Bathing in reeking wounds: The liberal arts, beauty, and war

Catharine R. Stimpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A historic dialectic exists between the beautiful and the bestial. The bestial destroys the beautiful, but in a bloody miracle, the beautiful emerges from the womb of the bestial, the 'terrible beauty' of which the poet W. B. Yeats wrote. The liberal arts, so often thought to dwell in a remote ivory tower, embody this dialectic. Wars and disasters have spurred their evolution. Even more important, the liberal arts are at once the dialectic's most energetic and sensitive explorers. Shakespeare's gory tragedy about war and warriors, Macbeth, is a springboard for such explorations, dramatizing a dialectic between war and love, destruction and redemption, savagery and poetry. We bathe in reeking wounds. Because of their diversity, liberal artisans, practitioners of the liberal arts, are now uniquely prepared to engage with this dialectic. They can also inoculate us against the diseases of the allure of war, blood lust, and propaganda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-140
Number of pages13
JournalArts and Humanities in Higher Education
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Gertrude Stein
  • Liberal arts
  • Macbeth
  • Martin Luther King Jr
  • Riverbend
  • Shakespeare
  • War
  • William James

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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