Pankaj Mishra writes:
Mark Greif’s book is a bracingly ambitious attempt at a ‘philosophical history’ of the American mid-century, a chronological account of writers and their ideas. It begins in 1933 with an apparently widely perceived ‘crisis of man’ in American intellectual culture and is cut off, equally surgically, in 1973, with academic theory’s announcement of the ‘death of man’. Greif, a founding editor of n+1, one of the consistently excellent periodicals of the last decade, was drawn to his subject after noticing the number of mid-century American book titles that refer to ‘man in crisis’: a genre of literature that filled the basement shelves of his childhood, ‘the worthy and earnest paperbacks that my parents’ generation inherited to educate themselves for the responsibilities of their era’.
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