LOSS OF THE SELF by Wylie Sypher


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This is probably the best guide to the new sensibility in literature, art and science since John Crowe Ransom interpreted the New Criticism twenty years ago. It is not a work of scholarship or textual analysis, but rather a long needed summary of the anti-school zeitgeist from Europe to America. Juxtaposing 19th century historical determinism against 20th century indeterminism, Sypher documents liberalistic freedom's degeneration into an institutionalized program for progress, a survival by adaptation which eventually becomes the gray flannel suit camouflage, an adjustment so total that the official personality equals the individual one. This is apparent in Snow's functionaries, Ortega's technician as culture hero. Through all this four anti-schools predominate: anti-logic; anti-science; anti-painting and anti-literature and transitions are traced. In the latter, Bergson and Proust viewed personality as synthetic, leading to Durrell and Genet where the face and force of love is illusion, on to Sarraute and Robbe-Grillet. What's left? Sartre, Camus, Buber identifying the irreducible minimum of one's experience that can be honestly identified as one's own, and this won't last long. If there is to be a breakthrough from the New Sensibility to the New Humanism, then the breakup of Western civilization's past and present values is in the cards. Both succinct and significant, this book should prove influential on most college campuses, and among intellectuals and culture-climbers everywhere.

Publisher: Random House