An Artificial Wilderness (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
It was Thorton Wilder who at an important conference in Aspen, Colorado, in 1949 reminded the world that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was the first great thinker to suggest that the literature of the future would be a world literature, a literature with a “planetary consciousness.” That future has arrived. The scholarship of comparative literature and the great histories of Ernst Robert Curtius, René Wellek, and Erich Auerbach, have demonstrated that indeed a common vein of ideas and conventions runs through all of Western literature. The archetypal criticism of Northrop Frye has also made profound contributions to the understanding of the underlying uniformity of literary heritage. Nevertheless, the obstacles of language and skeptical attitudes toward the value of translation have continued to promote parochialism and outdated nationalism in the minds of contemporary readers, particularly in the United States, where knowledge of foreign languages is perhaps even weaker than in previous decades and where the native tradition remains largely insular, feeding on its short history and reclaiming lost writers instead of thrusting forward with a sense of the world as it is.
Enter Sven Birkerts. Presently he teaches expository writing at Harvard University and writes excellent reviews for The New Republic. He is in his thirties, hardly the age of a sage. Unlike Goethe, who was a sage and who enjoyed the stimulation of Weimar, Sven Birkerts earned...
(The entire section is 1167 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Booklist. LXXXIV, October 15, 1987, p. 357.
Chicago Tribune. September 27, 1987, XIV, p. 3.
Kirkus Reviews. LV, August 1, 1987, p. 1121.
Library Journal. CXII, October 15, 1987, p. 81.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. August 30, 1987, p. 4.
The New York Times Book Review. XCII, November 8, 1987, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXII, August 7, 1987, p. 43.
The Washington Post Book World. XVII, September 27, 1987, p. 3.
(The entire section is 48 words.)