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

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

NINE
Only Symptomatic

Neihardt believed one of the major tasks of the critic is to steer the reading public on a search for gems buried in the abundance of books produced each year. In looking at the quality of contemporary literature, Neihardt neither took the position of the academic who believed there was nothing worthwhile to be found nor of the shrill advertisers in the popular press who treated every new book as a ready-made classic. Neihardt believed that the truth fell somewhere between those two extremes and suggested ways for his audience to read selectively.

Neihardt examined several contemporary trends in his columns: a realism that was more a cataloguing of unrelated detail than true literature; the disparagement of rural settings and themes; an anarchic mood in the cultural realm; a materialistic culture that had put aside spiritual values; a dominating mob-spirit; even the exuberant pre-crash passion for playing the stock market. He also pointed the way to works that resisted prevailing trends. His goal was not to assign values of “good” or “bad” to these trends, for, caught up in the moment as we are, it is impossible to make such value judgments. Neihardt suggested that the goal is to understand, and we gain understanding by looking at contemporary life in a larger context.

One trend that gets a good deal of Neihardt's attention, particularly in the Journal, is the increasing role of women in art. Neihardt spoke out against the feminist movement, and he deplored what he saw as a feminization in the cultural realm, believing that the bulk of creative masculine forces had been “diverted into channels leading toward mastery of the physical world.” 6 Powers of analysis and a preoccupation with the narrow and personal were the province of women, he argued, and an increase in the writing of women had produced an abundance

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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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