The Intellectual Species: Evolution or Extinction?
This book explores the prospects for survival of what we have come to know as “the intellectual” in the post-Gutenberg age. It addresses the contemporary history of this “species” spawned in the print age, meditating on the precarious future of international intellectual life in the digital era of nanosecond soundbites, fake news, smart phones, and clicks and scrolls in lieu of reading. The book ponders these issues as it addresses the examples of a diverse group of British, American, French, and German intellectuals of the post- World War II era. These “case histories” showcase concretely the “state of the culture” in the context of particular lives, offering diverse intellectual portraiture featuring a wide range of writers across the ideological spectrum. The key family resemblance of these figures is that most of them are contrarians, regardless of whether they were freelance writers or academic intellectuals, American or British or European, and chiefly imaginative writers or non-fiction writers and scholars. Among the intellectuals discussed are George Orwell, Dwight Macdonald, Irving Howe, Camille Paglia, Albert Camus, Robert Havemann, and others. Regardless of which intellectual domains occupied their energies, the histories of all of them yield insight into the transformation of cultural life in recent decades and the contrasting challenges faced by intellectuals of earlier eras versus our own. These issues are of paramount significance for all those who care about the life of the mind and the future of homo sapiens.
John Rodden is Visiting Scholar in the Program of British Studies at Harry Ransom Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin. He has served on the faculties of the University of Virginia, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as teaching in Europe and Asia. He has published two dozen books on topics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British, American and European culture. Much of his work is concerned with large issues of public concern, including crimes against human rights, the crisis of the humanities in the American academy, and the vocation of the writer-critic. During the last decade, his work has radiated in many new directions, ranging from Latin American fiction to comparative education, society and education in eastern Germany before and after Reunification, utopian thought, the vicissitudes of socialism, the psychology of literature, and the art of the interview.
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