by Christopher Lasch ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 1997
That this collection of nine essays (all but one previously published) was assembled as Lasch faced death is a tribute to his fortitude and his enduring commitment to intellectual dialogue. His daughter, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, has scrupulously edited the volume and introduced it. The pieces are concerned with issues and aspects of women's gender identity as revealed in a variety of social and literary artifacts. From his interpretation of the conventions of French comic and courtly love (the querelle des femmes, the Roman de la Rose), through his reading of The Feminine Mystique as a response ""not to the age-old oppression of women, but to the suburbanization of the American soul,"" the scope of Lasch's critical apparatus is stunning--the fluency and generosity of his scholarship and the muscularity, plasticity, and originality of his thinking; his passionate belief in purposeful, ego-suspending activity as the vocation of every responsible citizen of the collective. A review of Carol Gilligan's research among boarding-school girls gives Lasch a platform for indicting the curricular ""dogma of immediacy"" that effectively alienates today's adolescents from wider, more demanding beliefs, exposing them only to visions deriving from their own subjective reality (e.g., Catcher in the Rye). Lasch is perhaps most troubled about the ""rationalization of everyday life"" by the institutionalized social disciplines (psychology, pedagogy, home economics) that began to replace familial and communal authority around the turn of the century. The new controls, by creating new forms of dependence, served to isolate individuals, discouraging political participation and a sense of community and shrinking ""our imaginative and emotional horizons"" while draining ""the joy out of work and play, wrapping everything in a smothering self-consciousness."" Yet another wide-ranging, erudite challenge (after The Revolt of the Elites, 1995, etc.) to conventional academic wisdom by a masterly cultural historian.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997
Page Count: 192
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996
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