Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kazin, Michael. "Confronting a Father's Legacy." CHRONICLE REVIEW December 21, 2007.

On Native Grounds: an Interpretation of Modern American Prose Literature made the 27-year-old Kazin a phenomenon in the English-speaking world of letters. The sprawling account of major writers from the Gilded Age through the Great Depression broke with the hermetic New Criticism then on the rise among literature professors. He framed each author's work within his or her particular environment of time, place, and sentiment while also narrating the tension between a Whitman-like ethos of democracy and a Menckenesque scorn of the foolish masses. The method, inspired by Vernon L. Parrington's Main Currents in American Thought, allowed him to evaluate Upton Sinclair and the anonymous authors of the Works Progress Administration guidebooks alongside Wharton, Dreiser, and Faulkner. The result was a saga of the national culture festooned with keen judgments and wit. Reviewers more than praised the book; they paid tribute. Trilling called it "not only a history but a moral history." Howard Mumford Jones considered it the best study ever written about the nation's literature. From Britain, Harold Laski declared that Kazin was "among the six best critical minds America has had since Emerson." . . . Read the rest here:

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