By Louis Menand
At each one step of this trip via American cultural heritage, Louis Menand has an unique aspect to make: he explains the true value of William James's fearful breakdown, and of the anti-Semitism in T. S. Eliot's writing. He finds the explanations for the extraordinary advertisement successes of William Shawn's New Yorker and William Paley's CBS. He uncovers the relationship among Larry Flynt's Hustler and Jerry Falwell's evangelism, among the atom bomb and the Scholastic flair try. He locates the significance of Richard Wright, Norman Mailer, Pauline Kael, Christopher Lasch, and Rolling Stone journal. And he lends an ear to Al Gore within the White apartment because the Starr record is ultimately awarded to the general public.
Like his seriously acclaimed bestseller, The Metaphysical membership, American Studies is highbrow and cultural background at its most sensible: online game and indifferent, with a powerful interest concerning the political underpinnings of principles and concerning the purposes winning principles insinuate themselves into the tradition at huge. From certainly one of our best thinkers and critics, identified either for his "sly wit and reportorial high-jinks [and] readability and rigor" (The Nation), those essays are incisive, astonishing, and most unlikely to place down.
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Such claims are imperative and conditional, stating what we must acknowledge in order to ﬂourish. Their unequivocal, compelling character is entailed not by theism or moral absolutism, but by grasping the meaning of acknowledgment and its refusal. Such claims seek not subjection to orthodoxy but a “turn” toward what has been disavowed. Again, prophecy links authority not to truth as theology, law as command, or faith as consensus but to bearing witness and warning. By saying what they see and standing against it and by warning to forestall danger, prophets also declare, indeed demonstrate, that we can act otherwise.
We inherit them, but they lose authority, unless we make them our own, make them anew. In this existential sense, prophets can return to origins not to ﬁx authority conceived as a noun but to renew it as a verb: God or justice are not substances to deﬁne rightly as grounds of justiﬁcation but commitments to risk and remake in action. Exercising authority not by justifying but by enacting a principle or idea, they live by love rather than duty, surrender rather than subjection, faith rather than certainty.
42 What do we learn from Bercovitch? ” Denying separate “strands” of discourse, he makes the “liberal-communitarian” debate moot. Moving from consensus to hegemony to show cultural idioms as forms of power, he depicts dissent “contained” because the “form” of criticism renews both liberal axioms and a national frame. ” He thus distinguishes, not Falwell and Douglass, but Debs and Emma Goldman, or King and Malcolm X, to expose the hegemonic gravity deﬁning how critics “must” speak to be legitimate.
American Studies by Louis Menand