My recent book, The Living Moment: Modernism in a Broken World, was published by the Northwestern University Press and was my tenth book. In 2001 the Yale University Press published my Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe: Toward the Renewal of Higher Education. Neither of these books could have been written without the research capabilities of the Baker-Berry Library.
Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe reflected my experience in teaching Humanities 1-2 at Columbia University. The “catastrophe” was the fact that the founding works of Western civilization are not widely taught in our colleges. My book was based on the paradigm of Western civilization established by Leo Strauss and others: Athens and Jerusalem. The founding epic of Athens was the Iliad; the founding epic of Jerusalem was Exodus. Over the centuries we derived science and philosophy from Athens and religion from Jerusalem. Socrates emerged as the hero of philosophy, Jesus of religion. Neither wrote a word, but what they said has lived; and both were condemned to death.
But without the research capabilities of Baker-Berry I would not have encountered a momentous debate within the Church. In about the year 300 an argument erupted: Clement of Alexandria and Origen maintained that the philosophy of Athens could be useful to the Church, but Tertullian replied that scripture was enough. That Clement and Origen eventually prevailed had profound results over the following centuries. Science could be taught, and scientists could work as teams within Western universities.
Osama bin Laden was an effective but unaware promoter for my book, which appeared in 2001, soon after 9/11. The war of al Qaeda was a jihad against Western culture as it affected Middle Eastern Islam. I was invited to appear on the television program “Booknotes” to discuss my book and broadcast from its studio in Washington, D.C. As we talked on the air I could see the dome of the Capitol through a picture window.
At about that time, did al Qaeda strike in Washington, D.C.? Anthrax was found in a letter to Sen. Tom Daschle’s office. The result was that mail delivery in D.C. ceased for several days, resulting in chaos.
Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe sold more copies as a result of “Booknotes” than the Yale University Press had anticipated.
My recent book, The Living Moment: Modernism in a Broken World, also benefited from the research facilities of Baker-Berry. Here I was not writing about the ancient world but about authors I knew well and who are familiar to educated people, beginning with the chapter “Frost and Eliot: Modernisms.” Here I had to retrieve articles I had read by various critics — and a few I had written — and might not have been able to find some of them in periodicals I once had read.
The Baker-Berry reference staff not only located them but printed them out as I stood there and marveled.
-Jeffrey Hart, Dept. of English (Emeritus)
Prof. Hart’s latest book, The Living Moment: Modernism in a Broken World, is included in the current Dartmouth Authors book display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.