Philip Rahv's idol is History, ""that powerhouse of change which destroys custom and tradition in producing the future."" Thus his literary essays are primarily efforts at defining the spirit of a particular age, the Social, political, even metaphysical assumptions and asseverations which have produced the Zeitgeist, rather than delineating the aesthetic or formalistic properties behind the works of fiction themselves. It is no accident that the three most famous pieces of criticism included in this retrospective collection of studies in American and European literature are ""Paleface and Redskin"" (1939), ""The Cult of Experience"" (1940), and ""Fiction and the Criticism of Fiction"" (1956). In each he sets forth dominant oppositions: Jamesian ambiguity against Whitmanesque liberation, instinct versus intellect, symbolic language and prosaic actuality; and through each he demonstrates the ""split personality"" inherent in these modes of cultural perceptions, whether they be estrangements from reality re religious or mythic concerns, or rebellions against the mind re unmediated activity, grandiose displays of virility, and so forth. However, it is the peculiar mixture of Marxian (or even Hegelian) concepts with the quasi-iconoclastic developments of the modernist sensibility (particularly those of Eliot) which give weight and-originality to Rahv's investigations. Bearing down on all fads (he is equally contemptuous of Stalinists, reactionaries, and the current avant garde), Rahv is remarkably level-headed, central, and instructive, genuinely situated in literature and life.