouement!

Harte’s “The Postmistress of Laurel Run”: intriguing story of a postmistress who protects a man, a fellow postmaster, from being fired for absconding with government money.  The inspector who is on his case knows that she helped the postmaster not only restore the stolen money, but also escape prosecution.  Feminists would have a challenge justifying this woman’s action based on heart instead of brains.

Zweig’s “The Invisible Collection”: a story full of pathos; a blind man shows his collection of prints to an art dealer, all of which were sold so that his family could survive during Weimer Germany’s hyperinflation.  The art dealer consents to the fraud because the old man cherished his collection.  Contemporary reader, would you consent to a deception to preserve an elderly person’s mental state?

Maupassant’s “Two Friends”: a story of two French friends during the Franco-Prussian War who are shot and killed for not disclosing the password which allowed them to fish in their favorite place.  That’s the test of friendship, as Jesus said.

Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”: classic tale of terror, a man condemned by the Inquisition suffers torture designed to force him into a pit filled with hundreds of rats.  The ending is a deus ex machina as he is saved by French forces who invaded Toledo.  Reminds me of Stalinist, Nazi, and Democratic torture tactics.

Gorky’s “Twenty-Six and One”: a story of 26 men who slave away at a basement bakery, which is more like a dungeon, and who revere a woman who obviously disdains them.  They idolize her but turn on her when they realize she’s just an ordinary slut, falling to the affections of a boastful soldier who must likely got into her pants.  The little whore.  The word “contemptuously” used often, and that’s what we should feel for that woman and her skanky self.

Stevenson’s “Sire de Malétroit’s Door”: a young soldier in medieval France enters a house where he is trapped into either marrying a wicked uncle’s niece or be hanged.  He eventually falls in love with her, and they decide to marry.  Ah, love!  Hopefully, they made many babies together, all of whom are faithful Catholics, unlike the fraud @JoeBiden, Nancy Pelosi, and other useless Democrats of their ilk.  Oh…sorry…mi dispiace.  Everything isn’t political (is it?)

France’s “Our Lady’s Juggler”: a wonderfully simple and pious story of a monk, “a stupid fellow” (396), whose gift to the Virgin Mary is his juggling skill.  She honors him, though, by wiping the sweat from his brow to the amazement of his fellow monks.  Except for persons hostile to religion, Catholicism especially, who could not love this happy ending?

O. Henry’s “The Cop and the Anthem”: Soapy yearns to be jailed for the winter in New York.  After several unsuccessful tries to get arrested, he decides to recover his lost ambition and be a productive man.  At that point in his resolution, he is arrested for vagrancy and gets his wish of three months in jail, long enough to be out of the New York winter.  Irony at its best.

Balzac’s “The Mysterious Mansion”: another story of a whorish wife who asserts that her lover was not hiding in her bedroom’s closet.  The husband walls it up, the lover dies, and the husband exacts sweet revenge on her adulterous whorish body.  Sinister laugh here! 

Dickens’ “’Dr. Manette’s Manuscript’”: Dr. Manette’s letter, recounting his involvement with the Marquis St. Evrémonde, who impregnated a peasant woman, even though he was married and had a child, functions significantly in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.  The ending of the novel colors this story with sadness because we all know how many people were killed during the disastrous French Revolution.

Daudet’s “The Last Lesson”: story of a French school forced to teach students German.  M. Hamel’s “Vive la France!”, written on the blackboard, is his last bit of patriotism before the last class to be taught in French is dismissed (334).

Thankfully, cancel culture zealots, masters at destruction, can’t touch these creations.  Besides, if you’re bored with the woke NFL, read these stories.  Their ideas last longer than the “fame” of a touchdown which would yield no benefit to your life.