Canto original series: Myths of Modern Individualism: Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Robinson Crusoe
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Canto original series: Myths of Modern Individualism: Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Robinson Crusoe

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Description

In this volume, Ian Watt examines the myths of Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan and Robinson Crusoe, as the distinctive products of modern society. He traces the way the original versions of Faust, Don Quixote and Don Juan - all written within a forty-year period during the Counter Reformation - presented unflattering portrayals of the three figures, while the Romantic period two centuries later recreated them as admirable and even heroic. The twentieth century retained their prestige as mythical figures, but with a new note of criticism. Robinson Crusoe came much later than the other three, but his fate can be seen as representative of the new religious, economic and social attitudes which succeeded the Counter-Reformation. The four figures help to reveal problems of individualism in the modern period: solitude, narcissism, and the claims of the self versus the claims of society. They all pursue their own view of what they should be, raising strong questions about their heroes' character and the societies whose ideals they reflect.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 312 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 18mm | 400g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 4 Halftones, unspecified
  • 0521585643
  • 9780521585644
  • 1,228,837

Table of contents

Introduction; Part I. Three Renaissance Myths: 1. From George Faust to Faustbuch; 2. The tragicall history of the life and death of Doctor Faustus; 3. Don Quixote of La Mancha; 4. El burlador and Don Juan; 5. Renaissance individualism and the Counter-Reformation; Part II. From Puritan Ethic To Romantic Apotheosis: 6. Robinson Crusoe; 7. Crusoe, ideology, and theory; 8. Romantic apotheosis of Renaissance myths; 9. Myth and individualism; Part III. Coda: Thoughts On The Twentieth Century: I. Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus; II. Michel Tournier's Friday; III. Some notes on the present; Appendix.
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Review quote

'In its way this is as original a work as Watt's famous first book, The Rise of the Novel. It is a work of great maturity, testimony to the intelligence and civility of its author.' Frank Kermode 'Ian Watt's magisterial Myths of Modern Individualism is a critical account - historical, cultural, moral and aesthetic - of how four great Western myths have insinuated themselves into the actualities of modern culture. Like all of Watt's work this is a remarkable work of the historical imagination, sympathetic without being fussy, erudite but always deft, analytic but very warm and witty. This is a book everyone should read.' Edward Said 'Watt has dug deep and come up with indispensable revelations about where we come from and where we are now as we 'individuals' grapple with our inescapable complaints about, yet need for, 'society'.' The Boston Book Review "...in its capaciousness, intelligence, and wit, and in the barren, theory-obsessed and trivial desert of current criticism, it is something of a phenomenon: a triumph of a truly cultured imagination....Watt has crowned his career with a work of scholarship, literary brilliance, and moral urgency. It is, itself, individualistic and nobly humanist. It is what, after all, criticism is supposed to be." Rocky Mountain Review "...an impressive investigation and elucidation in the fields of comparative literature and mythography. Watt's method is remarkably synthetic, combining formal textual analysis with intellectual history and socioeconomic background. His style is compressed yet clear, precise and painstaking. As revealed in this work. Watt's mind and learning are formidable." Magill's Literary Annual "...his erudition and breadth of mind are fully evident as he traces these four figures from their origins through their transformations in the Romantic era to their most recent literary incarnations....This is intellectual and literary history at its best. Recommended for all collections." Choice "Ian Watt occupies a special place among contemporary critics and historians of literature. He practices a 'synthetic' method: that is, he does not choose between the history of ideas, sociological analysis and formal or stylistic understanding. He masters them all. To this he brings a firm and limpid style, often tinged with irony, never contaminated by jargon." The New Republic "In its way this is as original a work as Watt's famous first book, The Rise of the Novel. It is a work of great maturity, testimony to the intelligence and civility of its author." Frank Kermode "Ian Watt's magisterial Myths of Modern Individualism is a critical account--historical, cultural, moral and aesthetic--of how four great Western myths have insinuated themselves into the actualities of modern culture. Like all of Watt's work this is a remarkable work of the historical imagination, sympathetic without being fussy, erudite but always deft, analytic but very warm and witty. This is a book everyone should read." Edward Said "Where the book shines is in the depth and richness of scores of particular analyses, not only of historical relations and of individual works but of the complex lives of the authors who wrote the works. Watt has dug deep and come up with indispensable revelations about where we come from and where we are now as we 'individuals' grapple with our inescapable complaints about, yet, need for, 'society.'" The Boston Book Review "This work deserves a wide readership. it is a rich cultural reading of the psychological types that have informed modernity, especially the cult of the individual....This work is a consummate study of the myths of individualism that have informed the personality type of modernity. Recommended." The Reader's Review "...Watt is to be commended for the erudition and literary insights that inform his treatment of these four shaping myths of our modern individualistic ethic." Michael Shinagel, Harvard Review "...one could hardly find a more trustworthy guide to their literary history than Watt. He develops all the crucial information about the origins of his four myths, he surveys the literary, religious, political, and socail influences exerted on their first or classic expressions, and he assesses the literary value, not merely the historical importance, of these expressions. His fairness is exemplary, and more than exemplary; he bends over backwards to be fair. One of the jobs that Watt does best is to remind us of certain things that literary historians ofetn fail to mention.... He does attempt to trace the origin and development of a fascinating tendency on modern literature; and he does that admirably." Stephen Cox, Reason Paers
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Rating details

25 ratings
4.08 out of 5 stars
5 40% (10)
4 36% (9)
3 16% (4)
2 8% (2)
1 0% (0)
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