Subtexts Bill Ivey’s new book
The age of unenlightenment: Bill Ivey’s new book
In recent years, public arguments have arisen over what it means to be a “real American.” Some see the United States as a safe haven that should — and historically has — welcomed immigrants and refugees to its shores. Others desire a more homogeneous society that reflects a narrowly defined Judeo-Christian worldview. At the extreme end of the latter spectrum are neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and others who do not want to live in a multicultural, religiously diverse country. In the even more recent past, we have seen certain norms fall away, such as a general belief that government services are necessary to a functioning society; the belief that presidents and politicians should not openly twist truths to their own ends; and the mainstreaming of suspicion toward modern medicine and scientific knowledge. While some differences of opinion can be attributed to political leanings, some of these themes cross from right to left and back again. Folklore scholar Bill Ivey sees something more profound in this growing tribalism than red versus blue: He sees the end of the Age of Enlightenment.
In Rebuilding an Enlightened World: Folklorizing
America, Ivey writes that “we are immersed in transformation that extends beyond politics and official power, and, like the Renaissance, the Dark Ages, and the Industrial Revolution, our age will one day have its own name. But that will take time. Now we must simply do our best to understand where we are.” To that end, he has written a dense and provocative book that delves into Enlightenment principles including liberty, tolerance, fraternity, and the separation of church and state, while exploring concepts of identity, tradition, and the unwritten norms that shape human behavior.
Rebuilding an Enlightened World: Folklorizing America by Bill Ivey is published by Indiana University Press.