OF WAR AND WAR'S ALARMS: Fiction and Politics in the Modern World by Paul J. Dolan

OF WAR AND WAR'S ALARMS: Fiction and Politics in the Modern World

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This book-length essay examines the political consciousness of six modern novelists who seem to have prophesied, with their Poundian ""antennae of the race,"" our current moral crunch: Hawthorne, Dostoevsky, James, Conrad, Kafka and Mann. An imposing pantheon and a large sphere of inquiry--which makes the book all the more laudable for its economy and lucidity. Dolan, a teacher at SUNY, Stony Brook, acknowledges a debt to Irving Howe for his political orientation toward art. He proposes that the works cited illuminate ""the clash of personal and political imperatives, the conflicts of the moral and the civic"" that comprise the history of the last two centuries. Thus, the private experiences of Stavrogin, Hyacinth Robinson, Marlow and Kurtz, or Adrian Leverkuhn are also a reflection of the larger drama of the age. By widening the horizon of the literary critic, Dolan can place identity crises or oedipal conflicts in the framework of social and class antagonisms. He argues, for instance, that Kafka's ""In the Penal Colony,"" which was written in 1914, is a remarkably apt description of the horrors of the Third Reich; that Dostoevsky's Erkel prefigures Eichmann; that Nostromo is a pungent commentary on the triumph of technology and the mentality of power. These are arresting readings which return lo the study of literature the humanism that formal, ahistorical criticism denies, and it would be a pity if Dolan were overlooked.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan