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This book is an attempt to find the central nerve of nineteenth-century culture, to discover the problem which unifies the most important cultural documents in the century's philosophy, literature, painting and music.
Morse Peckham, my teacher and eventual colleague, shed the light of common sense on the high culture of the nineteenth century, making the projects of the Goethes, Wordsworths, Friedrichs, Beethovens, Carlyles, Tennysons, Brahmses, Flauberts, Wagners, Manets, Debussys, Nietzsches--all these wild-men and many, many others--seem like reasonable responses to the failures of the Enlightenment increasingly in evidence since 1789. "Beyond the TV," as he came to call it, makes sense because Peckham immersed himself in the works of the writers, painters and composers themselves, and in their biographies, and refused to be drawn into dry debates with better-known specialist interpreters, blinded by the shibboleths of academic "artspeak," who simply couldn't see as much as he saw in what they were all looking at. He was the best close-reader of poetry I ever encountered, and this book comes out of his discoveries in a course in "Literature and the Other Arts," which he taught at the University of Pennsylvania before finishing his career as Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina.
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