A Threat to Consensus

A Threat to Consensus

As I always tell my students at Johnson City University, it was not easy for educated Americans of the last century to throw off the yoke of European culture, especially that of British literature and opinion. In the first place, bindings were durable in those times, so there was little hope of father’s books falling apart. Then, the British (and to a lesser extent the French and Germans), being what they are, had no idea what was happening. Thus Americans lacked the stimulus of the only relationship, other than a sale, of which they approve—a contest. Finally, hunting for and coaxing native literary talent took time away from enjoyment of such foreign masters as Bulwer-Lytton.

Yet free themselves from cultural imperialism our forebears did. In art and thought the true ground of the excellent is the good, or a high average level of performance, and the latter requires a supporting social framework. The distinctive American framework was eventually built so well that today we take the lyrical flights of a Herman Wouk and the exacting standards of a Bosley Crowther virtually for granted.

...