Hillsdale’s past and present con­verged last Tuesday night as Greg Wolfe ’80 delivered a speech on con­ser­vatism and culture, drawing to a tri­umphant close a two-day fes­tival rec­og­nizing his lit­erary accom­plish­ments.

“My story is a Hillsdale story,” he said. “My whole career has been an extended dia­logue with the culture that nour­ished me.”

Wolfe is the founder and editor-in-chief of Image, a quar­terly journal of art, faith, and culture, which cel­e­brates its 25th anniversary this year. Last Monday and Tuesday, the English Department hosted a two-day cel­e­bration of Image to com­mem­orate this landmark, fea­turing poetry, a folk concert, song­writing, prose, and poetry work­shops, and lec­tures from authors who have played a role in making Image a reality. Wolfe was pre­sented with a dis­tin­guished alumni award, and his speech drew a crowd that packed Dow A&B and gave him two standing ova­tions.

In his speech, entitled “Con­ser­vatism and the Arts: A Lovers’ Quarrel,” Wolfe spoke of his time at Hillsdale and the events which led to the cre­ation of Image. While in college, he hoped to make a career as a bastion of tra­di­tional thinking against the encroach­ments of lib­er­alism, a culture warrior “like a Christopher Hitchens of the Right.”

“I wanted to write dev­as­tating book reviews of books by secular lib­erals,” he said with a smile.

Soon after grad­u­ation, however, Wolfe realized that he was not cut out for the destructive business of polemics, and, after a period of uncer­tainty, con­cluded that he wanted to support con­ser­v­ative culture by cham­pi­oning beauty rather than merely responding uglily to ugliness.

“What I thought was a nervous breakdown was really a nervous break­through,” he said. “The way to change culture is to put new, good culture into cir­cu­lation.”

Wolfe’s talk served as a fitting cap­stone for the fes­tival, and was well received by both the audience and the event’s coor­di­nators.

Kathryn Wales, wife of assistant pro­fessor of the­ology Jordan Wales, said that Wolfe’s exhor­tation of beauty in con­ser­vatism was timely, nec­essary, and art­fully stated.

“I’m still not recovered from how dev­as­tat­ingly good that was,” she said afterward.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of English Stephen Smith also praised the lecture for its emphasis on the cul­tural impor­tance of appre­ci­ating beauty.

“Beauty has the power to save the world, as Dos­to­evsky pointed out,” he said. “We need to take as much care with the for­mation of artists as we do with other good things, because they hold one of the secrets of renewing the world.”

After the lecture, the event con­cluded with refresh­ments and con­ver­sation with the guests of the fes­tival. According to those respon­sible for putting it together, Wolfe’s speech was a fitting end to a very suc­cessful cel­e­bration.

“I’m so happy, so happy for him,” Pro­fessor of English John Somerville said. “It all went so well, I would have to say better than expected.”