Irving Babbitt: Character and Culture

Essays on East and West

With a new introduction by Claes G. Ryn and an index to all of Babbitt’s books

Transaction, 1995 (originally published as Spanish Character and Other Essays in 1940)

Publisher’s Description:

BabbittCharacter and Culture by Irving Babbitt is the latest volume in the Library of Conservative Thought. Babbitt was the leader of the twentieth-century intellectual and cultural movement called American Humanism or the New Humanism. More than half a century after his death his intellectual staying power remains undiminished. The qualities that marked Irving Babbitt as a thinker and cultural critic of the first rank are richly represented in Character and Culture. First published togetherin 1940 (under the misleading title Spanish Character), these essays span his scholarly career and cover a wide range of subjects. The diverse topics discussed here – aesthetics, ethics, religion, politics, literature – are illuminated by the same unifying vision of human existence that informs and structures all of Babbitt’s writing.

Babbitt never took up a subject out of idle curiosity. All of his books and articles grew out of a desire to address certain fundamental questions of life and letters. The essaysin this volume are as worthy of attention now as when they were originally written. Set in then- philosophical and historical context by Claes G. Ryn’s new introduction, they are a good place to start for persons who wish to acquaint themselves not only with Babbitt’s central ideas but with the scope of his mind and interests. Readers familiar with other books by Babbitt may recognize particular ideas and formulations but will also find much new material to ponder.

Ryn’s introduction provides a comprehensive look at Irving Babbitt’s life, career, writings, and influence. He shows how Babbitt has survived and sustained often harsh criticism from representatives of dominant trends. Ryn describes his writing style as having “a kind of rugged American elegance.” The substantial critical introduction also elucidates Babbitt’s central ideas in relation to the volume. Character and Culture will be of interest to scholars of literature, philosophers, historians, theologians, and political theorists. The extensive index to all of Babbitt’s books, including this one, increases the value of the volume.

Contents:

Introduction to the Transaction Edition

Lights and Shades of Spanish Character

Are the English Critical?

Matthew Arnold

Croce and the Philosophy of the Flux

Pascal

Racine and the Anti-Romantic Reaction

The Bicentenary of Diderot

George Sand and Flaubert

A Century of Indian Epigrams

Interpreting India to the West

The Problem of Style in a Democracy

Humanist and Specialist

President Eliot and American Education

What I Believe: Rousseau and Religion

Bibliography of the Publications of Irving Babbitt

Index to the Collected Works of Irving Babbitt

Irving Babbitt (Author):

Irving Babbitt (1865-1933) was professor of French literature at Harvard University. He is a noted literary critic who helped start the New Humanism movement in the early twentieth century. His numerous books include On Being Creative, The Masters of Modern French Criticism, and Literature and the American College.

Claes G. Ryn (New Introduction by):

Claes G. Ryn is professor of politics at the Catholic University of America where he was chairman of his department. He has taught also at the University of Virginia and Georgetown University. He is chairman of the National Humanities Institute and editor of the journal Humanitas. In 2000 he gave the Distinguished Foreign Scholar Lectures at Beijing University His many books include A Common Human Ground, Will, Imagination, and Reason (2nd., exp. ed. published by Transaction), and Democracy and the Ethical Life.

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Jan Olof Bengtsson D.Phil. (Oxon.)

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"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
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