Anthony Esolen

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Anthony M. Esolen
Anthony Esolen.jpg
Alma mater Princeton University
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Occupation Academic, author
Employer Providence College
Title Professor of English

Anthony M. Esolen is a writer, social commentator, translator of classical poetry, and professor of English Renaissance and classical literature. He has taught at Furman University and Providence College, and is scheduled to join the faculty of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts as a professor in residence in 2017.

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 over five hundred 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. Dissatisfaction over some of the views that he expressed contributed to his decision to leave Providence College.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

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. His dissertation, "A Rhetoric of Spenserian Irony," and was directed by S.K. Heninger. He taught at Furman University from 1988 to 1990.[2][3] He is of Italian ancestry.[4]

Providence College[edit]

Esolen began teaching English at Providence College in 1990, becoming a full professor in 1995.[2]

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.[1][5] In September 2016, an article by Esolen was published in Crisis Magazine entitled: "My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult." 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.[6] He also said:

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?[6]

The publication of this essay, the title of which Esolen claimed he did not choose, was followed by a protest march by Providence students. 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."[1] The Rev. Brian Shanley, O.P., President of Providence College, publically distanced himself from Esolen's statements by claiming "that he speaks only for himself."[5] Meanwhile, Robert P. George, a conservative Catholic professor at Esolen's alma mater, Princeton, 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."[7] On May 4, 2017, it was announced that he will join the faculty at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire beginning the fall of 2017. On this occasion, he criticized the Providence College administration for becoming too "secular."[1]

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.[8]

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.[9] In his translations, Esolen chose not to attempt a "preservation of Dante's rhyme in any systematic form."[10] 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."[4]

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.[10] 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."[4]

Esolen has published 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 by Johns Hopkins University Press).[9]

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.[11]

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.[12]



The following works were translated into English by Esolen:[9]


The following books were written by Esolen:[9][13]


  1. ^ a b c d Smith, Peter Jesserer (May 5, 2017). "Anthony Esolen accepts post at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved May 6, 2017. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ "Anthony Esolen". Providence College. Retrieved May 15, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Gardiner, Anne Barbeau (June 2004). "Eternal Consequences". New Oxford Book Reviews. Retrieved May 27, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Fraga, Brian (December 15, 2016). "The Esolen Affair: Esteemed Providence College Professor Attacked Over 'Diversity'". National Catholic Register. Retrieved May 18, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Esolen, Anthony M. (September 26, 2016). "My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult". Crisis Magazine. Retrieved May 6, 2017. 
  7. ^ George, Robert P. "I have always thought highly of Providence College". Tumblr. Retrieved May 15, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Anthony Esolen". Department of English. Providence College. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Anthony Esolen". Publications – Books. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Esolen, Anthony (2002). "Note on the Translation". Inferno. Modern Library Classics. p. xxviii. 
  11. ^ "How Dark Were the Dark Ages?". YouTube. Prager University. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  12. ^ Esolen, Anthony M. (June 2011). "A Bumping Boxcar Language". First Things. Retrieved May 6, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Anthony M. Esolen". Goodreads. Retrieved May 13, 2017. 
  14. ^ Anthony Esolen (2014-02-13). "Sophia Institute: Reflections on the Christian Life". Retrieved 2015-01-28. 

External links[edit]