By Stefan Collini
A richly textured paintings of background and a strong contribution to modern cultural debate, Absent Minds presents the 1st full-length account of "he query of intellectuals" n twentieth-century Britain--have such figures ever existed, have they constantly been extra renowned or influential somewhere else, and are they on the brink of turning into extinct this present day?
Recovering overlooked or misunderstood traditions of mirrored image and debate from the overdue 19th century via to the current, Stefan Collini demanding situations the common cliché that there aren't any "real" intellectuals in Britain. The ebook deals a persuasive research of the idea that of 'the highbrow' and an intensive comparative account of the way this query has been obvious within the united states, France, and in other places in Europe. There are precise discussions of influential or revealing figures comparable to Julien Benda, T. S. Eliot, George Orwell, and Edward stated, in addition to trenchant opinions of present assumptions in regards to the impression of specialization and megastar. all through, realization is paid to the a number of senses of the time period "intellectuals" and to the nice range of suitable genres and media during which they've got communicated their principles, from pamphlets and periodical essays to public lectures and radio talks.
Elegantly written and conscientiously argued, Absent Minds is an enormous, long-awaited paintings via a number one highbrow historian and cultural commentator, ranging around the traditional divides among educational disciplines and mixing insightful snap shots of people with sharp-edged cultural analysis.
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Extra info for Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain
For example, E. B. Osborn, writing in 1919 of the work of the popular dramatist Harold Chapin, who had been killed in the war: ‘Thus he avoids the fatal mistake of the stern “intellectuals” who would revitalise our drama, but have so far failed because they take too dismal a view of life. ’ Or, writing of Charles Lister in the same book: ‘A wider knowledge of men and affairs convinced him of the truth of Jowett’s saying, that human beings are not governed by logic, and it was not long before he parted company with the “intellectuals” who think that human nature can be argued into a state of blessedness .
In domestic political debate, ‘Left-wing intellectuals’ had a familiar cadence to it, while ‘Right-wing intellectuals’ was only later to emerge from the ghetto of Marxist usage. But this is to anticipate. For, during the ﬁrst couple of decades of the century, these various usages not only coexisted, but in each case they retained an air of experimenting with or alluding to a linguistic exotic. The conclusion to a thorough examination of American usage of ‘intellectuals’ in this period coincides with my more impressionistic survey of uses in Britain: ‘During its ﬁrst twenty years in America from 1898 to 1918, it never won the credentials of full naturalization.
In the second passage, the usual suggestion that intellectuals are removed from the ordinary business of life is present, or at least that they are unrepresentative of ordinary human experience, though in this case the possible negative implications of this characteristic are not insisted upon. As I have indicated, one important dimension of meaning present from quite early uses of the term was the suggestion that ‘intellectuals’ were those who applied inappropriately abstract or cerebral criteria rather than either accepting traditional standards or recognizing the power of common human passions.