Notebooks

Jacques Barzun

20 Sep 2003 17:09

French-American historian and educator, born 1907 into very modernist circles (his father disputed with another poet over the honor of having invented "simultaneous" poetry). He came to the States --- more specifically Columbia --- in the '20s for college and has been there ever since. He's an excellent writer, one of our last living men of letters, and was for decades one of the guiding lights of liberal education in this country, especially through the western civ. course he taught at Columbia. He's not a paragon, of course --- he's grown more conservative as he's grown older, he's never quite reconciled himself to Darwin, and he admires Pascal --- but even at his worst it's instructive to see how a witty, intelligent, well-informed and clear-thinking man went wrong, and at his best --- say, The House of Intellect --- he is superb.

William James. Romanticism. Modernism. Intellectuals. US Education. Detective stories and their aesthetic.


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