Spring 1945 • Vol. VII No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 1945 |

The Sense of the Present

It is proof of our respect for a critic that he sometimes forces us to disagree with him. We can even admire him most and learn most from him, if he is a good critic, at the very moment he repels us most. And so if I mention T. S. Eliot in this essay only to disagree with him, that is not because I want to depreciate his contribution to literature but, on the contrary, because I think him still the most central and enlightening critic of an important school of writers. I must admit a certain diffidence in using the term "school of writers," and that term will have to be left somewhat vague. The school is at least vague enough to include D. H. Lawrence, Mann, Yeats, Jung, Joyce, Toynbee, and Eliot himself. What these writers have in common is—in the most general sense—that they have turned to primitive myth in search of faith, of philosophy, and of aesthetic norms. Finnegans Wake, the most exhaustive of all poetical researches into the relation between primitive and modern man, i

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Richard Chase (1914-1962) was a literary critic and a Professor of English at Columbia University. He is known for his work The American Novel and Its Tradition.

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