Winter 1948 • Vol. X No. 1 NonfictionJanuary 1, 1948 |

Manners, Morals, and the Novel¹

The invitation that was made to me to address you this evening was couched in somewhat uncertain terms. Time, place and cordiality were perfectly clear, but when it came to the subject our hosts were not able to specify just what they wanted me to talk about. They wanted me to deal with literature in its relation to manners—by which, as they relied on me to understand, they did not really mean manners. They did not mean, that is, the rules of personal intercourse in our culture; and yet such rules were by no means irrelevant to what they did mean. Nor did they quite mean manners in the sense of mores, customs, although—again—these did bear upon the subject they had in mind. I understood them perfectly, as I would not have understood them had they been more definite. For they were talking about a nearly indefinable subject. Somewhere below all the explicit statements that a people makes through its art, religion, architecture, legislation, there is a dim mental region o

Already have an account? Login

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece



Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.
Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) was an American literary critic, author, and University Professor at Columbia University. Among the most influential of his many works are two collections of essays, The Liberal Imagination and The Opposing Self; a critical study of E. M. Forster; and one novel, The Middle of the Journey.

Read More

Little Dorrit

By Lionel Trilling

The invitation that was made to me to address you this evening was couched in somewhat uncertain terms. Time, place and cordiality were perfectly clear, but when it came to […]

Subscribe

Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.

Donate

With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.