Wednesday, August 18, 2004

"The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art" by Roger Kimball

Book review excerpts:

"Colleges and universities used to teach art history to encourage connoisseurship and acquaint students with the riches of our artistic heritage. But now, as Roger Kimball shows in this witty and provocative book, the student is less likely to learn about the esthetics of master works than be told, for instance, that Peter Paul Rubens's great painting "Drunken Silenus" is an allegory about anal rape. Or that Courbet's famous hunting pictures are psycho-dramas about "castration anxiety." Or that Gauguin's "Manao tupapau" is an example of the way repression is "written on the bodies of women." Or that Jan van Eyck's masterful Arnolfini Portrait is about "middle-class deceptions . . . and the treatment of women." Or that Mark Rothko's abstract "White Band (Number 27)" "parallels the pictorial structure of a pieta." Or that Winslow Homer's "The Gulf Stream" is "a visual encoding of racism."

In The Rape of the Masters, Kimball, a noted art critic himself, show how academic art history is increasingly held hostage to radical cultural politics-feminism, cultural studies, post-colonial studies, the whole armory of academic anti-humanism. To make his point, Kimball shows how eight famous works of art (reprinted here as illustrations) have been made over to fit a radical ideological fantasy. Kimball then performs a series of intellectual rescue operations, showing how these great works should be understood through a series of illuminating readings in which art, not politics, guides the discussion.

The Rape of the Masters exposes the charlatanry the fuels much academic art history and leaks into the art world generally, affecting galleries, museums and catalogues. It also provides an engaging antidote to the tendentious, politically motivated assaults on our treasured sources of culture and civilization".

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Danish health officials yesterday banned the cereal company Kellogg's from adding vitamins and minerals to its famous food brands, saying they could damage the health of children and pregnant women. The company, which expressed incredulity at the decision, had hoped to enrich 18 breakfast foods and cereal bars with iron, calcium, vitamin B6 and folic acid, just as they already do in many countries including Britain.

But the Danes said the manufacturer of Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies and Special K wanted to include "toxic" doses which, if eaten regularly, could damage children's livers and kidneys and harm foetuses in pregnant women....

Chris Wermann, director of corporate affairs for Kellogg's in Europe, said: "Most of us are a bit incredulous." The extra B6 and folic acid accounted for a quarter of a person's daily allowance, and the calcium and iron just 17%, he said. "It is quite clear from nutritionists that diets around the globe are deficient in vitamins and minerals. We are quite worried about the Danish authorities challenging this. We don't believe there is any danger at all. There is every reason for people to have these." He added that details of added ingredients were labelled clearly on products and were well within recognised international guidelines....

The Food Standards Agency in the UK said: "We are advising people to continue to eat breakfast cereals as part of a healthy balanced diet. Our dietary surveys show people's diets in the United Kingdom, which include fortified breakfast cereals and snacks, are well below the recommended maximum level of vitamins and minerals."

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