By Warner Berthoff
Probes postwar American writers' abandonment of distinguishing gains of literary workmanship in writings seen as testaments of private survival and displays at the clients of literature in a time of cultural drawback and waft
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Extra info for A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945
He has, in short, all the attributes by which we recognize the historical species and type which, like us, he springs from. His being defined as ''without qualities'' is rather a matter of a new attitude toward those accredited competences that are open to him to specialize in and Marep111an. M npaBOM A Generation in Retreat 23 profit from personally (in the ma11ner of his antitype in Musil's scheme, the businessn1an-diplomat-poly histor-saloniste Arnheim, possessor of ''qualities'' innumerable), competences which assign him spec ulative value in the eyes and expectations of others.
A s a test of the effect of prolor1ged political impotence on creative conscious11ess, this re1narkable. body of work does not seem to me likely in the long run to give much comfort. Marep14an. 3aU\"1U\eHHbllii aBropCK"1M npaaoM 21 A Generation in Retreat In any event one is not required to argue that, in relation either to other literatures or, for that matter, to our own national past, the genetic pool of talent and ambition in the United States has mysteriously gone dry. Quite the opposite, i11 fa ct.
These framing circumstances of contemporary thought and work are outlined as efficiently as any where (within the limits of my own current reading) in an account by Fredric Jameson of the whole un precedented modern situation. 1 9 Summarizing the writer's predicament under the cumulative pressure of modern life, Jameson formalizes a set of ap prehensions which, though Marxist in a generalized sense, are not confined to a single ideological perspective. He speaks of an essential ''fear and re vulsion [the ''fear and loathing'' of current jour nalese] before the new and ever more systematized conditions of industrial society''; of ''the atomization and disintegration of the older and more traditional collective groups and social modes''; of a profound and unnerving ''split between public institutions and private experience''; and-psychologically, morally-of a ''monadization and subjectification of individual existence,'' a ''degradation'' of personal Ma1ep111an.