Charles Ives, an American Composer

Inspired by German Romanticism, transcendentalism had its roots in the writings of Immanuel Kant. Hoping to see beyond the surface of things, transcendentalists ultimately rejected all things European, shed the stilted confines of the 19th-century Unitarian Church, and eschewed the cold, calculating gaze of the Enlightenment. It was a refreshing way of moving forward intellectually, spiritually, and artistically in the New World.

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Colosseum as Icon

Over the centuries, many have come to Rome to stand in the shadow of the ancient monument to the Roman Empire, the renowned architectural achievement – the Colosseum. Travelers and academics often comment, however, that their visual expectations far exceed their first impression of it. Touring the Colosseum is almost anticlimactic. The magnificent amphitheater, faced with gleaming travertine stone three stories high and lined with statues --  a venue that that once hosted gladiator fights, mock sea battles, staged animal hunts, and public executions of Christians, criminals, and ill-fated persons -- now seems a mere skeleton whispering about its former blood-soaked glory, imposing structure, and storied history.

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A Dickensian Curative

In the fall of 1843, Charles Dickens walked the empty streets of London late at night wrestling with the question: Are there answers to humanity’s indifference, negligence and lack of charity? Is there solace to be found in a holiday tale? From those solitary walks, sometimes ten to twenty miles at a time, the idea for a story grew and blossomed. Dickens completed A Christmas Carol in six weeks and published it on December 17, 1843. The first edition sold out in three days. A Christmas Carol had touched a nerve. It was an otherworldly remedy for a world-weary age, and an unsettling admonition to those who neglected the poor and destitute. It was his tribute to the “Spirits of Christmas,” and it served as a counterbalance and restorative measure against societal apathy and community disconnect. Dickens did not call for a government solution to poverty, a new program, or a symposium. He asked his readers to change how they interacted with their fellow voyagers, to be a kinder, more generous, and better version of themselves.

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Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation”

Flannery O’Connor was a remarkable 20th-century American writer of startling, strange, and sometimes violent short stories and novels set in the rural South. In the last year of her too-short life, she worked between medical treatments and hospitalization, writing and correcting the last draft of “Revelation,” one of her final short stories. It remains a well-crafted masterpiece, the culmination of all she intended to say about the fallen human condition and the power of grace to pierce through the veil and open your eyes to yourself and those around you.

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Henry Ossawa Tanner and Gateway, Tangier

As the age-old adage goes, “Every painter paints himself.” Countless artists including Michelangelo, Raphael, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and even Lucien Freud have revealed as much. If painters paint themselves, then paintings say something of real consequence about their biographies.

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Where to Begin: Thoughts on a Publication Going Forward

My goals as Editor-in-Chief of the Alexander Hamilton Institute’s student-run publication Enquiry are to nurture student authors and to publish exceptional writing on political, economic, and cultural issues from differing voices. I want staff writers and guest writers from “paleo to progressive” to describe the world from a perspective that is uncommon, significant, well reasoned, and profound. Their power will come from their ability to look at important issues cogently and dispassionately, relying not only on current modes of thinking, but also on their unique views. At Enquiry, as our mission statement attests, “you will find no shouting matches, no sloganeering. The goal is to elevate the discussion, not to end it. Here, no debates are over and settled, and no ideas are safe from criticism.” We take all who want to enter the realm of ideas and conversation as welcome guests. 

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