A PRIMER OF IGNORANCE by R. P. Blackmur

A PRIMER OF IGNORANCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The redskin glories in his Americanism, Philip Rahv tells us, while to the paleface it is a source of endless ambiguities. One of the great paleface critics was the late Richard Palmer Blackmur, an intellectual exquisite with an almost clerical bloom, his troubled brow contracted into expressions of ""provisional skepticism,"" his sentences undulating with new-Jamesian niceties, a doughty contextualist famously defining ""language as gesture,"" art as ""the incarnation into actuality of what we can grasp of reality."" How long-winded, how archaically serious this poor monkish professor seems today when set against McLuhanized barbaric yawps and the twisting tinsel of the Pop-Hip-Mod movements! But there's more to the world of letters--still, thankfully--than chic primitivism. And the importance of these posthumous pieces is principally that they can recall one to deeper, wider concerns, to the test of values and the meaning of tradition, to the large questions and the reverberating analysis, to an understanding, for instance, of how Europe affects ""the form--the knowledge of the form--in which America declares her identity and the possibilities of her action."" Beginning with his brilliant Library of Congress lectures, a three-pronged mosaic of the irrational, experimental temper of the Twenties, and continuing with more relaxed, ironic wanderings among the totems of European culture and the experience of the Fifties, and concluding with splendid tributes to Tate, Toynbee and Henry Adams (""the morning star fading unnoticed in a thunderstorm at dawn""), a mind and sensibility strikingly engaging draws us on.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1966
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World