The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays

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9780374527990: The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays

With this re-publication of Lionel Trilling's finest essays, Leon Wieseltier offers readers of many generations, a rich overview of Trilling's achievement. The exhilarating essays collected here include justly celebrated masterpieces - on Mansfield Park and on "Why We Read Jane Austen"; on Twain, Dos Passos, Hemingway, Isaac Babel; on Keats, Wordsworth, Eliot, Frost; on "Art and Neurosis"; and the famous Preface to Trilling's book The Liberal Imagination.

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Book Description:

Bringing together the thoughts of one of American literature’s sharpest cultural critics, this compendium will open the eyes of a whole new audience to the work of Lionel Trilling.  Trilling was a strenuous thinker who was proud to think too much.”  As an intellectual he did not spare his own kind, and though he did not consider himself a rationalist, he was grounded in the world.

This collection features 32 of Trilling’s essays on a range of topics, from Jane Austen to George Orwell and from the Kinsey Report to Lolita.  Also included are Trilling’s seminal essays Art and Neurosis” and Manners, Morals, and the Novel.”  Many of the pieces made their initial appearances in periodicals such as The Partisan Review and Commentary; most were later reprinted in essay collections.  This new gathering of his writings demonstrates again Trilling’s patient, thorough style.  Considering the problems of life” in art, literature, culture, and intellectual life was, to him, a vital occupation, even if he did not expect to get anything as simple or encouraging as answers.”  The intellectual journey was the true goal.

No matter the subject, Trilling’s arguments come together easily, as if constructing complicated defenses and attacks were singularly simple for his well-honed mind.  The more he wrote on a subject and the more intricate his reasoning, the more clear that subject became; his elaboration is all function and no filler.  Wrestling with Trilling’s challenging work still yields rewards today, his ideas speaking to issues that transcend decades and even centuries.

About the Author:

Lionel Trilling (1905-74) taught at Columbia University from 1931 until his death and was the author of many books, including Matthew Arnold and a novel, The Middle of the Journey. Leon Wieseltier is literary editor of The New Republic.

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Lionel Trilling, Leon Wieseltier (Editor)
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