Catastrophe and Imagination: An Interpretation of the Recent English and American Novel

Catastrophe and Imagination: An Interpretation of the Recent English and American Novel

Catastrophe and Imagination: An Interpretation of the Recent English and American Novel

Catastrophe and Imagination: An Interpretation of the Recent English and American Novel

Excerpt

A book should be its own justification and should require neither the defensive nor the aggressive feints of the usual author's introduction; nevertheless I am reluctant to let this particular book go nakedly forth without a preliminary, unapologetic word concerning its history, together with a brief explanation of what I agree with Mr. R. P. Blackmur in calling the 'burden' of the critic. Arithmetic indicates that I have been reading novels for the past twenty-five years, or roughly since age twelve; I have been reading books about novels and novelists for a briefer period, but the total in each instance is high. Books about novels, particularly those written in America and England, have never satisfied me, while books about novelists do not matter to anyone except novelists anyway. American critics (this term includes scholars, for the accepted distinction is irrational and denigrating) to a man ignore the important influence of the English novel, though they may occasionally bow in an easterly direction, while too often discussions of American Literature descend into flag- waving at one extreme, or into false humility at the other. English critics invariably annoy the American reader, and, I trust, some English readers as well, either by ignoring the existence of the American novel as an entity, or by raking selected American writers over to the English stack with the greedy gesture of a man winning at roulette. Thus it has seemed important to discuss the novel from a national approach, not out of nationalistic prejudice but to distinguish national modes which have had tremendous weight in determining the balance of modern sensibility in the art-form of the novel.

Another source of dissatisfaction which brought me to this labour is the common critical habit of distinguishing between 'the . . .

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