Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe: Toward the Revival of Higher Education

Yale University Press, 01/10/2008 - 286 páginas
Although the essential books of Western civilization are no longer central in our courses or in our thoughts, they retain their ability to energize us intellectually, says Jeffrey Hart in this powerful book. He now presents a guide to some of these literary works, tracing the main currents of Western culture for all who wish to understand the roots of their civilization and the basis for its achievements. Hart focuses on the productive tension between the classical and biblical strains in our civilization, between a life based on cognition and one based on faith and piety. He begins with the Iliad and Exodus, linking Achilles and Moses as Bronze Age heroic figures. Closely analysing texts and illuminating them in unexpected ways, he moves on to Socrates and Jesus, who internalized the heroic, continues with Paul and Augustine and their Christian synthesis, addresses Dante, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Moliere, and Voltaire, and concludes with the novel as represented by Crime and Punishment and The Great Gatsby. Hart maintains that the dialectical tensions suggested by this survey account for the restlessness and singular achievements of the West and that the essential books can provide the substance and energy currently missed by both students and educated readers.

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Smiling through the cultural catastrophe: toward the revival of higher education

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According to Hart (English, Dartmouth Coll.), the interaction between Athens and Jerusalem, between philosophical-scientific ideas and scriptural-moral thought, has made Western civilization unique ... Ler crítica na íntegra


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Jeffrey Peter Hart was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 24, 1930. He received a bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1952. During the Korean War, he enlisted in the Navy and served in Naval Intelligence. After he was discharged, he received a doctorate in 17th- and 18th-century English literature from Columbia. He soon began writing book reviews for National Review. He taught English literature at Dartmouth College from 1963 until his retirement in 1993. He wrote several books including When the Going Was Good!: American Life in the Fifties, Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe: Toward the Revival of Higher Education, and The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times. He also drafted speeches for Ronald Reagan and Richard M. Nixon when they were presidential candidates. He died from complications of dementia on February 17, 2019 at the age of 88.

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