By Warren Susman
With remarkable creativity, readability, and wit, Warren Susman (1927-1985) takes us on a provocative travel of the highlights of yankee tradition. by means of every kind of 20th-century culture—highbrow, lowbrow, and middlebrow—Susman indicates how tradition itself has develop into a battleground for competing visions of yank lifestyles. Fourteen essays comprise such subject matters because the nature of yankee conservatism, the cultural contradictions of a client society, and the function of the city event within the improvement of yank tradition.
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Extra info for Culture as History: The transformation of American society in the twentieth century
In Four Quartets it becomes clear to the poet that "right action is freedom from past and future also," a vision of man in relation to history that stands in effective contrast to the views of his contemporary, William Carlos Williams, cited previously. In the realm of religion the historically oriented Social Gospel no longer commands the allegiance of the major Protestant intellectualleaders. The existential eye sees no historic Christ and no Christian mission that can be accomplished within time.
Many of our newer literary vogues-some of them brilliantly evocative of major moral dilemmas of our time to be sure-are deliberately wedded to the present moment alone. For the Beat Generation, the past-and even the future-is an enemy, threatening man with a vicious traditionalism (sometimes called conformity) or a series of problems to which there is no solution except individual action. They return to an almost Thoreau-like ritual burning of the past, preferring the immediate sensation, the experience of the moment, or the escape into timelessness offered by some oriental philosophies (or their versions of them) that are strictly ahistorical.
It is always important to remember that this was a society dominated largely by those we would today call intellectuals. The nineteenth-century image of the alienated intellectual would surely seem strange to these Puritans, even to the Hutchinsons and Williamses and Taylors who were driven from the colony or forced to keep their private thoughts very private indeed. And these intellectuals who functioned as leaders from the very beginnings of the enterprise carried with them a special view of history; they made the study of history and its interpretation a vital part of the cultural development of the colony.
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