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Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Culture of Conversation (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture) 0th Edition
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Gibian is out to revise and enhance Holmes? current reputation on the basis of a new critical reading. Holmes was considered an important American writer until the 1920s when he was excised from the American canon by the modernists. They depicted him as willfully provincial (because he named Boston the "Hub" of the world), and elitist (he invented the term "Boston Brahmin"). Gibian attempts a rescue by noting that it one of Holmes? characters, a provincial, town booster named "Little Boston" in the "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" who dubbed Boston the Hub. Gibian suggests that Boston Brahmin was an appellation meant to poke fun of the contemplative, upper class, pedigreed Bostonian who self-consciously removed himself from the hurly-burly of the common run. But much more than placing the "Hub" and "Boston Brahmin" in context, Gibian attempts to show that Holmes encouraged democratic conversation. That unlike his more elitist friends in the Saturday Club, he was a democrat, or a true republican, perhaps.
He does this by suggesting that Holmes? was equal parts house-breaker as house-keeper, invoking Mikhail Bakhtin?s theory of the carnival as appropriate to Holmes?Read more ›
This book is likely the greatest in-depth study of Holmes that can ever be written; not one stone was left unturned. To some extent, that depth is a negative for this book. So much information is jam-packed into its 350+ pages of text that it can be quite overwhelming. At times, some of the information he presents seems repetitive or even unnecessary. Don't consider this book a good "intro" to Holmes. In fact, I recommend reading at least "Elsie Venner" and "The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table" before reading this book, if you can. Nevertheless, "Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Culture of Conversation" restores Dr. Holmes as an important figure of 19th-century America whose wide-ranging successes were tied together by his greatest strength: the art of conversation. It would be nice to see this book inspire future scholarship on Dr. Holmes.