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

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

TWO
Ancient Seers

In taking the long view, Neihardt turned first and foremost to the classics of Greece and Rome, the heritage of Western culture. He admired the heroic spirit of Homer, the wisdom of Socrates, the power of “that shaggy old god of them all—Aeschylus.” 4 To Neihardt, the cultural achievements of the Greeks have seldom been paralleled; their wisdom and spiritual development unmatched.

There is evidence in the following essays of Neihardt's extensive grounding in the classics, including his familiarity with the standard English translations as well as the works in their original language. Having read the classics of Rome both in Latin and in English, Neihardt knew that poetry loses something of its beauty in translation, no matter how gifted the translator. Wanting that intimate experience with the texts of ancient Greece, he set about teaching himself Greek and even began a translation of the Agamemnon.

These essays also display John Neihardt's playful humor and his feeling of kinship with his readers as they venture together into a world in which he obviously delights. We see several of Neihardt's recurring themes: the idea of synthesis as a creative principle, the value of myth as evidence of humanity's noble reach exceeding its grasp, the idea of greatness being a loss of the individual in something larger than self. This loss of self is something that the individual human ego must often be tricked into. What has historically inspired greatness has been the belief, by the individual, that a particular act will bring glory or power or immortality. In reality, the greatness comes from the sacrifice of that individual to the greater social good.

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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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