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Sincerity and Authenticity (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) Paperback – January 31, 1972

ISBN-13: 978-0674808614 ISBN-10: 0674808614

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Sincerity and Authenticity (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) + The Liberal Imagination (New York Review Books Classics) + The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays
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Product Details

  • Series: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (Book 2004)
  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 31, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674808614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674808614
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A beautifully written book, its tone admirably judged and perfectly sustained…It is wide fastidious and deeply thoughtful in its range of reference, Temperate, controlled and delicately scrupulous, it is a tribute if ever there was one to the "honest consciousness." (Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

At the time of his death in 1975, Lionel Trilling was University Professor at Columbia University.

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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book, based on lectures he gave at Harvard in 1970, is delight. Trilling draws a fine but deep distinction between two conceptions of selfhood. Sincerity, or being true to yourself with an eye to being true to others, was the dominant concern of Renaissance and early modern thought and literature, from Shakespeare to Rousseau. Beginning with Wordsworth, gaining momentum throughout the 19th century, and finally emerging with full force in the 20th, though, there is a new, more morally demanding ideal of being what or who one is, apart from all external conditions. Trilling's discussion wanders about quite freely, but his observations about literature and ideas are always brilliant and refreshing. Highly recommended.
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By christopher on September 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A wide-ranging consideration on the matter of sincerity and authenticity. Trilling is at home not only in the field of literature, but in much of Western thought – see, for example, his interesting discussions on Hegel and Freud.

The lectures could be seen in part as a reaction to the conditions prevalent in American universities during the late 60's and to the moral slang of that(?) time, such as the conception that (personal) authenticity is characterized by opposition to society and that sincerity and 'the honest soul' are anachronisms.

Even though 'We [present-day society] understand a priori that the prescriptions of society pervert human existence and destroy its authenticity … and [there is] no ready disposition to accept a view of the mind in its relation to society which proposes the idea that authenticity is exactly the product of the prescriptions of society and depends upon these prescriptions being kept in force', and even if sincerity has been devalued, it is still worth remembering that: 'If sincerity is the avoidance of being false to any man through being true to one’s own self, we can see that this state of personal existence is not to be attained without the most arduous effort. And yet at a certain point in history certain men and classes of men conceived that the making of this effort was of supreme importance in the moral life, and the value they attached to the enterprise of sincerity became a salient, perhaps a definitive, characteristic of Western culture for some four hundred years.'

An interesting essay on this work along with some sociological additions and considerations of the 1972 elections from Peter Berger is available on the internet.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Oliphant, Ph.D. on February 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sincerity is a 16th-Century word that expressed the concept that people who live a moral life must be responsible. Neoclassic literary characters, such as Moliere's artificial, deceitful villains. Such literature condemned exhibition of the self and promoted 'authenticity,' a strenuous moral qualification.

Art began both to celebrate and to criticize the moral order in the Romantic Movement. Jane Austin satirized Emma's priggishness. Flaubert displayed Mme. Bovary's artificial life. Sartre closed Huis Clos with 'Hell is other people.'

Sincerity depended on acceptance of the class structure in England. When acceptance of class superiority began to decay in the Industrial Revolution, organicism and mechanism offered new bases for authenticity -- 'at least natural science is real,' one might say.

The unconscious, for example, became a basis of authenticity because it has an organic basis. In this vein, Freud's Civilization and its Discontents and The Future of an Illusion portrayed culture as repressive superego. Similarly, R. D. Laing and Herbert Marcuse portrayed the psychotic as the bewildered victim of alienating social reality.
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0 of 20 people found the following review helpful By joeyterick on October 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
great service. Thank you. would buy again. If you want a challenging read to boost the intellect, Lionel Trilling is yor man.
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