That we live in wondrous times is no longer news, of course. Technological miracles abound, behavior once thought esoteric, outrageous, or illegal is now acclaimed as virtuous, liberating, and chic, and the frontiers of creative expression have been expanded beyond the wildest dreams of the avant-gardes of yesteryear. The expansion of those frontiers is nowadays, indeed, a subject of instruction in the classroom, the art school, and the university seminar. Foundations support it, the media applaud it, and our institutions of high culture hasten to bask in the glory of serving its most outré interests.

That we may also be living in barbarous times—right there, in those very same classrooms, foundations, and institutions of high culture—is a matter that upright, enlightened, liberal-minded folk would mostly rather not think about, especially in relation to what is now said to constitute artistic endeavor. ...