Knowledge and Opinion: Essays and Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt

By John G. Neihardt; Lori Holm Utecht | Go to book overview

Introduction

When John G. Neihardt accepted a request from Joseph B. Gilder to review As Old as the Moon for the 1 January 1910 edition of the New York Times Saturday Review of Books, he launched a critical writing career that lasted more than three decades and produced nearly three thousand reviews and essays. 1 He also began a public conversation in which he responded to thousands of books produced in the first third of the twentieth century, assessed the criticism of his contemporaries, and guided a general reading public in a thoughtful consideration of its time and the importance of art in interpreting and enhancing human existence. This John Neihardt—critic, essayist, journalist—is not particularly well known to readers familiar with his writings about the American West. Without a consideration of the full scope of Neihardt's writing, however, it is difficult for those readers to form an accurate picture of his legacy.

Central to Neihardt's critical philosophy is the responsibility of the artist to the rest of humanity. He charged the artist, gifted with deep insight and powers of synthesis, to interpret a rich world lying just beyond the range of ordinary consciousness. The artist does this by evoking a sympathetic response to sculpture, painting, music, or poetry. However, this world that the artist has insight into is so unfamiliar to everyday experience and so highly charged with meaning that it is a struggle to find a method of translating the vision. Language, developed for direct communication, is a particularly limited means of expressing vision, so the artist must draw on symbolism, metaphor, and new rhythms and patterns to suggest the vision that cannot be told.

The same powers that allow the artist to interpret vision can be used to heighten awareness in the practical realm by pointing out the individual's connectedness to all creation and all time. Neihardt believed that his location in a particularly troubled century placed on him additional

-xi-

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Knowledge and Opinion: Essays and Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Tradition 1
  • One - As from a Height of Time 3
  • Two - Ancient Seers 9
  • Three - Epic Landscape 23
  • 2 - Troubled Planet 33
  • Four - Tremendous Mood of War 35
  • Five - Breadlines and Bursting Granaries 43
  • Six - Social Turmoil 53
  • 3 - Trends in Contemporary Literature 69
  • Seven - Genuine Criticism 71
  • Eight - Vandals in the Temple 77
  • Nine - Only Symptomatic 89
  • 4 - Of Making Many Books 111
  • Ten - The Glow of the Moment 113
  • Eleven - Impeccably Unremarkable 129
  • 5 - This Mysterious Universe 145
  • Twelve - Et Tu, Scientia? 147
  • Thirteen - Exploring the Unknown 161
  • Fourteen - The Flesh and the Spirit 172
  • 6 - Poetic Values 183
  • Fifteen - Hill of Vision 185
  • Sixteen - What is Literature Good For? 203
  • Notes 217
  • Sources 227
  • Index 233
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