Monday, June 17, 2024

Culture and 'Anarchy

Matthew Arnold

The mind is a bit like a supernova, in the course of its natural or precocious disintegration, it throws off a blinding white light. Supernovae, of course, turn into black holes in which all manner of being is sucked into oblivion. In terms of the physiology of death and dying, it's like the way someone wakes up out of the rattle and suddenly shoots forth with questions about where they are and what day it is. In microcosm you may find Matthew Arnold's "Culture and Anarchy" something you studied in Lionel Trilling's course on Matthew Arnold popping up out of the blue with its magnificent dichotomy between the the Hebraic ("strictness of obedience") and the Hellenic (spontaneity of conciousness) comprising the vocabulary of a cherished lost language. If you never heard of The Liberal Imagination then pick up Louis Menand's The Free World: Art and Culture During The Cold War. There you will also read about the frought relationship between Trilling and his brilliant student Allen Ginsberg. What did Ginsberg take from Rimbaud not art but experience for art's sake? You'll also learn that Lionel and his wife the critic Diana found Alfred Kazin of A Walker InThe City fame frumpy while Kazin thought Trilling, the son of a tailor, was striking a pose. You'll also learn that these giants of mid-century culture ultimately liked each other. Menand's book is pleasant time traveling back to a world before the jargonists of deconstruction had yet to be-- when literary criticism meant something and constituted a way of seeing the world.

read "A-Z Quotes" by Francis Levy

and listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department

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