Recent quotes:

The Cultural Axis | by Robert O. Paxton | The New York Review of Books

The word “international” acquired a special meaning in its usage by Nazi and Fascist cultural officials. The Allies’ international cultural associations had rested on a set of liberal democratic assumptions: that works of art and literature should be evaluated by universal standards of quality; that masterpieces were the product of individual creativity; and that no national culture deserved hegemony over another. The Nazi and Fascist dictators reversed all of these assumptions. They measured the merit of works of art and literature by their significance within unique national cultural traditions. Masterpieces, in their view, grew out of community roots. And national cultural traditions were ranked in a natural hierarchy, with the German and Italian ones at the top. Hitler concerned himself with cultural matters as soon as he became chancellor of Germany in January 1933. He purged the German section of PEN International of “leftist” and Jewish writers. When PEN International protested, Hitler dissolved the German section altogether at the end of 1933. During this dispute the president of the Italian PEN club, the provocateur Futurist intellectual Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, supported the German position. Thus from the earliest days, Nazi cultural projects proved capable of enlisting foreign support.

Recentering the universe

It was this hierarchy—so central to Western cosmology for so long that, even today, a ten-year-old could intuitively get much of it right—that was challenged by the most famous compendium of all: Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s eighteen-thousand-page Encyclopédie. Published between 1751 and 1772, the Encyclopédie was sponsored by neither the Catholic Church nor the French monarchy and was covertly hostile to both. It was intended to secularize as well as to popularize knowledge, and it demonstrated those Enlightenment commitments most radically through its organizational scheme. Rather than being structured, as it were, God-down, with the whole world flowing forth from a divine creator, it was structured human-out, with the world divided according to the different ways in which the mind engages with it: “memory,” “reason,” and “imagination,” or what we might today call history, science and philosophy, and the arts. Like alphabetical order, which effectively democratizes topics by abolishing distinctions based on power and precedent in favor of subjecting them all to the same rule, this new structure had the effect of humbling even the most exalted subjects. In producing the Encyclopédie, Diderot did not look up to the heavens but out toward the future; his goal, he wrote, was “that our descendants, by becoming more learned, may become more virtuous and happier.”

Why do people in medieval art look bored or indifferent when being killed? (cross-post from /r/Art) : AskHistorians

I've been amused by this trait in pre-1600's european paintings all my life; people going through the most horrific injuries imaginable look as if they were bored with life anyway and their killer did them a service. It would have been easier to draw open, panicked eyes and flailing arms than just laconic, Eeyore-like pawns that die on command and without fuss.

Dostoyevsky and Russia's soul

Dostoevsky, who traveled widely in Europe but was suspicious of it, despised passionately the revolutionaries and their desired revolution. He spent the 1860s and 1870s obsessing over Russia’s looming confrontation with itself. His four most important works (Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Devils, and The Brothers Karamazov) are not simply novels, but rather dystopian warnings about what would happen if Russia did not return to its pre-Petrine origins.