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The end of solitude

In the Chronicle, William Deresiewicz worries that “we” are losing the capacity for solitude. It is a haunting essay that wields great, solitary archetypes of past literature against the habits of the present.

If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility.

One could, with this logic, bring up the issue of surveillance. I’ve sometimes wondered why Americans have been so willing, even eager, to accept an ever-growing regime of domestic spying. (I am guilty of this too.) Does it come out of a desire to be seen and, by being seen, to know that we are real? Does it remind us of the gaze of God? [go!]

2 comments on “The end of solitude

  1. My lack of culture will not allow me to make a comment as involved as I would like it, but I have a question and some impressions to share, taking the risk to seem stupid:
    Is there a difference between what grounds the self and what characterises one’s production or “creation,” artistic or other?
    I would like for all the ismism to be over already. -ism gives me the feeling that we keep going toward something without ever reaching it. What a great humility. I’m not fond of humility in what I “make.” I prefer it in my daily life. Why don’t we reach and see what’s beyond?
    I would like to digest visibility and take it along with “lightness” and “quickness,” as proposed by Italo Calvino in his Six Memos, to build something.
    Actually, there’s one -ism I don’t mind, it’s magical realism. It opens instead of closing.
    (this website is great, by the way)

  2. I love this:

    ism gives me the feeling that we keep going toward something without ever reaching it.

    Totally right. And I always think it’s so strange when artists identify their work with -isms. I would think of -isms as the tools of sociologists and philosophers, against which the artists create. They are the things we observe around us, the spiritual conditions as we perceive and interpret them. But, my goodness, what a cruel world if, then, our entire purpose were to live up to them? Yuck.

    Living humanly, I bet, means, as you say, living “beyond” the -isms that certain people claim define the day.

    Glad you like the site. Come back and chat any time!

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