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

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

ONE
As from a Height of Time

John Neihardt was an enthusiastic participant in his particular time and place. He considered his life rich in family, friends, work, and contact with the land. He also enjoyed the contemporary intellectual scene and welcomed new books, new thought, new discoveries. As much as he enjoyed the cultural atmosphere of early-twentieth-century American life—his “time-mood, ” in his term—he recognized that his moment in time was only a small fragment of the whole of human experience.

One of Neihardt's oft-repeated themes in his critical writing is the difficulty of distancing oneself from one's particular time-mood. When looking at literature or life, the view from inside the moment is, of necessity, fragmentary and clouded by the whims of fashion. One way to step outside a particular time-mood is to view contemporary literature in the context of the accumulated wisdom of the ages. Neihardt did not suggest that we ignore the present, for not only is this moment rich in and of itself, but it is also the link between what has been and what is yet to come. He recommended, rather, that we step back to take the longest view possible and add to our impression of the moment the perspective of centuries of the best of human thought.

Neihardt pointed to the dangers of taking the position of either of these two extremes—one of limiting perspective to the present moment, the other of excluding that moment: “We are witnessing a struggle between two conceptions of poetry, that of tradition and that of impressionism. No doubt, as in all similar struggles, neither party is entirely right. The impressionist forgets that no time can be independent of the past out of which it has grown; and the stickler for tradition, on the other hand, forgets that imitation is a form of suicide, and that real art is the result of a creative continuation of tradition, not of a slavish obedience to it.” 1

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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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