The Following Citations Comprise Our Sermon

My two latest YouTube videos:

Was Ayn Rand a good writer or a bad one? Find out now using this one weird trick!

And in a follow-up to the above video, I talk about what I forgot to mention there, namely how Ayn Rand’s fiction stands in the tradition of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People and Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. With film clips! (Plus the shocking revelation of my shameful drinking problem!!)

NOTE: Because this video contains (fair-use) clips from the 1950 American film Cyrano de Bergerac (which is public-domain in most of the world), it is apparently blocked in France and a number of smaller Francophone countries, most of them French territories. If you’re in one of those countries, well, you still have options; poke around on YouTube for info about tools for unblocking videos like this one. Bonne chance!

You may be asking: why the jump from Episode 7 to Episode 9? What happened to Episode 8? Well, we have ways of dealing with people who ask such questions.

32 thoughts on “The Following Citations Comprise Our Sermon

  1. The Libertarian Tradition: skipping instalments

    “The first and second numbers of this series were published in 1867. For reasons not necessary to be explained, the sixth is now published in advance of the third, fourth, and fifth.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure Spooner’s real reason for skipping 3, 4, and 5 was a coded anti-Christian message, since 3+4+5= 12 and there were 12 disciples.

      Or, alternatively, taking “4” as short for “BEfore,” and transposing 3 and 5 into Roman numerals, we get “III V,” which in turn is short for “IIIVMINATI.”


      • Or maybe Spooner was just channeling Locke: “Reader, thou hast here the beginning and end of a discourse concerning government; what fate has otherwise disposed of the papers that should have filled up the middle, and were more than all the rest, it is not worth while to tell thee.”


      • Thanks to WordPress’s opaque threading policies, it’s now impossible to tell what was being singled out here as the “Good one.” But I assume it was the Neoplatonic One, also known as the Good, the cause of being but itself beyond being, and available wherever ineffable cosmic entities are sold.


  2. For some reason, I was seized with paroxysms of laughter at the thought of Ayn Rand’s works havng Stephanus or Bekker numbers. I don’t know why; I don’t think it was intended as a laugh line.

    I hereby “like” the insight that some of Rand’s most evocative writing is of her characters taking solitary nocturnal walks through the city. Had never occurred to me before.


  3. I agree with your interpretation of Red Pawn versus Peikoff’s. The ambiguity in the passage is that it’s not clear whether she’s attributing tragic grandeur to Christianity or to the particular artist who painted the chapel’s murals, or to both. You could in principle read her as attributing tragic grandeur to the artist himself, not to Christianity per se. But you could equally read it the other way around. IThe more relevant point is that she clearly thinks that even if they turned out to be ideologically equivalent, communism obviously lacks the moral gravitas, or at least the aesthetic profundity, of Christianity. One can’t lampoon Christianity in the way that one can lampoon Soviet socialism.

    You’re right that sometimes Rand’s comparisons go the other way. There’s a passage in We the Living that takes place in a university divided between communists and White Russians. The communists sing the Internationale, and the White Russians sing a traditional nationalist or religious song of some sort (I can’t remember which). She describes the scene as a sort of musical competition that the communists win hands down. But they win precisely because their anthem is the opposite of tragic.


  4. Yet another random observation inspired by the first video: both Roark’s court scene and the Atlas scene with Francisco bring out Rand’s Stoic side. Most of her heroes seem to embody the Stoic ideal of “nihil admirari,” to be surprised at nothing, and correspondingly, to be fearless, as though they had foreseen and taken stock of whatever dangers might arise (or knew that they had the resources to do so). It’s telling that Francisco’s laugh is described as the laugh of someone “who seldom has the chance to enjoy the unexpected.”


  5. Some parting thoughts on the first video, the last two just random free associations provoked by it:

    First, I enjoyed it immensely; thank you.

    Second, given Rand’s literary interest in description of both natural landscapes and cityscapes (and the intersections between them), it’s odd that she has nothing to say about landscape painting.

    And third: I wonder whether anyone has done a study of railroad symbolism in all three of Rand’s novels? When one thinks of railroads, one thinks of Atlas Shrugged, but there are important railroad scenes in all three novels. Intuitively, it seems that there ought to be an explanation for that.


    • I hadn’t seen it, thanks.

      “Francisco d’Antonio” — well, that’s a bit sloppy.

      “F. R. Leavis complained of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness that the author was forever gesturing in the general direction of profundity” — well, if Rand is being cast into literary jail with Conrad, that’s pretty solid company.


      • Yeah, the Conrad comment is dumb as hell.

        Incidentally, Heart of Darkness has a long speech near the end, by Marlow, so it’s another one of those of those speech-laden novels.

        Rand’s comment on Conrad in the Q&A book is sort of puzzling and interesting (189). I would have assumed that she’d regard Conrad as a naturalist, but she regards him, like herself, as a “romantic realist”: “He treats his novels realistically, but not naturalistically.” I don’t quite understand why, though. “He expressed his values and, in that sense, he was romantic” doesn’t really say much by way of explanation.

        I’m guessing that she regards Conrad as a romantic due to the grand scale of his characters? But she attributes grandness of scale to Shakespeare’s characters, while insisting that Shakespeare is the grandfather of naturalism (I assume that makes him a full-fledged naturalist rather than a proto-naturalist?). And I’m guessing that she thinks that Conrad, unlike Shakespeare, creates grand scale characters with genuine moral agency (since Shakespeare’s characters, for her, are deterministically driven by tragic flaws). But Conrad tends to focus on morbid or pathological situations, a fixation that contradicts her “benevolent universe premise.”

        Hence her dislike for his work. She regards him as somehow overly realistic for that reason. It seems an odd thing to say. I’m inclined to think that Conrad is hard to fit into her official taxonomy in RM.


    • Many aspects of it are better than the 1950 version. But alas, Depardieu, while okay, does not measure up to Ferrer, for me.

      Also for English subtitles they use the Burgess translation, which I find inferior to the Hooker translation used for the 1950 version. While neither Burgess nor Hooker is as faithful to the letter of the original as I’d like, Hooker at least captures the spirit far more successfully than Burgess.

      I watched the 1990 version once, and enjoyed it; but I never felt the urge to rewatch it. Whereas I’ve rewatched the 1950 version time and again.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s