BEYOND CULTURE by Lionel Trilling

BEYOND CULTURE

Essays On Literature And Learning
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Throughout most of the essays collected here, Professor Trilling stresses three interlaced themes: the subversive intent of modern literature; its growing accomodation within the culture at large; and its generally uncritical reception Within the university. Professor Trilling finds something oddly disturbing about all this, for if modern literature preaches rebellion against the status quo, what happens when the status quo absorbs (or even agrees with) such rebellion? The answer is: Nothing. Much of modern art, the professor implies, has become the new traditionalism, and therein lies the falsity of our culture, or at least its impasse. The professor's argument, however, is extremely difficult to paraphrase, partly because of the intricacy of the subject itself, and partly because his style is so refined the reader is never quite sure what exactly the professor is talking about. Indeed as Trilling has become more and more of a gray eminence, his prose has correspondingly taken on the airs of some lordly, old-fashioned Englishman. Nevertheless, the book is of the utmost importance, and in its genteel way, quite challenging. Of the eight essays, four are already well -known: ; the brilliant "On the Modern Element in Modern Literature," "The Fate of Pleasure," a study of Romantic and existentialist attitudes towards society, a lecture on Freud, and a discussion of the Snow-Leavis controversy over The Two Cultures. The others concern, respectively, Jane Austen, Hawthorne, Babel, and a concluding appraisal of the teacher's role. All of the essays have been carefully wrought, all are impressive, and all demand re-reading.
Pub Date: June 15th, 1965
ISBN: 0151119872
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1965




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