The Harbour of La Rochelle, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1851. Photo credit, Yale University Art Gallery, which is where Heather MacDonald first fell in love with it. Ms MacDonald has recently updated the world concerning her alma mater and art...
Heather MacDonald is an American writer and researcher possibly best known for her books The War on Cops and The Diversity Illusion. But, when she is not exposing the politicisation of anti-police sentiment as voiced, for example, by the intellectuals of Black Lives Matter, or putting multicultural mores to the sword of reason, she is to be found reminiscing about a gentler period of her nascent studies.
When at Yale University, Ms. MacDonald attended lectures on art history which stayed with her, as certain university courses will. Yale, she writes of her time at this prestigious university, ‘offered a two-semester sequence on the history of Western art’. You can sense what is coming, as Americans say, down the pike.
The Chair of Art History at Yale. Tim Barringer, is clearly a man with one eye on his tenure and other on his pension, as he has just announced that the course – split into two parts covering pre-history to the Renaissance, and that period to the present – will be scrapped after one final semester (already over-subscribed in the rush for vanishing education) and gives the kind of intellectually incoherent, academically treasonous ‘reason’ for the ridding of these unwanted treasure-troves of knowledge and critical ability. You just know what is going to replace it, even though the university offers many other non-Eurocentric art courses. Barringer staggers us with acumen;
‘I don’t mistake a history of European painting for the history of all art in all places’.
This is a little like saying that I don’t mistake anything with anything else it is not. As a statement, it shows a cogniitive ability shared with infant children but, well, we are getting used the psychopathology of the Left.
MacDonald herself shows just how asinine this comment is, commenting on the predictable replacement programs Barringer introduces;
‘Barringer promises that the replacement surveys will subject European art to a variety of deconstructive readings designed to pull that tradition down from its alleged pedestal. The new classes will consider Western art in relation to ‘questions of gender, class and “race”’, he told the Daily News in an email, carefully putting scare quotes around “race” to signal his adherence to the creed that race is a social construct. The new courses will discuss the involvement of Western art with capitalism. Most intriguingly, the relationship between Western art and climate change will be a “key theme”, he wrote’.
We believe that is a full house, with all the bleak post-modernist boxes ticked in deference to the underlying and cultish drive to denigrate and ultimately destroy art – and every other great endeavor – produced by white men. Plus there is a good old pinch of ‘deconstruction’ – come on down, you old goombah, you – so that we know it’s hi-falutin’ and worthy of one of the most famous Ivy League universities. Deconstruction, for the PoMo Left, means destruction. They just add the ‘con’, in many ways.
The plastic arts have not been singled out for special treatment. Yale’s Major English Poets course is walking in the crosshairs. Not much rap or hip-hop in Dryden or Pope, so they have to go too. Professor Jill Richards gave her diktat that it was ‘unacceptable that the two semester requirements for all majors routinely covers the work of eight white, male poets’. I believe it was Douglas Murray who pointed out that when government wants answers, it rarely makes – as it used to do – its first port of call the universities, and this precisely why. They have become places of entertainment, of a tragi-comic kind, for those lucky enough to have gained their humanities degrees before the Great Leap Forward of the last 20 years.
MacDonald closes with an accurate and rather dispiriting clarion call for the humanities, which used to be the fulcrum of a superior education before its politicisation and racialisation;
‘The humanities are about matters far more compelling than the trivialities of race, which in any case we are supposed to believe is not even real. For centuries, poets, painters, novelists and architects sought to express universal truths about the human condition. Race may have played a role in a few classic works, such as Othello or The Heart of Darkness, but it was hardly “central” to the entire tradition. Those who seek to make it so do so in the pursuit of political grievance, not scholarly accuracy’.
When the current cloud of unknowing clears, in decades hopefully to come and for children yet unborn, may we propose that resurgent universities feature a course that at least discusses the possibility that white Western art might just be the best history produced? And perhaps a little historical context concerning this sad period of white self-hatred could be thrown in for an extra credit.
Heather MacDonald’s essay can be found here. https://quillette.com/2020/02/13/yale-against-western-art/?fbclid=IwAR3Jqo3YQfW4ovVwzhA9NENHWeHn16HEjCOBA4tlGXD4qOargRj0YDXdseYand she can be followed on Twitter at @HMDatMI