Anthony M. Esolen
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
|Employer||Thomas More College of Liberal Arts|
|Title||Professor of English|
Anthony M. Esolen is a writer, social commentator, translator of classical poetry, and professor of English Renaissance and classical literature at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. He taught at Furman University and Providence College before transferring to Thomas More 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 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.
Early life and career
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. Esolen is of Italian ancestry.
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. 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.'"
In September 2016, Crisis Magazine published an article by Esolen titled "My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult." 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?
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." The Rev. Brian Shanley, O.P., President of Providence College, 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." 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."
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."
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. In his translations, Esolen chose not to attempt a "preservation of Dante's rhyme in any systematic form." 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."
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. 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."
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.
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.
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.
While popular with conservative Catholics, critics contend that Esolen's writings are too florid and elaborate and often fail to make sense. One person characterized his prose as "vague, transcendent, and floppy," while another accused him of using "pip-pip-cheerio purple prose" and of making broad illogical generalizations about those whom he perceives as disagreeing with him.
The following works were translated into English by Esolen:
- Lucretius, Titus; Esolen, Anthony M. (1995). On the Nature of Things: De rerum natura. Johns Hopkins Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-5055-4.
- Alighieri, Dante; Esolen, Anthony M. (2003). Inferno (Modern Library Classics). Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-8129-7006-7.
- Alighieri, Dante; Esolen, Anthony M. (2004). Purgatory (Modern Library Classics). Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-8129-7125-5.
- Alighieri, Dante; 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.
- Ironies of Faith: The Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature. Intercollegiate Studies Institute. June 15, 2007. ISBN 978-1-933859-21-7.
- The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization. The Politically Incorrect Guide. Regnery Publishing. 2008. ISBN 978-1-59698-059-4.
- The Beauty of the Word: A Running Commentary on the Roman Missal. Ignatius Press. 2010. ISBN 978-1-936260-40-9.
- Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. Intercollegiate Studies Institute. November 5, 2010. ISBN 978-1-935191-88-9.
- Reflections on the Christian Life. Sophia Institute Press. February 20, 2012. ISBN 978-1-933184-85-2
- Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity. May 28, 2014. ISBN 978-1-61890-604-5
- Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching. Sophia Institute Press. October 20, 2014. ISBN 978-1-933184-85-2
- Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child. Intercollegiate Studies Institute May 18, 2015. ISBN 978-1-61017-094-9
- Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church. TAN Books December 7, 2016. ISBN 978-1-61890-702-8
- Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing. 2017. ISBN 978-1-62157-514-6. OCLC 938991884.
- Smith, Peter Jesserer (May 5, 2017). "Anthony Esolen accepts post at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
- McFadden-Westwood, Lore (September 2, 2014). "Senior Editor of Touchstone Magazine to Deliver 2014 Ruggiero Lecture". The Salesian Center. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
- "Anthony Esolen". Providence College. Archived from the original on May 21, 2017. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
- Gardiner, Anne Barbeau (June 2004). "Eternal Consequences". New Oxford Book Reviews. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
- Fraga, Brian (December 15, 2016). "The Esolen Affair: Esteemed Providence College Professor Attacked Over 'Diversity'". National Catholic Register. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Esolen, Anthony (Summer 2016). "Exercises in Unreality: The Decline in Teaching Western Civilization". Modern Age. 58 (3). Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- Esolen, Anthony M. (September 26, 2016). "My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult". Crisis Magazine. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
- George, Robert P. "I have always thought highly of Providence College". Tumblr. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
- "Anthony Esolen". Department of English. Providence College. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- "Anthony Esolen". Publications – Books. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- "How Dark Were the Dark Ages?". YouTube. Prager University. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
- Esolen, Anthony M. (June 2011). "A Bumping Boxcar Language". First Things. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
- Tisinai, Rob (April 16, 2013). "They're Just Making Stuff Up". Box Turtle Bulletin. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
- Pezzulo, Mary (October 19, 2018). "Anthony Esolen, the Irreal, and Sexual Violence". Patheos. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
- "Anthony M. Esolen". Goodreads. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
- Anthony Esolen (2014-02-13). "Sophia Institute: Reflections on the Christian Life". Shop.sophiainstitute.com. Retrieved 2015-01-28.