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Anthony Esolen

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Anthony M. Esolen
Alma materPrinceton University
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
OccupationAcademic, author
EmployerMagdalen College of the Liberal Arts
TitleProfessor of English

Anthony M. Esolen is a writer, social commentator, translator of classical poetry, and Writer-in-Residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts.[1] He taught at Furman University and Providence College before transferring to the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in 2017 and Magdalen in 2019.

Esolen has translated into English Dante's Divine Comedy, Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, and Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered. In addition to multiple books, he is the author of numerous articles in such publications as The Modern Age, The Catholic World Report, Chronicles, The Claremont Review of Books, The Public Discourse, First Things, Crisis Magazine, The Catholic Thing, and Touchstone, for which he serves as a senior editor. He is a regular contributor to Magnificat, and has written frequently for a host of other online journals.

Esolen is a Catholic, and his writings generally contain an identifiable conservative or traditionalist perspective. He has frequently criticized the concept of "diversity" as commonly understood in modern Western culture. Dissatisfaction over some of the views that he expressed contributed to his decision to leave Providence College.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Esolen is of Italian ancestry.[3] He was born in Archbald, Pennsylvania.[4] Anthony Esolen graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1981. He pursued graduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his M.A. in 1981 and a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature in 1987. Esolen's dissertation, "A Rhetoric of Spenserian Irony," was directed by S.K. Heninger. He taught at Furman University from 1988 to 1990.[5][6]

Providence College[edit]

Esolen began teaching English at Providence College in 1990, becoming a full professor in 1995.[5]

Esolen earned a reputation as a conservative Catholic author, and grew increasingly dissatisfied with the more liberal direction of Providence College, a Catholic university run by the Dominican Order.[2][7] He is a critic of "diversity" training and guidelines as practiced at many American colleges and universities. In the summer of 2016, he remarked, "What counts for them as 'diversity' is governed entirely by a monotonous and predictable list of current political concerns. If you read a short story written in English by a Latina author living up the road in Worcester, that counts as 'diverse,' but if you read a romance written in Spanish by a Spanish author living in Spain four hundred years ago, that does not count as 'diverse.'"[8]

In September 2016, Crisis Magazine published an article by Esolen titled "My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult."[2] Crisis Magazine wrote the title for the piece, according to Esolen. In the essay, Esolen argued that Western insistence on diversity as one of its core values was destructive to authentic cultures and was inherently contradictory to the Christian faith. He stated that people can only "be truly at one" when they are united by faith in God. Questioning the very western idea of diversity, he asked:

Is not that same call for diversity, when Catholics are doing the calling, a surrender of the Church to a political movement which is, for all its talk, a push for homogeneity, so that all the world will look not like the many-cultured Church, but rather like the monotone non-culture of western cities that have lost their faith in the transcendent and unifying God?[9]

Some students and faculty members of Providence College reacted with anger to the publication of the essay. Providence students organized a protest march. A group of faculty members of the school wrote a petition in which they charged that Esolen's writings contained repeated "racist, xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic and religiously chauvinist statements."[2] The Rev. Brian Shanley, O.P., President of Providence College at the time, publicly distanced himself from Esolen's statements by claiming "that he speaks only for himself. He certainly does not speak for me, my administration, and for many others at Providence College who understand and value diversity in a very different sense from him."[7] Meanwhile, Robert P. George, a conservative Catholic professor at Esolen's alma mater, Princeton University, defended him. He argued that students and faculty members who disagree with him "should respond in the currency of academic discourse—reasons, evidence, arguments—not by attempting to isolate, stigmatize, and marginalize him for stating dissenting opinions."[10]

Subsequent career[edit]

On May 4, 2017, it was announced that Esolen would join the faculty at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire beginning the fall of 2017. On this occasion, he criticized the Providence College administration for becoming too "secular."[2]

In 2019, Esolen joined Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts as a full faculty member and Writer-In-Residence.[11]

Literary work[edit]

Along with teaching, Esolen has published articles and books on a regular basis. He is a regular contributor to Magnificat and serves as a senior editor of Touchstone.[12]

Esolen's translation of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy into English was published by Modern Library. His translation of the Inferno appeared in 2002, the Purgatory in 2003, and the Paradise in 2005.[13] In his translations, Esolen chose not to attempt a "preservation of Dante's rhyme in any systematic form."[14] Dante's original Italian work relied heavily on rhyme schemes. However, the English language has fewer rhyming words than the Italian language. Thus, according to Esolen, trying to recreate the sounds of the original rhyme scheme would have compromised "either meaning or music."[3]

In lieu of Dante's famous terza rima, Esolen's translation depends on the use of blank verse. Esolen writes that the use of blank verse allows him to retain both the "meaning [and the] music" of Dante's original. The works also feature, alongside the English translation, the original Italian text. Esolen notes that this text "is based on the editions of Giorgio Petrocchi (1965) and Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio" (1979)." Finally, the translations include Esolen's notes and commentary on the text, as well as illustrations by Gustave Doré.[14] Esolen kept his most extensive notes for the back of each book, so as not to interrupt the reading of the main text. Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a professor emerita of English at the City University of New York, praised the translation for being "not only highly readable, but also vigorous and beautiful."[3]

Esolen has written translations of other classical texts, including Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered (reviewed in Translation and Literature, Sixteenth-Century Journal, and International Journal of the Classical Tradition) and Lucretius' De rerum natura. Both were published by Johns Hopkins University Press.[13]

He has argued that the Middle Ages were actually an enlightened time, so that the term "Dark Ages" is a misnomer. He cited the establishment of universities, the development of the carnival, and the contributions of famous saints such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas to science and philosophy, all of which took place in the Middle Ages, as examples.[15]

In 2011, Esolen published an essay in First Things in which he criticized what he saw as the "bumping boxcar language" of the New American Bible. Esolen attacked the NAB translations for "[p]refer[ing] the general to the specific, the abstract to the concrete, the vague to the exact." He went on to list several examples of Biblical passages in which he claimed that the true meaning or visceral nature of the words had been eroded.[16]



The following works were translated into English by Esolen:[13]

  • Lucretius, Titus; Esolen, Anthony M. (1995). On the Nature of Things: De rerum natura. Johns Hopkins Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-5055-4.
  • Dante Alighieri; Esolen, Anthony M. (2003). Inferno (Modern Library Classics). Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-8129-7006-7.
  • Dante Alighieri; Esolen, Anthony M. (2004). Purgatory (Modern Library Classics). Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-8129-7125-5.
  • Dante Alighieri; Esolen, Anthony M. (2007). Paradise (Modern Library Classics). Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-8129-7726-4.
  • Tasso, Torquato; Esolen, Anthony M. (2000). Jerusalem Delivered (Gerusalemme liberata). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-6322-6.


The following books were written by Esolen:[13][17]


  1. ^ "Dr. Anthony Esolen Joins the Faculty at Northeast Catholic College". Northeast Catholic College. 2019-05-17. Retrieved 2019-07-07.
  2. ^ a b c d e Smith, Peter Jesserer (May 5, 2017). "Anthony Esolen accepts post at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Gardiner, Anne Barbeau (June 2004). "Eternal Consequences". New Oxford Book Reviews. Archived from the original on August 11, 2017. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  4. ^ Unregistered 174: Anthony Esolen (VIDEO), retrieved 2021-07-20
  5. ^ a b McFadden-Westwood, Lore (September 2, 2014). "Senior Editor of Touchstone Magazine to Deliver 2014 Ruggiero Lecture". The Salesian Center. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  6. ^ "Anthony Esolen". Providence College. Archived from the original on May 21, 2017. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Fraga, Brian (December 15, 2016). "The Esolen Affair: Esteemed Providence College Professor Attacked Over 'Diversity'". National Catholic Register. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  8. ^ Esolen, Anthony (Summer 2016). "Exercises in Unreality: The Decline in Teaching Western Civilization". Modern Age. 58 (3). Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  9. ^ Esolen, Anthony M. (September 26, 2016). "My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult". Crisis Magazine. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  10. ^ George, Robert P. "I have always thought highly of Providence College". Tumblr. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  11. ^ "Dr. Anthony Esolen Joins the Faculty at Northeast Catholic College". Northeast Catholic College. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  12. ^ "Anthony Esolen". Department of English. Providence College. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  13. ^ a b c d "Anthony Esolen". Publications – Books. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  14. ^ a b Esolen, Anthony (2002). "Note on the Translation". Inferno. Modern Library Classics. p. xxviii.
  15. ^ "How Dark Were the Dark Ages?". YouTube. Prager University. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  16. ^ Esolen, Anthony M. (June 2011). "A Bumping Boxcar Language". First Things. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  17. ^ "Anthony M. Esolen". Goodreads. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  18. ^ Anthony Esolen (2014-02-13). "Sophia Institute: Reflections on the Christian Life". Retrieved 2015-01-28.

External links[edit]