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Until now, Bergson's widely acknowledged impact on American literature has never been comprehensively mapped. Author Paul Douglass explains and evaluates Bergson's meaning for American writers, beginning with Eliot and moving through Ransom, Penn Warren, and Tate to Faulkner, Wallace Stevens, Henry Miller, William Carlos Williams, and others. It will be a standard point of reference.
Bergson was the continental philosopher of the early 1900s, a celebrity, as Sartre would later be. Profoundly influential throughout Europe, and widely discussed in England and America in the Teens, Twenties, and Thirties, Bergson is now rarely read. His current "obsolescence," Douglass argues, illuminates the Western shift from Modern to post- Modern.
Ambitious in scope, this book remains admirably close to Bergson himself: what he said, where that fits in the historical context of philosophy, why his ideas moved across the Atlantic, and how he affected American writers. At the book's heart are readings of Eliot's criticism and poetry, analyses of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Light in August, and evaluations of Ransom's, Tate's and Penn Warren's criticism.
This impressively researched and beautifully written study will remain of lasting value to students of American literature.
Paul Douglass is assistant professor of English literature at Mercer University in Atlanta. He is the author of articles on T.S. Eliot, Anthony Powell, Lord Byron, Modernism, and Organicism.
"Valuable for reopening the Bergson issue and for showing that many writers, Eliot especially, made use of Bergsonism long after they had publicly rejected it."—South Atlantic Review
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Henri Bergson, T. S Eliot, Bergsonism, American literature
Literature in English, North America
Douglass, Paul, "Bergson, Eliot, and American Literature" (2014). Literature in English, North America. 57.