An important discourse that is not always easy to follow due to its abstract nature—will be most useful for an academic...

THE TWILIGHT OF THE AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT

THE 1950S AND THE CRISIS OF LIBERAL BELIEF

Marsden (Emeritus, History/Univ. of Notre Dame; Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 2003, etc.) employs historical analysis to suggest why the United States is so badly split between secular-oriented intellectuals and religiously doctrinaire church leaders, a split that seems to have harmed the nation's moral character, forged during World War II.

The author conducts his narrative in a somewhat abstract manner, emphasizing quotations from a variety of thinkers over anecdotes and case studies. As a result, the book is filled with generalizations that contain the ring of truth but also bring to mind numerous counterarguments. Marsden criticizes the secularists who received attention in the 1950s for failing to recognize the sincerity and depth of religion-based intellectuals, but he also criticizes the religionists for failing to advocate for inclusive pluralism in favor of hoping for the primacy of their particular church doctrines. In the introduction, the author explains that he will try to make his case through three major themes, which he sometimes refers to as motifs. The first motif is a recounting of how American culture appeared to high-profile culture analysts during the crucial decades immediately following World War II, while the United States was considering its new position of authority on the world stage. In the second motif, Marsden explains his notion that the consensus of the warring intellectuals should be viewed as efforts to preserve traditional American ideals while blowing up the traditional foundations on which those ideals rested. The third motif derives from the author’s desire that religion play a significant, but not necessarily dominant, role in American public discourse. “Much of [the book] is about understanding a fascinating moment of the American experience,” writes the author, “but that account leads to critical analysis and reflection on the question of the place that religion should have in that culture.”

An important discourse that is not always easy to follow due to its abstract nature—will be most useful for an academic audience.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-465-03010-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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