In this episode I discuss cultural decay – the theme of cultural pessimists for centuries, and of this writer for a decade or more, including many posts on this blog. In this episode I survey some favoured prophets of cultural doom from Matthew Arnold, Max Weber, Stefan Zweig, Walter Benjamin, and the more witty and balanced Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.
Poetry makes an appearance too – with Arnold’s “Dover Beach”, Yeats’ “Second Coming”, my own reading of “The Burning Archive” (which now you can also listen to on Youtube poetry video, and lastly a special guest appearance of Ezra Pound reading from his Cantos. Trust me – it all makes sense in the end.
The podcast features some audio from others including:
- the wonderful Kimiko Ishizaka and the Open Goldberg project, for the public domain recording of the Aria from J.S.Bach’s Goldberg Variations https://opengoldbergvariations.org/
- Ezra Pound reading from Canto 81, “What thou lovest well will not be reft from thee”
The podcast covers some important themes for me, and offers a glimpse into the meaning of the image of the Burning Archive for me – the fountainhead of this blog, many poems, thoughts on our cultural condition, my podcast and now my YouTube channel.
I have written several posts on the topic over the years that you might like to explore, such as:
- About the Burning Archive
- The Burning Archive – the introductory post of this blog in 2015
- The disenchantment of the world – a reflection on Max Weber’s account of the losses of rationalist progress
- The extinction of meaning
- Notes on the death of culture (Maria Vargas Llosa)
- The disappearance of stories from the world
- Sound and fury told by the American cultural elite – which I discuss in the podcast
- Anomie today and cultural decay – including reflections on Emile Durkheim
- Weber’s iron cage and prophecy of cultural demise.
Image Credit: Paul Klee, Angelus Novus, as discussed in Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History