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The essays regain some momentum near the end, as Brooks praises Walt Whitman for combining the many impulses of American literature and offering something genuinely new.His belief that conflict, specifically the wrestling with contradictory forces like imagination and reality, produces character is inspiring, and aligns well with the kinds of messages Rainer Rilke and Herman Hesse put in their writings.Puritan society in America was about as cohesive as it gets. A milestone of literary criticism, Van Wyck Brooks's "America's Coming-of-Age" (1915) is somewhat disjointed when read today.
"They were like high-minded weathercocks on a windless day." The young Brooks's writing is sometimes surprisingly lucid, for 1915.
He has some great zingers: "Emerson's method of simply announcing as axiomatic what is in his mind is justified only by the possession of a faculty which he does not always possess, the faculty of hitting the nail inevitably on the head." At other times you need some type of decoder: "Beside the English business man, as one figures him at those Guildhall banquets which array themselves like a Chinese wall of beef against every impulse in life that moves and breathes...." (A Chinese wall of beef?
In the second period, from 1932 until his death, Brooks upheld conservative values, idealizing the American past as a firm foundation upon which to build a strong body of literature.
Critics generally agree that in the earlier era Brooks was the more compelling thinker, and that much of Brooks's later writing is ill-informed, sentimental, and rambling.
We had some natural talent - Whitman, for example - but there were not enough nutrients in the literary soil for American writers to truly thrive.
The reasons were several: America celebrated industry and commerce at the expense of creativity and the arts.
(This kind of synthesizing impulse would later inspire middle-brow, Cold War institutions like the Book of the Month Club.) Then, as Brooks st A milestone of literary criticism, Van Wyck Brooks's "America's Coming-of-Age" (1915) is somewhat disjointed when read today.
(This kind of synthesizing impulse would later inspire middle-brow, Cold War institutions like the Book of the Month Club.) Then, as Brooks starts tearing apart all the writers he dislikes, the piece loses focus and occasionally becomes self-contradicting.
Van Wyck Brooks 1886–1963 American critic, historian, and autobiographer.
Brooks was one of the most controversial literary scholars of the first half of the twentieth century. In the first, from 1908 to 1925, Brooks, a literary radical, attacked the blighting effect of America's Puritan heritage on the artistic mind and championed the preeminent role of the artist in shaping American culture.