Sunday, December 06, 2009

More Notes on the History of the Individual

A while back I posted these snippets.

1938: "In this domain the individual will remain, individualism will remain, without any theoretical and ideological bulwarks. A man will continue to gain or lose his own soul." (Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur, p. 52)

1944: "How do you react to our slogan 'Total Everybody Always'? Have you at last understood that your miserable failure as an individual is proof that you pursue a lost cause?" (Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave, p. 100)

1947: "Though tragedy was in the process of becoming unreal and meaningless it seemed one was still permitted to remember the days when an individual life held some value and was not a mere misprint in a communiqué. He lit a cigarette." (Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano, p. 5)

I just found another one in, predictably, Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn (p. 122):

1939: As an individual, as flesh and blood, I am leveled down each day to make the fleshless, bloodless city whose perfection is the sum of all logic and death to the dream. I am struggling against an oceanic death in which my own death is but a drop of water evaporating.

The theme I'm building here is pretty straightforward. In the first half of the twentieth century, modern literature was exploring the possibility that the individual was being destroyed.

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