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It is a principle that shines impartially on the just and on the unjust that once you have a point of view all history will back you up. It is a principle that shines impartially on the just and on the unjust that once you have a point of view all history will back you up.
"They were like high-minded weathercocks on a windless day." The young Brooks's writing is sometimes surprisingly lucid, for 1915.
He has some great zingers: "Emerson's method of simply announcing as axiomatic what is in his mind is justified only by the possession of a faculty which he does not always possess, the faculty of hitting the nail inevitably on the head." At other times you need some type of decoder: "Beside the English business man, as one figures him at those Guildhall banquets which array themselves like a Chinese wall of beef against every impulse in life that moves and breathes...." (A Chinese wall of beef?
Unlike America, which only had one or two, Europe had multiple great writers (grands écrivains).
Brooks coined the terms "highbrow" and "lowbrow" in his 1915 essay America's Coming-of-Age.
We had no natural aristocracy, so the talented but poor couldn't make a living at writing.
America's American literature was hurting, the young critic Van Wyck Brooks wrote in the three essays gathered here (published in 1915, 1918, and 1927).)As an analysis of the damage wrought upon American culture (literature) by our lack of inter-class cohesion, and just generally centrifugal society, the book is excellent, and is in some ways striking confirmation of the model I've been working with.That said, it's preposterous the way he blames Puritanism for our highbrow/lowbrow split.At some points, Brooks advocates for his middle-ground fusion of the abstract and concrete; at others, he favors either the abstract or the concrete.Ironically he criticizes Transcendentalists for focusing too much on the concrete.As exemplars of the two he gives Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin, respectively.His criticisms of Emerson are particularly fascinating: "The truth is that Emerson was imperfectly interested in human life; he cared little for experience or emotion, possessing so little himself." The impersonal manifested itself in his insistence on abstraction; "this accounts for the way in which his thoughts inevitably flew for refuge to capital letters, emerging as Demonology, Creeds, Prudence, the Ideal..." The idealism of men like Emerson and Bronson Alcott was passive, untethered to anything in society, to anything real.In the second period, from 1932 until his death, Brooks upheld conservative values, idealizing the American past as a firm foundation upon which to build a strong body of literature.Critics generally agree that in the earlier era Brooks was the more compelling thinker, and that much of Brooks's later writing is ill-informed, sentimental, and rambling.This historic book may have numerous typos, missing text, images, or index. Everything no doubt depen This historic book may have numerous typos, missing text, images, or index. Everything no doubt depends upon evidence; and considering the case which has been outlined in the last chapter, an appeal to American literature, if literature really does record the spirit of a people, is an appeal that leads, I think, to evidence of a material sort.Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. Something, in American literature, has always been wanting -- every one, I think, feels that.