I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. —John Adams
The New Fugitive is a publication dedicated to the dissemination of art that is judged on aesthetic criteria alone, and to the amelioration of social malaise by raising artistic accomplishment to a position of public esteem and preeminence irrespective of its political penumbra—not art unqualified, but art possessing the contours of a spiritual orientation to life, which is determinable only from the features and qualities of the artifacts in question. This will necessarily exclude works that have (by our sole judgment) no artistic merit in themselves.
The editors of The New Fugitive believe that the preeminence of politics in the contemporary West is an impediment to the return of social health to the country of which we find ourselves citizens by birth. It is felt by both our writers and editorial staff that the symptoms of social decline and decay are seen first in the arts and later in the rest of society, as the creative cadres of a nation are its most sensitive elements, its sensory apparatus, and that the healing of a society, beyond a commitment to True Religion, begins with the reclamation and restoration of the arts, and that art, divorced from the eternal impulses of spirit, becomes devoid of meaning, and ceases to exert a salutary social influence, ceases to adduce to the vigor and health of the people. Thus, our counterrevolution against the insipid march of modernity, as distinct from mere contemporaneity, and the consequent reign of banality and kitsch, is conducted entirely within the realm of aesthetics, and the metaphysics of the various departments of creative production—first and foremost within the ars poetica, but also in the genres of short fiction, literary reviews, criticism, and the visual arts suitable for print and online publication.
We selected for our masthead the name The New Fugitive to reflect our sympathy with the original Fugitive Poets, fleeing the death of one civilization into the birth of a new one. We are fugitives from the power that would politicize all of life, and make all things captive to ideology. The birth of the present publication springs from our conversations as private individuals—some of us creators, some of us aficionados and patrons—on the dominance of politics in society, on our conviction as to the role of art in the recovery of social well-being, and our mutual commitment to fostering art that reflects permanent value—art that is “against time,” and that runs counter to the exclusive regard for fashion that inhibits the development of incentives to produce creations of lasting significance. We flee from the effete commercial curatorial sensibility that has captivated the life of the artist in the contemporary West, and from the widespread promulgation of sub-aesthetic evaluative criteria. True to form, we would also not limit ourselves necessarily to the narrow aims of the original Fugitives, in their rejection of a parochial and sentimental view of the South that had afflicted and stunted the growth of its literature, but would extend their rejection of regional stereotype to eschew all historicism entirely in favor of the establishment of an extra-temporal aesthetics. While we sympathize with the values of the later Southern Agrarians, several of whom were also among the Fugitives at Nashville, we do not intend for this publication to be narrowly sectarian, nor to promote any “ideas” as such. Our beliefs will be manifest in our art, and in our views on art.
The New Fugitive will produce no essays of social criticism, or political-ideological cant, but rather will confine itself to doing battle against time (fashion) in the field of beauty. Nor should our undertaking be understood as historical in any sense relating to the prioritization of one period of aesthetic development over another, or the attempt to locate an historical ideal. Instead, we recognize that escape into history is unfruitful and will result merely in imitation (imitatio), not the birth of new life. Imitation is the province of the student, where the master has ingested and metabolized the principles that constitute what is timeless, which shape all his creations naturally and effortlessly within the context of his chosen métier. This counterrevolution might be succinctly characterized as a return to nature, as over against the rejection of nature as the ultimate source, and limit, of the creative force. Where nature is rejected we are set loose from the moorings of what it means to be human, and our art becomes inhuman. Our restriction to the contours of nature situates us within the ecology of the teleological purpose of human life, and establishes the boundaries of a truly human, and humane, entelechy: that man is constituted qua man, that he is the crown of creation, he is located in the world as in a garden for his keeping, and that his limits are those of a created being, a creature—albeit the chief creature—within the providential ecology of creation. Man is, in other words, only himself when he is incarnate. His destiny is to be incarnated. His happiness and purpose rests in incarnation. For this reason was the Resurrection.
The writers, editors, critics, and visual artists here gathered are among the best that the Western Hemisphere has to offer, and all, to an individual, are in one accord regarding the validity of the following points (forming a general orientation rather than a program or platform) which must stand in place of any manifesto, the latter being incompatible with our purpose:
- We desire the elevation of art to its former status as the custodian of the symbols of a people, rather than a thrall of commerce or political expediency.
- We seek the recognition of art’s pre-rational role in shaping the outlook of a people.
- We hold a national view of art—that is, beauty is pluriform, and will display the quidditas, or “this-ness” of its historical origin, but is grounded in spiritual experience, which shares common themes across the various national expressions.
- We believe that the aesthetics of a people should reflect the national soul. Any “universality” in art proceeds by the truthful rendering of our shared humanity, not the politically motivated urge to include the exogenous for non-aesthetic reasons, as compelled by political criteria. If the arts are schizophrenic, it’s because the nation no longer knows what it is.
- We believe that absent shared public (whether formal or not) aesthetic canons of virtus and pudicitia (male and female virtue) the unifying social function of art is eroded, and it soon becomes a solipsistic enterprise (ars gratia artis). Social disintegration follows disappearance of such canons; they die of critique and intentional transgression.
- We hold that an aesthetics that is abashed of nature is one in which limits and form finally become alien and are discarded. Beyond this point, art becomes overtly political, or it becomes kitsch—an ironical & deconstructive act that asserts the primacy of the critic and commissar over that of the artist, or the artist freed of any objective aesthetic criteria.
- We observe that to the extent politics dominates culture is diminished. We engage in the former because we’re starved of the latter.
- We assert that Traditional forms are extra-temporal and should reflect the spiritual character of a people rather than the moment in history. They should lie beyond the reach of “fashion” which is the aesthetic form of politics.
- We assert that the cultivation of creative genius is not something that a healthy society can neglect. There will be art. A healthy society knows this, and shapes public expression to the commonweal and to moral uplift by promoting art of great accomplishment. A society that does not celebrate great creative achievement will be one that is dominated not by spiritual concerns, but material-political drives (for politics is ultimately the warfare of faction for the control of material ends).
- We believe that aesthetics precedes politics in the shaping of the human soul. Aesthetics, informed by the spiritual outlook, should shape a society; it is our foremost concern after religious belief. It is prior to economics, and it is prior to politics.
- We believe that the role of criticism is that of “lead learners” in the education of the public taste and the surfacing of important aspects in creative artifacts (texts, images, sounds), their internal structure, through the use of analytic technique, as opposed to the view of criticism as owing its value principally to its social function in promoting approved extra-aesthetic values.
- Artistic creation possesses a social function. It’s social function is obtained in its aesthetic merit, not in its conformity to extra-aesthetic values determined by the social critic or the political commissar.
- Aesthetic production of great social value will naturally conduce to the maturation of the public taste through the promotion of quality.
- The immediate experience of a text or an image takes precedence over its historical, social, or political context, and its evaluation should not privilege historical or biographical data. The latter serve a legitimate critical function only when they are used to aid the analysis of textual or image structure, in the formal sense, and not to determine the meaning or worth of an artifact.
- True aesthetic criteria are trans-temporal, transcendent, and relate to the situation of man in the universe, and not to specific historical periods of fashion. Beauty is not a creature of time.
- What is true is eternally true.
- The historicizing of aesthetic judgments leads to historical relativism and undermines the apprehension of objective aesthetic criteria.
— The Editorial Board, The New Fugitive
Eliot, T.S.; Tradition and the Individual Talent.
Tate, Allen; Emily and Her Biographer.
Brooks, Cleanth; The Well-Wrought Urn.