Sincerity and Authenticity

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Harvard University Press, 1972 - Literary Criticism - 188 pages
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“Now and then,” writes Lionel Trilling, “it is possible to observe the moral life in process of revising itself.” In this new book he is concerned with such a mutation: the process by which the arduous enterprise of sincerity, of being true to one’s self, came to occupy a place of supreme importance in the moral life—and the further shift which finds that place now usurped by the darker and still more strenuous modern ideal of authenticity. Instances range over the whole of Western literature and thought, from Shakespeare to Hegel to Sartre, from Robespierre to R.D. Laing, suggesting the contradictions and ironies to which the ideals of sincerity and authenticity give rise, most especially in contemporary life. Lucid, and brilliantly framed, its view of cultural history will give Sincerity and Authenticity an important place among the works of this distinguished critic.

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Then what is the relationship between sincerity and politeness?

Review: Sincerity and Authenticity (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)

User Review  - Andrew - Goodreads

Excellent attack on the idea of authenticity. Not sure I'm excited about the kind of sincerity he's arguing for. Read full review

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About the author (1972)

Trilling has exerted a wide influence upon literature and criticism: as university professor at Columbia, where he taught English literature, and in his long association with Partisan Review, Kenyon Review, and the Kenyon School of English (now the School of Letters, Indiana University). He considered himself a true "liberal"---having a "vision of a general enlargement of [individual] freedom and rational direction in human life. Yet even liberalism, Trilling insisted, was simply one of several ways of organizing the complexity of life; however, it can reveal "variousness and possibility" just as literature, its subject, does. Trilling was viewed as a genteel moralist, but never would settle for mere simplification in literary analysis even if it led to understanding.

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