By Paul Jay
From Emerson to Rorty, American feedback has grappled in a single approach or one other with the matter of modernity—specifically, the way to verify serious and cultural criteria in an international the place each place turns out the manufactured from an interpretation. half highbrow background, half cultural critique, this provocative e-book is an attempt to shake American inspiration out of the grip of the 19th century—and out of its contingency blues.
Paul Jay focuses his research on strands of yankee feedback. the 1st, together with Richard Poirier and Giles Gunn, has tried to restore what Jay insists is an anachronistic pragmatism derived from Emerson, James, and Dewey. the second one, represented so much forcefully by means of Richard Rorty, has a tendency to minimize American feedback to a metadiscourse in regards to the contingent grounds of information. In chapters on Emerson, Whitman, Santayana, Van Wyck Brooks, Dewey, and Kenneth Burke, Jay examines the historic roots of those positions, which he argues are marked by way of recurrent makes an attempt to reconcile transcendentalism and pragmatism. A forceful rejection of either sorts of revisionism, Contingency Blues locates another within the paintings of the “border experiences” critics, those that provide our curiosity in contingency a brand new, extra concrete shape by way of taking a extra old, cultural, and anthropological method of the discovery of literature, subjectivity, group, and tradition in a pan-American context.
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Extra resources for Contingency Blues: The Search For Foundations In American Criticism
While deconstruction undermines the legitimacy or groundedness of all discourses, its own legitimacy is undermined, in Gunn's view, by its failure to apply deconstructive principles to its own discourse. If it did, he insists, we would see that deconstructive critiques are as unstable and arbitrary as those that they critique. " The way through it, insists Gunn, is not via the "direction of some deinterpreted or uninterpretable surd of signs, as the deconstructionists presumably suggest, nor in the direction of some reinterpreted or overinterpretable system or [sic] signifiers, as the semioticians sometimes argue" (62).
He is appropriated by critics as divergent in their interests as Bloom and Poirier in the context of working out a usable past that can redeem a present crisis. Thus, while Poirier's Emerson and Bloom's are quite at odds with one another, Bloom's insistence that Emerson's brand of religious individualism is the "only hope for our imaginative lives" (Ralph Waldo Emerson 10) is matched by Poirier's equally passionate insistence that Emerson's essentially pragmatic linguistic skepticism may "point to something beyond skepticism, to possibilities of personal and cultural renewal" (Poetry and Pragmatism 8).
American culture must turn from a dead and certain past to a living, if uncertain, present. It must choose between history and experience, between mediated and unmediated contact with "the universe," between a poetry of tradition and a poetry of insight. " Of course, Emerson is less interested in discarding the products of the past on the junk heap of history than in denying them the power to usurp the creative energies of his own generation. America may have inherited texts, laws, and institutions born out of an original relation to the universe, but he insists they now block the possibility of such a relation for others.