What was his motive in pressing upon us the ineluctability of the pain and frustration of human existence? Freud, in insisting upon the essential immitigability of the human condition as determined by the nature of the mind, had the intention of sustaining the authenticity of human existence that formerly had been ratified by God. Like the Book of Job, it propounds and accepts the mystery and the naturalness of suffering…It is this authenticating imperative, irrational and beyond the reach of reason, that Freud wishes to preserve. Arnold exalted an elitist culture, and Trilling appears to pursue the same end through the route of psychodynamics: the rational and measured examination of the irrational structure of the mind, before which we stand in awe. Not coincidentally, literature comes out as the ideal way to do so. Thus, one who only holds an appeal for the most refined of intellects.
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In , he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School , and, at age 16, entered Columbia University , thus beginning a lifelong association with the university. In he married Diana Rubin, and the two began a lifelong literary partnership. In he returned to Columbia to pursue his doctoral degree in English literature and to teach literature. He earned his doctorate in with a dissertation about Matthew Arnold that he later published.
He was promoted to full professor in In , he was selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities to deliver the first Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, described as "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.
In his preface to the essays collection, Beyond Culture , Trilling defended the New York Intellectuals: "As a group, it is busy and vivacious about ideas, and, even more, about attitudes. Its assiduity constitutes an authority. The structure of our society is such that a class of this kind is bound by organic filaments to groups less culturally fluent that are susceptible to its influence.
Trilling later acknowledged that the character was inspired by his Columbia College compatriot and contemporary Whittaker Chambers  . His short stories include "The Other Margaret. Critic David Daiches said of Trilling, "Mr. Trilling likes to move out and consider the implications, the relevance for culture, for civilization, for the thinking man today, of each particular literary phenomenon which he contemplates, and this expansion of the context gives him both his moments of his greatest perceptions, and his moments of disconcerting generalization.
Forster , both written in response to a concern with "the tradition of humanistic thought and the intellectual middle class which believes it continues this tradition. In Sincerity and Authenticity , he explores the ideas of the moral self in post- Enlightenment Western civilization.
In , Columbia University Press published an unfinished novel that Trilling had abandoned in the late s. Of ideologies, Trilling wrote, "Ideology is not the product of thought; it is the habit or the ritual of showing respect for certain formulas to which, for various reasons having to do with emotional safety, we have very strong ties and of whose meaning and consequences in actuality we have no clear understanding. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation.
This does not mean, of course, that there is no impulse to conservatism or to reaction. Such impulses are certainly very strong, perhaps even stronger than most of us know. But the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.
The extent to which Trilling may be identified with neoconservativism continues to be contentious, forming a point of debate. An absolute responsibility — that much of a divine or metaphysical essence none of us is. Along the same lines, in reply to a taunt by Richard Sennett , "You have no position; you are always in between," Trilling replied, "Between is the only honest place to be.
New York: Viking Press.
Freud and Literature
In , he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School , and, at age 16, entered Columbia University , thus beginning a lifelong association with the university. In he married Diana Rubin, and the two began a lifelong literary partnership. In he returned to Columbia to pursue his doctoral degree in English literature and to teach literature. He earned his doctorate in with a dissertation about Matthew Arnold that he later published. He was promoted to full professor in
Key Theories of Lionel Trilling
Arnold wrote at what he perceived to be a time of crisis, and Trilling transposed his thoughts on nineteenthcentury Britain into an American context. These themes also map the schema that Trilling would apply in his own readings of literature and culture: rarely a close-reader of specific texts, Trilling transformed reading into a process of ethical and political reflection. Trilling followed Matthew Arnold with E. Forster , a study of the British author whose reputation soared throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, especially in relation to his novels Howards End and A Passage to India. Trilling worked through many of his ethical, existential and political positions in his novel of ideas, The Middle of the Journey , which was well received; however, it was his collection of essays that were initially published between and — called The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society — that essentially made his name. The Liberal Imagination is a post-war reaction to what Trilling perceived as the stultifying lack of creative and intellectual will in the Cold War period; he countered this lack with another force: that of art. However, rather than expressing a main thesis, The Liberal Imagination can be thought of as a testing ground for the dominant intellectual force in America at the time of its writing: that of liberalism.