The Catholic University of America

University President John Garvey published his monthly column in Catholic News Service on a distinctively Catholic vision of the arts. See below.

The empty chaos of today’s art might be telling us something

From: Catholic Philly
Date: March 17, 2017
Author: John Garvey


I am not the first to notice that ideas and styles spread across the fine arts, regardless of medium or genre. In the middle of the 19th century, orchestras grew to 100 or more musicians, and symphonies were lush and tuneful.

Think of Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saens. Novels had as many characters as orchestras had musicians. Their prose was lush and their stories absorbing. Think of Dickens, Tolstoy, Melville and Hugo.

Architecture expressed similar thoughts in stone and steel. The Paris Opera, where Saint-Saens was played, has beautiful lines and lots of ornamentation.

A different thread runs through the arts today. Poetry no longer matters because it’s a word game for an elite intellectual subculture.


The rest of us can’t recite any contemporary poems because we can’t remember them. They don’t rhyme, they have no rhythmic structure and they’re not about anything. Often, they’re just jumbles of words. ...


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