This week: grievance studies, Op Art, an evening of music at St. John’s, the laws of theater & more from the world of culture.
The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Birth of the Woke Ideology, by Bruce Bawer; foreword by Douglas Murray (Bombardier Books): “I am delighted to see this tenth anniversary edition of The Victims’ Revolution in print,” writes Douglas Murray in his new foreword to the reissue of Bruce Bawer’s anatomization of the “rise of identity studies and the birth of woke ideology.” “I hope it is no disrespect to Bawer,” continues Murray, “if I say that I hope a twentieth-anniversary edition is not needed.” Alas, the spread of critical race theory and the tyranny of gender ideology makes this edition, at this moment in time, very much needed. By digging deep into the development of “grievance studies,” Bawer reveals more than just the “closing of the liberal mind”—as he subtitled his 2012 edition, reviewed in our December 2012 issue by Judah Bellin. Rather, this reissue, with a new introduction by the author, serves as a “guidebook to—and a genealogy of—the most noxious of the strange new ideas that now suffuse our mainstream culture.” —JP
“Bridget Riley Drawings: From the Artist’s Studio” at the Morgan Library & Museum (through October 8): The odd fate of Op Art serves as a crash course in many of the twentieth century’s nastiest impulses: the budding genre was commandeered by the forces of commercialism, the kitsch, and the hippies—in a word, it was commandeered by the Sixties. This hijacking discredited the genre in the eyes of both the critical and the general population. However, there was once a time when the movement was recognized first for its intense commitment to formalism; indeed, there was even a time when it appeared—if only for an illusory moment—that Abstract Expressionism had found a worthy successor. No one is more emblematic of this promise than Bridget Riley, the English painter, writer, and draftsman who has been producing art for nearly seven decades. The Morgan Library & Museum has collected an expansive showing of studies and completed works by the artist that demonstrate the profound obsession with form present throughout Riley’s long career. The show is accompanied by a thorough, full-color catalogue. —LL
“Connection Through Sound” at Saint John’s in the Village, New York (July 13): On Thursday evening, the violinist Joenne Dumitrascu and the pianist Jelena Cingara will present a concert of Chopin’s waltzes, Amy Beach’s Romance, and Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 1, written in the shadow of Haydn and Mozart and dedicated to Antonio Salieri. This chamber music evening will be followed by drinks in the courtyard of St. John’s in the Village. —IS
The Proof Stage: How Theater Reveals the Human Truth of Mathematics, by Stephen Abbott (Princeton University Press): What do Sophocles and Euclid have in common? Both Greeks, and both largely neglected on contemporary syllabi—but for the mathematician Stephen Abbott, the similarities are more than topical. With the ancient Greeks, as Abbott argues in his new book The Proof Stage, “The moral universe, like the mathematical one, was governed by laws. It was the job of the playwright to create a compelling demonstration of these laws.” In other words, both mathematics and theater are at their heart deductive enterprises, working from a set of axioms and postulates to tease out an unimpeachable conclusion. (Hence the inevitability of tragedy: Oedipus couldn’t help but kill his father, Antigone just had to bury her brother, and so on.) Change the priors, of course, and you’ll reach quite different conclusions—which is exactly what happened in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in both the sciences and the arts. Abbott proves a companionable guide to the coincident developments in mathematics and theater, breaking down in layman’s terms such concepts as non-Euclidian geometry and explaining just how they relate to Stoppard, Beckett, Brecht, Jarry, and other avant-garde playwrights. I was sold when I reached the section “Waiting for Gödel.” —RE
From the Archives:
“Who was Wyndham Lewis?” by Victor M. Cassidy. On the mysterious and jumbled oeuvre of Wyndham Lewis.
“Downward, downward,” by Jay Nordlinger. On orchestras and cultural decline.