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

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

SEVEN
Genuine Criticism

John Neihardt had a passion for literature and ideas, which permeated his newspaper writing. In his earliest work, a self-assured impatience for wrong-headedness often accompanied this enthusiasm. In the first piece for the Journal, we can hear the young Socialist who stood on street corners of Minneapolis handing out leaflets. The message is delivered in the oratorical voice of the platform in a sweeping condemnation of the old and anticipation of a new world painted in optimistic terms.

Neihardt saw a new spirit sweeping through literature in the second decade of the twentieth century that he believed would repudiate impressionism and individual caprice, signaling a return to standards and an art that celebrates the nobility of the human spirit. By the end of the decade he was not so optimistic, believing that, though change would come, its arrival would be much delayed.

Neihardt believed it is much more difficult to find genuine criticism than genuine art. Genuine criticism is no less a creative act than art, so it demands the same devotion. However, because the creative gift is more often directed toward the shaping of original materials than the art created by someone else, there is a dearth of genuine criticism. In his search for this particular form of art, Neihardt looked for a Socratic spirit of inquiry, particularly in clarifying the terms of the discussions at hand. He saw very little of that spirit when he surveyed the contemporary critical scene, but when he did find it, as in the collection of Stuart Sherman's essays, his enthusiasm colors every line of his review.

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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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