Egotopia: Narcissism and the New American Landscape

Egotopia: Narcissism and the New American Landscape

Egotopia: Narcissism and the New American Landscape

Egotopia: Narcissism and the New American Landscape

Synopsis

Egotopia explains why individual political and economic interestshave eclipsed aesthetic considerations in the rampant billboards, malls,and urban sprawl of the New American Landscape. Egotopia begins where other critiques of the American landscape end:identifying the physical ugliness that defines and homogenizes America'scities, suburbs, and countryside. Believing that prevailing assessmentsof the American landscape are inadequate and injudicious, John Miller callsinto question the conventional wisdom of environmentalists, urban planners,and architects alike. In this precedent-shattering examination of whathe sees as the ugliness that is the American consumer society, Miller contendsthat our aesthetic condition can be fully understood only by explorersof the metaphoric environment. Metaphorically, the ugliness of America's great suburban sprawl is thephysical manifestation of our increasing narcissism- our egotopia. Theubiquity of psychotherapy as a medium promoting self-indulgence has deifiedprivate man as it has demonized public man. The New American Landscape,Miller argues, is no longer the physical manifestation of public and communalvalues. Instead it has become a projection of private fantasies and narcissisticself-indulgence. Individual interests and private passions can no longertolerate, nor even recognize, aesthetic concerns in such a landscape dedicatedto uncompromising notions of utility.

Excerpt

I completed readingJohn Miller Egotopia, as Shelley once said upon finishing a book, "in a frenzy of enthusiasm." Egotopia is a marvelous book, and nothing could be more timely. Emerson and Thoreau would have rejoiced in it, as would a good many of our other celebrated culture heroes. Whether through the novel, essay, poetry, play, philosophy, or more specialized work, likeRachel Carson Silent Spring, these writers, though severe critics of the United States, all loved their country, and in their own concerned critical ways fully endorsed Scott Fitzgerald's moving words, "America is a willingness of the heart."

This willingness of the heart, this American generosity, especially through private gifts, has enriched our colleges and universities and made our museums of art and sciences among the greatest and most beautiful in the world. The United States, somewhat late in getting started, has gradually become the world's center for the arts, a center of such virtuosity that it attracts many talents from the rest of the world. This willingness of the heart is a reflection of the American spirit that Europeans frequently remark when they visit the United States and that is extended to the whole world. But . . .

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