FROM PARNASSUS: Essays in Honor of Jacques Barzun by Dora B. & William Keylor--Eds. Weiner

FROM PARNASSUS: Essays in Honor of Jacques Barzun

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The Festschrift is a mongrel of publishing: a book of disparate writings, brought together only to pay homage. Here homage is paid to Jacques Barzun, long-time professor of history, critic, and administrator at Columbia. The editors believed Barzun warranted a volume more diverse in content and less simply honorific than the ""'ordinary' Festschrift""; and they have assembled twenty-eight original and generally excellent pieces which are diversity itself, ranging from a personal reminiscence of Barzun by Lionel Trilling to a scholarly article on electronic quackery by James H. Young and excerpts from a play by Eric Bentley. But their second aspiration fails, for despite the editors' avowal that ""the essential contributor to this book is Jacques Barzun himself,"" few of the authors offer more than a ceremonial nod, and some not even that, toward Barzun's works. Those few include C. P. Snow on detective fiction, Henry F. Graff on the rhetoric of presidents, Donald A. Cowan on science and history, and Fritz Stern on capitalism. In many of the places where Barzun's ideas might be expected to have resounded strongest, they make little or no sound at all: e.g., David Cairns on the formation of Berlioz' style, Hugh Macdonald on French musical culture, Peter Gay on the music critic Eduard Hanslick, Alan B. Spitzer on France in the 1820s, Steven Marcus on the culture of modernism, Morris Philipson on the art of biography. Nor do the editors compensate for this lack with an appraisal or even a survey of Barzun's intellectual career--although they include a bibliography of his works. So, notwithstanding the many pleasures it provides, this Festschrift pays less intellectual homage than it promises.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1976
Publisher: Harper & Row