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This review is taken from PN Review 75, Volume 17 Number 1, September - October 1990.

AMERICAN JOURNALS The New Criterion, vol. 8, nos. 5-9 (New York: Jan-May 1990). Monthly. Editor: Hilton Kramer

The New Criterion continues to provide packed and provocative monthly issues. It offers forceful and informative articles and essays, often with a strong polemical edge that can sometimes become a blunt instrument. Its weakest element is perhaps the small poetry section in the middle of each issue. Among recent items that surge into controversial areas are the outlines of a defence, occasioned by Peter Coleman's book The Liberal Conspiracy, of the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom, and Roger Kimball's account of a panel discussion at Williams College called 'Crisis in the Humanities' which included E.D. Hirsch, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb - the conservative hero of the hour for Kimball - and one 'Professor Derrida', the 'renowned deconstructionist', who is quoted as saying, among other things: 'we all share the same respect for Shakespeare, for Milton' (January 1990). There is also Maurice Cowling's apparently measured but ultimately remorseless attack on Raymond Williams, in which Williams is charged with endorsing, if partly through naivety, the turn to violence of students in the 1960s (February 1990) and Kimball's 'Visions of Inanity', an attack on 1980s visual art and art criticism (April 1990). But while it is clear what The New Criterion is against, it seems to draw much of its energy from what it attacks, and it is rather more difficult to see what it is for: its positives appear to be the (rather ill-defined) Western humanistic tradition and, more precisely, what is seen as the major artistic embodiment of that tradition ...


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