On Literature, Culture, and Religion: Irving Babbitt
Irving Babbitt was a giant of American criticism. His writings from the 1890s to the 1930s helped advance American criticism and scholarship to international esteem. More than seventy years after his death his intellectual staying power remains undiminished. On Literature, Culture, and Religion is an ideal introduction to this seminal American thinker.
Babbitt's opinions were uncompromising, and his vocal allies and opponents included almost every name in American literature and scholarship: T. S. Eliot, Edmund Wilson, Paul Elmer More, H. L. Mencken, and Sinclair Lewis. A founder of New Humanism, Babbitt was best known for his indictment of Romanticism and his insistence that the modern age had gone wrong. Babbitt argued for a renewal of humanistic values and standards--which he found best articulated in classical Greece, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The selections cover topics central to Babbitt: criticism, Romanti-cism, classical literature, French literature, education, democracy, and Buddhism. They typify Babbitt's method: recondite allusion, penetrating insight and analysis, impeccable scholarship, and unrelenting pursuit of the furthest ramification and the profoundest implication. The original annotation is retained. Brief introductions to the essays place them in the Babbitt canon.
A major introductory essay by George A. Panichas surveys Babbitt's career and critical reception and summarizes the concepts that inform Babbitt's writing. Panichas raises again controversial issues that were not really resolved in Babbitt's time. The essay will challenge those long familiar with Babbitt and New Humanism and those newly introduced thereto.
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