George Steiner

On ‘high culture’


‘Like you, Professore, I cannot abide Rock music. My stomach turns at most television, at the plastic and porn, fast food and illiteracy that pours out of what you call “California”. But I wonder whether even these things are inflicting on men a fraction of the pain, of the despair which all our Athens, all our high culture have inflicted. They rocked around the clock not long ago to raise millions for charity. They lectured on Kant and played Schubert and went off the same day to stuff millions into gas ovens’.

– Father Carlo, in George Steiner’s Proofs and Three Parables.

[Image: Mary Queen Bernardo]

Grace: an ‘intensity of outward attention’

The NYT recently ran an interesting piece by Lee Siegel on George Steiner, a kind of follow-up/review piece of Steiner’s recently-released book George Steiner at The New Yorker. The article included one of the best definitions of grace that I’ve encountered: grace is ‘an intensity of outward attention — interest, curiosity, healthy obsession …’.

Christian theologians will no doubt want to further define grace – that is, to say something about how grace takes on fallen flesh and stubbornly refuses to be fallen in it, that this ‘intensity of outward attention’ takes place in a particular person, etc. – but Siegel’s definition goes a long way to bearing witness to something of grace’s existential motivation.

Want more? Read Real Presences; it’s absolutely brilliant.