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Joseph Bottum (author)

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Joseph Bottum
Joseph Henry Bottum IV

EducationGeorgetown University (BA), Boston College (PhD)
Known forAuthor

Joseph Bottum (often nicknamed “Jody”[1]) is an American author and intellectual, best known for his writings about literature, American religion, and neoconservative politics. Noting references to his poems,[2] short stories,[3] scholarly work,[4] literary criticism,[5] and many other forms of public commentary, reviewer Mary Eberstadt wrote in National Review in 2014 that “his name would be mandatory on any objective short list of public intellectuals” in the United States.[6] Coverage of his work includes profiles in The New York Times,[7] South Dakota Magazine,[8] and The Washington Times.[9] In 2017, Bottum took a position at Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota.

Education and family[edit]

Born in Vermillion, South Dakota, Bottum was brought up in the state capital of Pierre and later Salt Lake City, Utah, where he attended Judge Memorial Catholic High School.[10] Bottum graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. and in 1993 received a Ph.D. in medieval philosophy from Boston College. Bottum was assistant professor of medieval philosophy at Loyola University Maryland from 1993 to 1994, before joining the journal First Things in New York City as associate editor from 1995 to 1997.[11]

His relatives include great-great-grandfather Henry C. Bottum (19th-century Wisconsin legislator), great-great-grandfather Darius S. Smith (19th-century South Dakota legislator), great-grandfather Joseph H. Bottum (1890s and 1900s South Dakota legislator), great-uncle and namesake Joseph H. Bottum (the 1960s South Dakota senator), cousin Roddy Bottum (keyboardist for the rock band Faith No More), and cousin F. Russell Hittinger[12] (the Catholic philosopher).


He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1997, hired by William Kristol to be literary editor of the neoconservative political magazine, the Weekly Standard,[13] while also serving as Poetry Editor of First Things from 1998 to 2004.[14] In 2004, the founder of First Things, Richard John Neuhaus, brought him back to New York as the new editor of First Things.[15] Forced out in 2010 after controversy about the future and the funding of the magazine[16] following the death of Neuhaus, Bottum moved to his family's summer house in the Black Hills of South Dakota.[17]

Bottum and Dakota State University announced on May 31, 2017, that he would be taking a new post as the director of the CLASSICS Institute and begin working in the field of cyber-ethics.[18] The CLASSICS Institute is an acronym which stands for Collaborations for Liberty and Security Strategies for Integrity in a Cyber-enabled Society.[19][20]

Other works[edit]

After returning to South Dakota, he produced his Kindle Single Dakota Christmas, which reached #1 on the Amazon e-book bestseller list,[21] and he published such print books as the examination of song lyrics as poetry in The Second Spring (2011), the childhood memoir The Christmas Plains (2012), and the sociological study of American religion in An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America (2014), together with the e-book collection of selected essays, Pulp & Prejudice. His Kindle Singles for Amazon include sports Singles on Tim Tebow and R. A. Dickey (The Summer of 43, named by Amazon to its Kindle Singles' list of 2012's “10 Best Books of the Year”),[22] and Bottum's annual Christmas fiction.[23]

Works as an essayist[edit]

Bottum's essays, poems, reviews, and short stories have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Times of London, and other newspapers; Forbes, Newsweek, Commentary, and other magazines; the International Philosophical Quarterly, U.S. Catholic Historian, and other scholarly journals. His work has been anthologized in Best Spiritual Writing 2010, Best Catholic Writing 2007, Best Christian Writing 2004, The Conservative Poets, Why I Turned Right, and other collections.[24] Among his most widely discussed essays are “The Soundtracking of America”[25] in The Atlantic, “Christians and Postmoderns,”[26] in First Things, and “The Myth of the Catholic Voter”[27] in the Weekly Standard.

Bottum's 2013 essay “The Things We Share”[28] in the Catholic journal Commonweal, urging acceptance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage, was covered by a pair of articles in The New York Times[29] and by many other publications. Widely cited and attacked, it led to the ostracizing of Bottum in some conservative and religious circles.[30] Other controversial positions Bottum has taken include his opposition to the death penalty,[31] his defense of Pope Pius XII,[32] and his rejection of abortion. According to Edmund Waldstein, Bottom understands his own conservative philosophy as a "working out of the insight into the evil of abortion".[33]

Bottum's 2014 book An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America argues that members of the nation's elite class are the spiritual heirs of Mainline Protestantism, and that this class has triumphed over Catholics and Evangelicals in the culture wars.[34] Reviewing the book for The American Interest, the columnist David Goldman wrote, “Joseph Bottum may be America's best writer on religion.”[35] In The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty compared the book to work by James Burnham, Daniel Bell, and Christopher Lasch, suggesting “with the publication of An Anxious Age, I wonder if these earlier thinkers haven't all been surpassed.”[36]

Bottum was a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard[37] and served as distinguished visiting professor at Houston Baptist University in 2014.[38] In an article attacking him for his stance on same-sex marriage, National Review nonetheless wrote, “Bottum is the poetic voice of modern Catholic intellectual life. His work . . . shaped the minds of a generation.”[39] He has read his New Formalist poetry on C-SPAN,[40] done commentary for NBC's Meet the Press[41] and the PBS Newshour,[42] and appeared on many other television and radio programs.


  • Bottum, Joseph (2022). Spending the Winter. South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press. ISBN 9781587318153. OCLC 1314256676.
  • Bottum, Joseph (2019). The Decline of the Novel. South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press. ISBN 9781587311987.
  • An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America (Image/Random House, 2014)
  • The Christmas Plains (Image/Random House, 2012)
  • The Second Spring: Words Into Music, Music Into Words (St. Augustine's Press, 2011)
  • (co-editor) The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII (Lexington Books, 2004)
  • The Fall & Other Poems (St. Augustine's Press, 2001)


  1. ^ Richard John Neuhaus, “While We're At It”, First Things, February 1995
  2. ^ Micah Matix, “Meaning and Music”, Books & Culture, September/October 2011
  3. ^ Standpoint magazine Archived 2014-02-09 at the Wayback Machine, October 2013
  4. ^ Bottum, Joseph (1995). "The Gentleman's True Name: David Copperfield and the Philosophy of Naming". Nineteenth-Century Literature. 49 (4): 435–455. doi:10.2307/2933728. JSTOR 2933728.
  5. ^ Adam Gopnik, “'America's Cleanest Writer Goes His Lonely Way': The Letters of J. F. Powers”, New Yorker, October 1, 2013
  6. ^ Mary Eberstadt, “The Puritans Among Us”, National Review, April 21, 2014.
  7. ^ Mark Oppenheimer, “A Conservative Catholic Now Backs Same-Sex Marriage”, The New York Times, August 23, 2013
  8. ^ Bernie Hunhoff, “Why the Bottums Belong in South Dakota: A nationally-renowned writer comes home to Hot Springs”, South Dakota Magazine, November/December 2012
  9. ^ Hruby, Patrick (December 13, 2011). "Surprise Kindle Single best-seller a 'Dakota Christmas' present for conservative writer". The Washington Times.
  10. ^ Jill Callison, “Memoirs of S.D. rearing”, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, December 18, 2011
  11. ^ "The Public Square". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  12. ^ "The University of Tulsa". The University of Tulsa. March 20, 2024.
  13. ^ “We Are Proud to Announce . . .”, Weekly Standard, November 17, 1997
  14. ^ “Rhyme & Reason”, First Things, April 2010
  15. ^ Neuhaus, “While We're At It” Archived 2014-03-28 at the Wayback Machine, First Things, February 2009.
  16. ^ Hruby, Patrick (December 13, 2011). "Surprise Kindle Single best-seller a 'Dakota Christmas' present for conservative writer". The Washington Times. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  17. ^ Mary Garrigan, “Southern Hills solitude suits Catholic author”, Rapid City Journal, February 11, 2012
  18. ^ "Bottum to be director of DSU CLASSICS Institute | Dakota State University". Archived from the original on 2017-06-06. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  19. ^ https://dsu.edu/assets/uploads/public/MadLabs-Overview.pdf [dead link]
  20. ^ "In the Moment ... Joseph Bottum, DSU, and Cyber-Ethics | SDPB Radio". Archived from the original on 2018-01-26. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  21. ^ “Meet Joseph Bottum, One of the World's Most Prolific E-Book Single Authors,” Thin Reads interview, March 2012
  22. ^ "Amazon.com: Kindle Singles: Books". Amazon. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  23. ^ “Author releases Christmas e-story”, Hot Springs Star, December 16, 2013
  24. ^ Bottum, Joseph (February 11, 2014). An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. Penguin Random House. ISBN 9780385521468.
  25. ^ Bottum, “The Soundtracking of America” Atlantic, March 2000
  26. ^ Bottum, Joseph (November 1, 2004). "Christians and Postmoderns". First Things. Archived from the original on 2013-09-06.
  27. ^ Bottum, Joseph (November 1, 2004). "The Myth of the Catholic Voter". Weekly Standard. Archived from the original on December 4, 2004. Retrieved November 8, 2004.
  28. ^ Bottum, “The Things We Share”, Commonweal, August 23, 2013
  29. ^ Mark Oppenheimer, “A Conservative Catholic Now Backs Same-Sex Marriage”, New York Times, August 23, 2013, and Ross Douthat, “What Joseph Bottum Wants”, August 26, 2013
  30. ^ Matthew Boudway, “A Reply to Joseph Bottum's Conservative Critics”, Commonweal, August 30, 2013
  31. ^ Steve Bainbridge, “Bottum on the Death Penalty”, Mirror of Justice, August 5, 2005
  32. ^ Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J., review of The Pius War Archived 2008-05-04 at the Wayback Machine, New Oxford Review, November 2005
  33. ^ "'Anything that participates in the murder of a child—anything that slices it into pieces or burns it to death with chemicals in the womb—is wrong. All the rest is just a working out of the details.'... 'The rest' to which Bottum refers as a mere working out of the insight into the evil of abortion is Bottum's whole conservative philosophy." Fr. Edmund Waldstein, “The Fundamental Conflict in Joseph Bottum's Thought”, Sancrucensis, August 27, 2013
  34. ^ Gerald Russello, “An Anxious Age”, The Washington Times, April 1, 2014
  35. ^ David P. Goldman, “The Rise of Secular Religion”, American Interest, March 17, 2014
  36. ^ Michael Brendan Dougherty, “The Religious Roots of the Elite Liberal Agenda”, The Week, March 27, 2014.
  37. ^ "About Us – The Weekly Standard". Weekly Standard. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  38. ^ "Schedule of Events". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  39. ^ J. D. Flynn, “Trampling the Fumie” Archived 2014-04-07 at the Wayback Machine, National Review, August 27, 2013
  40. ^ "Poetry Readings Children - Video - C-SPAN.org". C-SPAN.org. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  41. ^ "Transcript for April 24". msnbc.com. 24 April 2005. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  42. ^ "On Thursday's NewsHour". PBS. Archived from the original on 2012-08-06. Retrieved 2017-09-02.

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