American Gentleman: Social Prestige and the Modern Literary Mind
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Titel: American Gentleman: Social Prestige and the ...
Verlag: Continuum Intl Pub Group
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What is a gentleman? And what separates the American Gentleman from his European counterpart? This book argues that Americans express their gentlemanliness through a variety of specially adapted usages & customs. We see that American gentility has been shaped by the unique nature of the New World experience: the wilderness, race relations, transplanted Englishness, & the cherished place of business in our national consciousness. Focuses on such diverse writers as Edith Wharton, Louis Auchincloss, Robert Lowell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Walker Percy, & others to distill the essence of American gentility & the American Gentleman in his various regional appearances. Illustrations.From Kirkus Reviews:
Despite alluding to George Bush and a few movie stars in his opening, Castronovo (English/Pace) is primarily interested in the literary representation of gentlemen, figures who either have prestige or lose it or are criticized for the way they acquire or exhibit it. After establishing the irony of class consciousness in a democratic society, Castronovo describes the European models for American gentility, the regional differences, the characteristic pleasures (fox-hunting, cricket) and values (honor, social service, fortitude, etc.), the schools where they are acquired, and the special places--the clubs and country homes--where they are practiced. He then traces the appearance of the gentleman in literature, mostly novels, methodically analyzing, comparing and contrasting, and usually accounting for its decline. The chapter on New York, for example, surveys Edith Wharton, Louis Auchincloss, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary McCarthy, and John Cheever, and concludes decisively with Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, which, according to Castronovo, shows the fate of the gentleman in modern life. The survey of the refined and more spiritual New England gentleman runs from Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry James to T.S. Eliot, J.P. Marquand, and Cheever again, concluding with Robert Lowell's Life Studies. Literary selections representing the southern gentleman, the provincial, and the western (the cowboy), enhanced by John Wayne and Joan Didion's essay on him, are equally eclectic, disregarding the sexual, class, regional, religious, or economic affiliations of the authors, the audiences for which they wrote, and even the growing decline of regionalism in literature that has taken place since the 50's, with the nationalization of media and therefore culture. Although Castronovo is very methodical, he fails to give his study a sociological framework or historical context, offering what is at best a pleasant exercise by a gentleman scholar, one of the few varieties of gentlemen he neglects here. (Illustrations.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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