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February 13, 1970 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-02-13

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John Aldri d

John W. Aldridge, In the
Country of the Young, Harp-
er's Magazine Press, $5.00.
What we were seeking as
sophomores and juniors, was
something vastly more gen-
eral, a key to unlock the world,
a picture to guide us in fitting'
its jigsaw parts together. It
happened that our professors
were eager to furnish us with
such a key or guide; they were
highly trained, earnest, devot-
ed to the calling. Essentially
the trouble was that the world
they pictured for our benefit
was the special world of sch-
olarship - timeless, placeless,
elaborate, incomplete and
bearing only the vaguest re-
lationship to that other world
in which fortunes were made,
universities endowed and city
governments run by the muck-
-Malcolm Cowley
Exile's Return
Of course, the very idea of
judging education by the stan-
dard of its relevence to t h e
concerns of adolescents is
childish, for it is the child
who can comprehend the
world only to the extent that
he can see it as an embodi-
ment of, or source of satisfac-
tion for, his infantile desires.
-John W. Aldridge
In the Country of the
* * *
Certain sentiments a m o n g
college students -seem to have
changed little since the days
before the first World War

when Malcolm Cowley was at
Harvard. Students are still look-
ing for meaning from their edu-
cations, and there still are the
John Aldridges, who regard an
undergraduate disinterest in the
ethereal world of scholarship
as a weakening of the species,
symptomatic of a lost genera-
Mr. Aldridge would probably
bridle at the suggestion that he
is part of the tradition of time-
less college professors of which
Cowley speaks. His latest book
indicates a preference to think
of himself as something more
like the titans of Cowley's gen-
eration - one of the brilliant,
articulate, super-individuals who
give their life to their art or at
least to exposing the cultural
aridity of their provincial sur-
roundings. Mr. Aldridge would
fancy himself as both the per-
fectly self-contained individual
and the unrelenting critic, an-
Ernest Hemingway and an H.
L. Mencken.
Having read In the Country
of the Young in the two in-
stallments that appeared in
Harper's last year, one might
not totally appreciate the ex-
tent of Mr. Aldridge's individ-
uality, which becomes clearer in
the preface to the present hard-
cover edition. Here Mr. Ald-
ridge offers himself up as a
"devil's advocate," hoping to
deflate what he says are the
unchallenged "pieties and pom-
posities" of the new youth es-
The preface, however, fails to
make clear just who constitutes
this "youth establishment," and
the needed definition does not
occur anywhere else in the

ge gets
book either. Unfortunately, the
notion of youth as a singular
entity and its corollary of an
omnipresent generation gap are
false assumptions that have pro-
vided material for countless
magazine exposes, newspaper
columns, and Sunday sermons.
It is surprising that Mr. A 1 d-
ridge accepts these ideas al-
most with qualification.
Young people today do not
merge into any kind of estab-
lishment-defined category. The
differences between college and
non-college students, between
students at universities like this
one and students at more static
state colleges as well as at more
elitist institutions, between the
activist and the apathetic -
even between young people who
are apparently united against
the war - are so great that
there is no way to speak of
them as a generation without
gross over-simplification.
Furthermore, politics and life-
styles do divide American so-
ciety, but not necessarily be-
tween the old and the young.
By accepting the notion of
the generation gap and by in-
flating it into the idea of a
hostile "youth establishment,"
Mr. Aldridge can deftly set him-
self apart from this establish-
ment, these "armies of self-
righteous puberty and dissident
studentism," and become t h e
maverick, iconoclastic critic; H.
L. Mencken in the Age of Aquar-
But it won't work. In t h e
Country of th Young will not
earn Mr. Aldridge a place next
to Sinclair Lewis. The loud ap-
plause that followed his Harp-
er's articles shows that Mr.

lost in a
Aldridge is merely expressing be tha
the values and distaste of that evenr
segment of society which Sin- lectua
clair Lewis and H. L. Mencken studen
themselves found so vulgar. Mr. ism do
Aldridge really only translates Tha
the sentiments of people like less" h
Spiro Agnew into language that argue,
Eric Severeid can be comfort- to exp
able with. The irate but inarticu- servat:
late booboisie have found a compa
spokesman - one whom they "Yet
may not understand but one tact w
who offers the assurance that ,
the preponderance of intelli-
gence is on their side.
Thus, Mr. Aldridge flatters
the silent majority. References
to the "millions of normal peo-
ple like ourselves," "those of
us now in our forties," allow
his readers to elevate their pre-
judices. Mr. Aldridge may him- t
self have asked certain qualita-
tive questions about civilization,
engaged in intellectual analysis, '
and maintained a steady love of
ideas, but certainly he does not
suggest that this is typical of
a whole generation of people }
now in their forties. Perhaps the r
only point of congruence be- ##'>><
tween Mr. Aldridge and t h e
"millions of normal people" is
the same hostile emotion to-
ward young people. vinces
The false premise of the gen- drama
eration gap leads Mr. Aldridge the me
to some other spurious distinc- among
tions and conclusions. While al- intellig
lowing for exceptions, he notes distinc
two different currents in the ing sr
youth establishment - "activ- them
ism" and hippyism." He informs witha
us that "The main difference righteo
between activism and hippyism "But
- at least where the question of seem t
their attractiveness to the sive ne
young is concerned - seems to citeme
if not
0 sameY
classics uaeq
as a sort of axis of continuity. into a
One has the sense that at times reer."
when the attention of writers is Mr.
being drawn to bad accounts of gerous
youth culture or outdated state- aboutt
ments of the problem of libera- ribly 1
tion, a -book suited for non- ideas.I
technical readings on t h e
Greeks is fortunate indeed. For
after all, though t h e proper Toda
praise is paid to Homer, Soph-;
ocles and Shakespeare, only Stev
Shakespeare stands a proper ial Pa
chance to be read. And Trag- Neal B
edy and Philosophy at least urg- dent in
es that in the tradition of trag- lish. C
edy one may locate more in the are we
Western vision than one was led dressec
to believe existed.



at hippyism appeals to an
more feckless and intel-
Oly empty sector of the
nt population than activ-
t there are some "feck-
pippies around, few would
but Mr. Aldridge wishes
and this rather facile ob-
ion into a more all-en-
assing generalization:
t any sort of close con-
with the young soon con-
fl" ~ X~

with rather than at some of his
own students. Or, if he would
find this kind of association un-
pleasant, he would benefit by
reading the psychological stu-
dies of Sanford, Keniston, etc.,
which clearly show that radi-
cal students today are brighter
and emotionally better adjusted
than their non-activist counter-
parts. I think Mr. Aldridge
would have difficulty reconciling
such data with his mistaken pre-
conceptions. We find ourselves
concluding that the book is a
scholastic rendition of cliches
gathered and refined from se-
cQnd-hand sources.
It is necessary to read the
entire book to be aware of the
c o u n t less misunderstandings
that fill its pages. Aldridge
shows, for example, a total lack
of understanding of the poli-
tical nature of student activism
today. It seems clear to him that
the activity at the barricades is
merely a revolution against
Finally, if Mr. Aldridge were
really convinced of his own
ideas, why does he seem not to
believe them himself - why

such rancor? Young people with
the ascribed limpness of person-
ality, lack of intelligence, per-
sonal vapidity, individual inait
ticulateness, universal self-in-
dulgence, and collective insigni-
ficance - if Mr. Aldridge really
believes this, youth hardly poses
a serious threat to an individual
like himself.
We can wonder what moti-
vates a man to write a book like
this? Is it the decreasing vigor
of the capon-lined belly of mid-
dle age? Is it a boost in the
arm of a sagging career? Is it
a type of individualism that is
becoming uncomfortably- out-
Whatever, let us hope that this
has been the complete expurga-
tion. Let us hope that Mr.
Aldridge will return his impres-
sive literary and critical talents
to other matters that will not
drive him to such glaring con-
tradictions and over-simplifica-
tions. It is a shame to squander
such talents on harangues that
we thought had been the ex-
clusive venture of hack jour-
nalists, opportunist politicians,
and disturbed clergymen.


one that the tendencies
tized so flamboyantly by
ediocre can also be found
many'of their gifted and
ent contemporaries, whose
etion is, perhaps, that be-
marter, they dramatize
not flamboyantly but'
a kind of leaden self-
t mediocre and gifted alike
o share the same compul-
eed for diversion and ex-
rnt, the same indifference,
hostility, to ideas, the
horror of adulthood, the
obsession with proced-
questions and material so-
s, and the same desire to
the role of the student
life-long professional ca-
Aldridge is on very dan-
ground with his remarks
the'young being "not ter-
bright" and hostile to
He would do well to talk

The Daytop Village Theatre of New York in


A young group of ex-addicts each relate a part
story in this amazing psychodrama!

of their own

Prolonging the

moribundity of

Walter Kaufmann, Tragedy and
Philosophy, Doubleday Anchor,
Aestheticians, philosophers, or,
classicists probably will not
find the critical insights, argu-
ments and scholarship of Wal-
ter Kaufmann's Tragedy a n d
Philosophy either unusually in-
sightful -or persuasive, but no
matter. The considerable con-
tribution of Kaufmann's book.
is that in reviewing a great deal
of traditional classical literature
and modern writing on the clas-
sics, it presents a substantial
method for identifying present
experience with the spirit and
letter of the classical past.
For the classical experience
has not been really with us in
the past several years, and such
an absence of spirit is bound
to be felt as a sort of vacuum
or darkness. At important mo-
ments in the Early Sixties, John
Kennedy quoted from the tra-
gedians, but even then it ap-
peared t h a t he was evoking
more the presence of a man
quoting Aeschylus than a n y-
thing substantial from t h e
A more sanguine occasion of
classicism has been the spec-
tacle of Italian-made. gladiator
films, fusions of Hellenic myth
and late Roman decadence, in
which a bearded slave often
named Ursus performed feats
involving lions, galloping stal-
lions, tortures, and the pulling
down of stone columns, all while
the dawn of Christianity glim-
mered in th ewings.
Perhaps three reasons can be
suggested for why many of us
have not been much concerned
with classicism lately.
Most monumentally, the phil-
osophy and literature of t h e
East, which as a body contains
methodologies for transcend-
ence and prophecy, analytic
conundra and brown rice life
diets, now get the type of at-

tention among many of the best
of us that classicism did a gen-
eration ago. And out of this has
come a polarization of world
views. For at least on the level
of our culture, the abstraction
of Western man's vision of hos-
tile fate is set against the ab-
straction of an Eastern vision
of harmony between man and
cosmos. Eastern wisdom has
come to compete with the class-
ical heritage as a substance of
Additionally, formal school
hours which once were spent on
classics are largely lost. T h e
urgency of American crises and
the pretentions of social scien-
tists have propelled undergrad-
uates into classes on popula-
tions and behavior at the same
t I m e members of the Third
World community as close as
Inner City Detroit absolutely re-
fuse to talk with social science
researchers, whom they regard
as infiltrators and technicians
of imperialism and racism. High
school students for their . part
are infuriated with lies in the
version of history they are
taught and with the appropria-
tion of their school time for
socialization. Here the point is
not that college and high school
students consciously f e e 1 the
want of contact with classicism,
but that because their school
time is used in ways which they
by no means find satisfactory,
they are deprived of the oppor-
tunity f o r an initial contact
with this body of knowledge.
Lastly, those who pursue hu-
manistic studies, whether in
modern languages, philosophy
or history of ideas, may derive
a vision of classicism mediated
greatly by modern thought.
Rather than encouraging re-ex-
amination of classicism, such
education re-presents only the
husks of classicism. Abstract
notions like "right reason" and
"sublimity" are sundered from
the classical Corpus and put at
the source of a linear history of
thought. Arguments are isolat-

ed for their value as grist for
modern analysis. Literary criti-
cism of ancients like Plato, Ari-
stotle, Horace and Longinus are
studied with inattention to the
larger classical experience of
art. Also a sense of classicism is
often o b t a i n e d secondarily
through Neo-Classicism a n d
what followed.
Though Kaufmann does not
explicitly state it, his book is
written for the type of person
who would be involved in these
three experiences, a n d the
points he makes a r e not as
much contributions to scholar-
ship as intellectual suggestions
to redirect readers to G r e e k
Kaufmann, a philosopher of
Hegel and the existentialists,
has as one of his projects the
re-location of Western philoso-
phy in the tragic tradition. By
so doing, he can establish West-
ern philosophy as a variety of
poetry, originating with drama
in the poetry of Homer:
. The two greatest Greek
philosophers (did not) come
after the greatest tragedians;
their kind of philosophy was
shaped in part by the devel-
opment of tragedy. The evu-
olution that led from Aeschy-
lus to Sophocles and Euripi-
des was in a sense continued
by Plato. Aeschylus stands
halfway between Homer and
Plato, and Euripides halfway
between Aeschylus and Plato
Plato writes about the
tragic poets as his rival.
Much of Kaufmann's analy-
sis of literary criticism of trag-
edy is intended to establish the
continuity and growth of tragic
vision, a vision which came to
be that of the Greek philoso-
phers. For Kaufmann, tragedy
is definable in terms of philoso-
phy. Aristotle's famous but
"perverse concentration on its
merely formal aspects, such as

plot and diction . . . is expli-
cable by noting that the central
concerns of the greatest tragic
poets had by that time been ap-
propriated by philosophy."
For Kaufmann, tragedy is:
. . a form of a literature
that presents a symbolic ac-
tion as performed by actors
and moves into the center im-
mense human suffering, in
such a way that it brings to
our minds our own forgotten
and repressed sorrows as well
as those of our kin and hu-
manity, releasing us with
some sense that suffering is
universal - not a mere acci-
dent in our experience, that
courage and endurance in suf-
fering or nobility in despair
are admirable - not ridicu-
lous - and usually also that
fates worse than our own can
be experienced as exhilarat-
Such a world-view-laden def-
inition suggests that the spirit
of tragedy extends into present
days and that, the possibilities
for tragic drama are no more
limited now than is the capac-
ity for empathy with univer-
sal suffering: "We have been
told that tragedy is dead," says
Kaufmann, "that it died of op-
timism, faith in reason, confi-
dence in progress. Tragedy is
not dead, but what estranges
us from it is just the opposite:
Kaufmann analyzes Oedipus
the King with notions evoking
existential philosophy, "radical
insecurity, human blindness, the
curse of honesty, and the in-
evitability of tragedy." His
method of analysis for contem-
porary works, particularly Hoc-
huth's The Deputy is quite sim-
ilar. It is not that Kaufmann's
reading is particularly appeal-
ing but that his large book, so
packed with all-too-brief ref-
erence to Western thinkers acts

ay s writers .. .
e Anzalone is an Editor-
ge Editor of the Daily.
Bruss is a graduate stu-
n the Department of Eng-
"omments on all reviews
lcome and should be ad-
d to the Books Editor.

Feb. 12-8 p.m. Feb. 13-7:15 and 10 p.m.
Tickets Available-$2.75 M-F 1 1-4; Sat. 1 -3
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cfefed _ 7me" aejtm 1893


(1) Pick a Key Social Problem

This new store carries more trade (non-text) books
than any other in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area.'
Unusual 1970 calendars, thousands of paperbacks,
lots of them used, some hardbacks.
10% 0FF
Mon.-Thurs.-9-9; Fri.-96; Sat.-12:5:30
We think we're interesting-

(2) Then slice off a key aspect of it
for a dissertation
(3) Then come see RDG; we'll try to
find dollars for it.
764-5288 (or leave message at 764-7480)

I li



The Light Around the Body

I 'W m hIIFnfvqLI% i ll ,;!I I D~L T11\ . .LjL. L





11 "PORPQT Rt V .*c. ,,o nc +1,o 4ca


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