Joseph Bottum (author)

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Joseph Bottum
Joseph Bottum at Princeton 2003.jpg
Joseph Henry Bottum IV

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

Joseph Bottum (often nicknamed “Jody”[1]) is an American author, 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] Bottum and Dakota State University announced in May 2017, that he will be taking a position at the university in Madison, South Dakota.

Early life and education[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 from Boston College with a Ph.D. in Medieval Philosophy. 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]


He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1997, hired by William Kristol to be literary editor of the neoconservative political magazine, the Weekly Standard,[12] while also serving as Poetry Editor of First Things from 1998 to 2004.[13] In 2004, the founder of First Things, Richard John Neuhaus, brought him back to New York as the new editor of First Things.[14] Forced out in 2010 after controversy about the future and the funding of the magazine[15] following the death of Neuhaus, Bottum moved to his family's summer house in the Black Hills of South Dakota.[16]

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,[17] 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”),[18] and Bottum's annual Christmas fiction.[19]

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.[20] Among his most widely discussed essays are “The Soundtracking of America”[21] in The Atlantic, “Christians and Postmoderns”[22] in First Things, and “The Myth of the Catholic Voter”[23] in the Weekly Standard.

Bottum's 2013 essay “The Things We Share”[24] 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[25] and by many other publications. Widely cited and attacked, it led to the ostracizing of Bottum in some conservative and religious circles.[26] Other controversial positions Bottum has taken include his opposition to the death penalty,[27] his defense of Pope Pius XII,[28] 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".[29]

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.[30] Reviewing the book for The American Interest, the columnist David Goldman wrote, “Joseph Bottum may be America's best writer on religion.”[31] 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.”[32]

Bottum was a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard[33] and served as distinguished visiting professor at Houston Baptist University in 2014.[34] 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.”[35] He has read his New Formalist poetry on C-SPAN,[36] done commentary for NBC's Meet the Press[37] and the PBS Newshour,[38] and appeared on many other television and radio programs. 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[39] (the Catholic philosopher).

Director of The CLASSICS Institute and philosopher of cyber-ethics[edit]

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.[40] Dakota State University, founded in 1881, is a university in Madison, South Dakota, with programs in cyber security, computer science, computer game design, health information management and other IT-related fields, elementary and secondary education degrees, English for new media, digital arts and design, mathematics, and biology, among others.[41] The CLASSICS Institute is part of the larger Madison Cyber Labs currently emerging at DSU. The CLASSICS Institute is an acronym which stands for Collaborations for Liberty and Security Strategies for Integrity in a Cyber-enabled Society.[42] Bottum's goals are, among other things, to develop a special, or professional ethic for those in the rapidly growing information technology professions, and collaborate with others to discuss these issues.[43]


  • David Gelernter and the Life of the Mind / Essay: [by] Joseph Bottum on the politics of intellect (The Washington Free Beacon, January 20, 2017 11:05 am)[44]
  • 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)
  • Nativity: A Christmas Tale (Kindle Single e-book, 2013)
  • Wise Guy: A Christmas Tale (Kindle Single e-book, 2012)
  • The Summer of 43: R. A. Dickey's Knuckleball and the Redemption of America's Game (Kindle Single e-book, 2012)
  • The Gospel According to Tim (Kindle Single e-book, 2012)
  • Pulp & Prejudice: Essays in Search of Books, Culture, and God (Amazon e-book, 2011)
  • Dakota Christmas (Kindle Single e-book, 2011)


  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. ^ “The Gentleman's True Name: David Copperfield and the Philosophy of Naming,” Nineteenth-Century Literature, March 1995
  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. ^ Patrick Hruby, “Surprise Kindle Single best-seller a 'Dakota Christmas' present for conservative writer”, The Washington Times, December 13, 2011
  10. ^ Jill Callison, “Memoirs of S.D. rearing”, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, December 18, 2011
  11. ^ "The Public Square". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  12. ^ “We Are Proud to Announce . . .”, Weekly Standard, November 17, 1997
  13. ^ “Rhyme & Reason”, First Things, April 2010
  14. ^ Neuhaus, “While We're At It” Archived 2014-03-28 at the Wayback Machine, First Things, February 2009.
  15. ^ The Washington Times "Surprise Kindle Single best-seller a 'Dakota Christmas' present for conservative writer – Washington Times". The Washington Times. Retrieved 5 February 2016. {{cite web}}: External link in |author= (help)
  16. ^ Mary Garrigan, “Southern Hills solitude suits Catholic author”, Rapid City Journal, February 11, 2012
  17. ^ “Meet Joseph Bottum, One of the World's Most Prolific E-Book Single Authors,” Thin Reads interview, March 2012
  18. ^ " Kindle Singles: Books". Amazon. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  19. ^ “Author releases Christmas e-story”, Hot Springs Star, December 16, 2013
  20. ^ “Joseph Bottum”, Random House author description
  21. ^ Bottum, “The Soundtracking of America” Atlantic, March 2000
  22. ^ Bottum, “Christians and Postmoderns” Archived 2013-10-08 at the Wayback Machine, First Things, February 1994
  23. ^ Bottum, “The Myth of the Catholic Voter”, Weekly Standard, November 1, 2004 / November 8, 2004
  24. ^ Bottum, “The Things We Share”, Commonweal, August 23, 2013
  25. ^ 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
  26. ^ Matthew Boudway, “A Reply to Joseph Bottum's Conservative Critics”, Commonweal, August 30, 2013
  27. ^ Steve Bainbridge, “Bottum on the Death Penalty”, Mirror of Justice, August 5, 2005
  28. ^ Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J., review of The Pius War Archived 2008-05-04 at the Wayback Machine, New Oxford Review, November 2005
  29. ^ "'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
  30. ^ Gerald Russello, “An Anxious Age”, The Washington Times, April 1, 2014
  31. ^ David P. Goldman, “The Rise of Secular Religion”, American Interest, March 17, 2014
  32. ^ Michael Brendan Dougherty, “The Religious Roots of the Elite Liberal Agenda”, The Week, March 27, 2014.
  33. ^ "About Us – The Weekly Standard". Weekly Standard. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  34. ^ "Schedule of Events". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  35. ^ J. D. Flynn, “Trampling the Fumie” Archived 2014-04-07 at the Wayback Machine, National Review, August 27, 2013
  36. ^ "Poetry Readings Children - Video -". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  37. ^ "Transcript for April 24". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  38. ^ ""On Thursday's NewsHour"". PBS. Archived from the original on 2012-08-06. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
  39. ^ Francis Russell Hittinger
  40. ^ "Bottum to be director of DSU CLASSICS Institute | Dakota State University". Archived from the original on 2017-06-06. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  41. ^
  42. ^[dead link]
  43. ^ "In the Moment ... Joseph Bottum, DSU, and Cyber-Ethics | SDPB Radio". Archived from the original on 2018-01-26. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  44. ^ Bottum, Joseph (January 20, 2017). "David Gelernter and the Life of the Mind / Essay: Joseph Bottum on the politics of intellect". The Washington Free Beacon. Archived from the original on January 29, 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2017.

External links[edit]