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A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945 by Warner Berthoff

By Warner Berthoff

Probes postwar American writers' abandonment of distinguishing good points of literary workmanship in writings considered as testaments of private survival and displays at the customers of literature in a time of cultural trouble and flow

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Example text

For them, however, there is not really the sa1ne fundame11tal change of strategies. ing of the second and the whole of the short fourth section given over to a contrasting lyric formality, reproduces rather closely the organization that emerged from Pound's and from Eliot's own revisions of the "Waste Land" rnanuscripts. IS, fron1 which certain lifelong themes ray out with a more poignant intensity. Marep111an. M npaBOM 36 A Literature Without Qualities Again, the changes being described, the wide­ spread abandonment of the stricter disciplines of modernism, have not been absolute.

18 Much of this has come in response to the seemingly irreversible expansion of the coercive power accruing to gov­ ernments, economic bureaucracies, thought-control ' Marepl4an. '' Yet even if there were saints at every control point, the sensible condition of things would not be different. We would still feel ourselves adrift without prepara­ tion in the whole new globe-spanning system of un­ restricted, undelayed commu11ication and signal­ transmission; a system that not only overloads the receiving consciousness but conspires to reduce it to the status of a tributary relay.

At first, recog­ nizing it as having been your own inadvertence as well, you may bring to it the saving authority of self-implication. You yourself are seen to have been shocked as a writer into a certain bald reactive trt1th­ ft1l11ess. After that, tt nfo rttt na tel y , the technique can Marep14an. 3aU\"1U\eHHbllii aBropCK"1M npaaoM Bearing Witness, Negotiating Survival 55 become as artificial as any otl1er, and sin1ply 011e more saleable literary cornrnodity. Yet in tl1e rt1sh of performance sttch writing can have the force it seeks.

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