THE CULTURE OF HOPE by Frederick  Turner


A New Birth of the Classical Spirit
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 Turner recycles some material from earlier university press books for this, his grand synthesis that promises to overcome the stalemate in the culture wars. Proponent of a ``third way'' or ``centrist'' position, Turner (Arts and Humanities/Univ. of Texas, Dallas) rehearses the standard complaints about our culture in crisis. Unlike traditional conservatives, though, he ventures a prescription that goes beyond nostalgia for faith and values. A sober critic of the so-called avant-garde, Turner posits a ``radical center''--``a return to classical forms, genres and techniques in the arts'' that is grounded in the latest research in anthropology and science. Turner fancies his ``reconstructive postmodernism'' a new paradigm on the intellectual horizon, and it's hard to imagine anyone familiar with all the disciplines he brings together in this fascinating, if exhausting, book. A cogent critic of anti-foundationalist thought (be it feminist, Marxist, or linguistic), Turner reaffirms the need for hierarchy in the arts, for logic over force, and for beauty over relativism. His multiculturalism is truly pan-cultural, discovering the transcendent in all cultures. Turner's idea of a ``natural classicism'' is remarkably transparent--he locates classical forms in nature itself. Some of his other ideas are a bit obscure, and his tendency toward unrelieved abstraction will turn off sympathetic readers. Turner's immediate cure for cultural malaise is nothing less than a four-page manifesto that is certain to provoke debate, and his discussion of biology is sure to be used against him, despite his distinctly un-``bell curvish'' ideas. Turner's fictional ``fable for the future''--a brave new world that resembles the utopian cyberspace of the Tofflers--flirts with kookiness. A superb critic of trendy feminist and multicultural ideas, Turner deserves a hearing in the ongoing debate: He's Apollo to Camille Paglia's Dionysus.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1995
ISBN: 0-02-932792-X
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995


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