February 03, 2010

Frost, ya say?

I'm making my way slowly through the Marcus and Sollors A New Literary History of America, savoring the articles in chronological order, and visiting territories I had no idea I'd find interesting. This morning it's Christian Wiman's "1915: Robert Frost leaves England for America" in which I find this lovingly constructed meditation on the essences of Nacirema culture:

One of the great ironies of American literature is that in a country in which, some new survey always seems to say, 95 percent of the people don't simply believe in a personal God but can count the whiskers on his chin, so much of our best work should be so consistently fraught with anxious unbelief, galvanizing absence, spiritual terror... a spiritual energy that is both passion and plight, a metaphysical compulsion as fervid as it is unfixed. But this is perhaps not so surprising, since if one American impulse is toward a kind of spiritual vertigo, an equally strong one is the impulse to disguise this feeling with optimistic personae and evangelical enthusiasm. So much of American literature is about buried intensities because so much of American life is a mask. (pg. 537)

Posted by oook at February 3, 2010 08:15 AM
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