Following the thread to Trilling, from when I was a kid all I remember was he was a wordsmith
the disenchantment of our culture with culture itself
He taught “Important Books” at Columbia for decades, and he died in 1975, i.e. prior to the late 80s when the Blooms were panicking about the leveling taking place in the humanities.
This is from 1961 and here he expresses the doubt that conservatism exists at all anymore already. So the hippies themselves were just conformists, in that light. The conservation of high culture, who needs it. It’s difficult to reconcile this attitude with Leary who was extremely liberal in certain ways- in my opinion both are necessary. Great Old Books + Eastern wisdom + direct mystical experience + futurism = sounds good to me. You arguably cannot understand the eighth circuit without reverence, without close study, of the canonical texts. I’m trying to play diplomat between the old conservatives and the hippies (futilely).
Trilling’s more old school than I might be able to tolerate. He says his department resisted teaching books published after the late nineteenth century until students took it up with the dean. Remember my earlier post today about how writers like Joyce and Kafka do not elevate courage to one of the higher virtues? Maybe there IS something there, who knows. I’m willing to suspend belief about the value of most things.
Ask yourself- how many books older than the 20th century have you read? It seems most people never read even one from before the 1930s. These professors from the 60s were strongly opposed to even deigning to teach the books that today are the only ones anyone ever reads.
I get the time-machine feeling reading Trilling. He was teaching literature before Harold Bloom was born.
This is what they thought in those days? I was coincidentally thinking about doing a post on The Golden Bough eventually
Perhaps no book has had so decisive an effect upon modern literature as Frazer’s.
That book relates paganism to Christianity (think of Pound obviously).
Anyway jumping from Trilling back to Burckhardt who lectured during the 1880s, the shift is palpable. There are layers of “time-machine” and one can detect gradations of leveling that have occurred. Going from Burckhardt to someone who publishes on “culture” in 2021 is as hilarious as it is sad. And of course next to neech Burckhardt is a gentle liberal, if you want to go there. I live mentally several gradations of time-machine away from 2021. 150 year old man with the liveliness of a young person, they really don’t want those around. You damn kids these days have descended on multiple levels since the era I’m from. They don’t want that contrast to even exist, they only want to be surrounded by the lowbrow and nothing else. Whatever, it’s a culture you have to live in.