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

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

FIVE
Breadlines and Bursting Granaries

Neihardt insisted that a political and economic system able to provide for the basic needs of all human beings is possible. Once these basic needs have been met, then people can “cultivate values beyond materialistic goals and acquisitive instincts; trust the poetic impulse that enables people to understand each other and become better through respecting in themselves the urge to compassion, to magnanimity, to love.” 4

Humanity's needs were still unmet, however, and Neihardt wrote against an “economic system that is not self-sustaining [and] is kept going by enormous debt (steadily increasing), subsidies, waste.” 5 Encompassing the 1930s, Neihardt's writing for the Post-Dispatch, not surprisingly, dealt with one of the most devastating of economic calamities, the Great Depression.

Once again, Neihardt had sharp words for complacent writers who trivialized the suffering of their fellow citizens by offering patronizing platitudes instead of genuine solutions. In reviewing a book by H. M. Reymond promising to permanently cure economic depressions, Neihardt challenged the author's claim, and suggested that the twelve million men Reymond dismisses and their sixteen million ill-fed or starving children might challenge his assertions as well. Neihardt likened the schemes of the champions of the dying order to something out of Alice's Wonderland, was harshly critical of an economic system built on the creation of artificial demands for more and more goods, and scorned the Hoover administration's “ruling class mentality” that blamed the problem of the ill-nourished child on “ill-instructed children and ignorant parents.” 6

Neihardt insisted that an attack on the problem must begin with clear-headedness, and he worked to bring clarity to the issues. He featured books that dismantled prevailing myths, scrutinized “official”

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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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