New PDF release: A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945

By Warner Berthoff

ISBN-10: 0520036964

ISBN-13: 9780520036963

Probes postwar American writers' abandonment of distinguishing gains of literary workmanship in writings seen as testaments of non-public survival and displays at the clients of literature in a time of cultural problem and go with the flow

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Example text

1 7 And it is an abundance and volubility which seem to license a lapse of interest in good writing in the traditional sense-an interest that by contrast Beck­ ett stubbornly clings to-and an indiffere11ce to the qualities demanded of an art meant to be in some fashion independent of its producer's sa11ctioni11g presence. ay mistake such volt1bility for genuine energy and strength. But that mistake is simply one of the prime consequences of our epidemic yearni11g, against all privation and dis­ appointment, for restitution and some palpable con­ sequence of our own; for some cumulatively honor­ able place, despite the life we feel ourselves held down to, in the memorials of future tin1es.

But that mistake is simply one of the prime consequences of our epidemic yearni11g, against all privation and dis­ appointment, for restitution and some palpable con­ sequence of our own; for some cumulatively honor­ able place, despite the life we feel ourselves held down to, in the memorials of future tin1es. Our twenties writers, for all their period confi­ dence, were familiar enough with this species of year11ing. But for them it served as a major imagina­ tive subject (as in Gatsby and An Arnerican Tragedy), to be dramatically explored and mined for its rich material ironies.

They mean to forestall it or else punish it in others. But whatever the virtue of this intention, it forces the question (hardly for the first time in the history of literature): ca11 you make imaginative truth out of the exposure and implicit denunciation of the intolerable inadver­ tence you assume in all your readers? At first, recog­ nizing it as having been your own inadvertence as well, you may bring to it the saving authority of self-implication. You yourself are seen to have been shocked as a writer into a certain bald reactive trt1th­ ft1l11ess.

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A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945 by Warner Berthoff


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