Modernism and the Critical Spirit

Transaction Publishers - 203 sider
Complaints about the decline of critical standards in literature and culture in general have been voiced for much of the twentieth century. These have extended from F.R. Leavis's laments for a "lost center of intelligence and urbane spirit," to current opposition to the predominance of radical critical theory in contemporary literature departments. Humanist criticism, which has as its object the quality of life as well as works of art, may well lack authority in the contemporary world. Even amid the disruptions of the industrial revolution, nineteenth-century humanists such as Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, and Thomas Carlyle could assume a positive order of value and shared habits of imaginative perception and understanding between writers and readers. Eugene Goodheart argues that, by contrast, contemporary criticism is infused with the skepticism of modernist aesthetics. It has willfully rejected the very idea of moral authority.

Goodheart starts from the premise that questions about the moral authority of literature and criticism often turn upon a prior question of what happens when the sacred disappears or is subjected to the profane. He focuses on contending spiritual views, in particular the dialectic between the Protestant-inspired, largely English humanist tradition of Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, and D.H. Lawrence and the decay of Catholicism represented by James Joyce and T.S. Eliot. Goodheart argues that literary modernism, in distancing itself from natural and social vitality, tends to render suspect all privileged positions. It thereby undermines the critical act, which assumes the priority of a particular set of values. Goodheart makes his case by analyzing the work of a variety of novelists, poets, and critics, nineteenth century and contemporary. He blends literary theory and practical criticism.

"The argument is fresh, the examples invariably telling. Every reader interested in our cultural plight, where it came from, and what might be done about it, will find this book invaluable" -Wayne C. Booth

"Subtle yet vigorous polemic...Goodheart's concern with the entire spectrum of religious, social, and literary issues puts him in the succession of Lionel Trilling. [Modernism and the Critical Spirit], though it deplores the decline of authority in the wake of 'modernist' itself authoritative because of the range and depth of its controversial analyses." -Geoffrey Hartman

Eugene Goodheart is Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities at Brandeis University. His books include Culture and the Radical Conscience, The Skeptic Disposition: Deconstruction, Ideology and Other Matters, Desire and Its Discontents and The Reign of Ideology.

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Udvalgte sider


Modernism and the Critical Spirit
English Social Criticism and the Spirit of Reformation
The Reality of Disillusion in TS Eliot
The Organic Society of FR Leavis
A Postscript to the Higher Criticism The Case of Philip Rieff
The Formalist AvantGarde and the Autonomy of Aesthetic Values
Aristocrats and Jacobins The Happy Few in The Charterhouse of Parma
Flaubert and the Powerlessness of Art
The Blasphemy of Joycean Art

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Side 63 - Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present.
Side 2 - our unrivalled happiness;' — what an element of grimness, bareness, and hideousness mixes with it and blurs it; the workhouse, the dismal Mapperly Hills, — how dismal those who have seen them will remember; — the gloom, the smoke, the cold, the strangled illegitimate child! 'I ask you whether, the world over or in past history, there is anything like it?
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Side 59 - The river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf Clutch and sink into the wet bank.
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Side 76 - Desire itself is movement Not in itself desirable ; Love is itself unmoving, Only the cause and end of movement, Timeless, and undesiring Except in the aspect of tinie ; \ Caught in the form of limitation ; Between un-being and being.
Side 62 - In my beginning is my end. In succession Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended, Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Side 59 - Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song, Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long. But at my back in a cold blast I hear The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

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