TRANGE NEW WORLD by Howard Mumford Jones
Kirkus Star


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The only claim I can make to orginality is...the originality of synthesis,"" so states Professor Jones. He is being ridiculously modest, however, for his study, even in an age riddled with American monographs, is as hard to overlook as a giant in a room of pygmies. Concerning the shaping force of our culture, it has a shaping force of its own. His mind is subtly attuned to history as both documentation and illumination, one that directs our attention through the specialized niceties of scholarship and towards a fully-fleshed recreation of past times and present residues. The scheme is simple- a demonstration of the complexities and contradictions European humanism brought to the New World and the resultant experience: the Colonials keeping such values they wished, inventing others they needed. The volume drops anchor in the mid-19th century, but the voyage sights, the modern tendencies to come. Professor Jones begins with the Romantic Image, a North American Arcadia of darkness and light, extending from the Elizabethans to the conquistadors and thence to the religioid settlers, the urbane radicalism of the founding fathers, the influence of the philosophers, the ideals of the Republic, etc. After that conservatism (of sorts) and commercialism took hold, leaving the adventurous one last mission: the march westward, which the professor sees as the genesis of our mania for speed. No exact chronology is maintained; the chapters center rather on social, political, psychological and literary concepts, especially the interplay of optimism and pessimism within the democratic ethos. A fundamental work.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1964
Publisher: Viking