Towards Standards: A Study of the Present Critical Movement in American Letters

Towards Standards: A Study of the Present Critical Movement in American Letters

Towards Standards: A Study of the Present Critical Movement in American Letters

Towards Standards: A Study of the Present Critical Movement in American Letters

Excerpt

As Harry Hansen, a competent observer of literary affairs, has recently remarked, the central fact in American literature at the beginning of the 1930's is "the complete bankruptcy of the naturalistic movement." Its proud assurance is gone. It has finally made revolt conventional and uninteresting. It is breaking up in disillusionment and futilitarianism. It is on the defensive, betraying its disorder in a continuous series of petty counterattacks against the advancing force of a movement toward human standards.

The need of standards in life, in art, in criticism is more and more apparent, and naturalism has failed to provide standards. Naturalism has prided itself upon its humble devotion to science, presumed to be the only respectable authority in modern thought, forgetting that, whatever science may do for us, it cannot give us standards. Science gives us natural knowledge, not human objectives. Often, besides, it gives us natural guesses rather than knowl-

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