"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The conservative vision of John Dos Passos

I first became aware of John Dos Passos thanks to an introductory course in American literature I took at my local community college in 1989 or so.  The University Bookman has published this overview of the thought of Dos Passos by the late Richard F. Hill: Dos Passos: A Reassessment.

Hill points out the considerable evolution that Dos Passos underwent over the course of his productive life, moving from communism to conservatism, eventually becoming enamored with the ideas and image of Thomas Jefferson.

The Jeffersonian mythos provides the key approach to politics and human flourishing that motivated Dos Passos in his shift from the totalitarian Left to a more traditionalist vision of community and order. As Hill explains:
It is the dream of the little man, the small farmer and worker who wants to be free from centralization and tyranny, whether it come from business or labor, the right or the left. It is represented by what are surely his most sympathetic characters throughout his fiction, early and late. They are the real keys to Dos Passos’ sympathies and the best evidence for his consistency.
The whole piece by Hill is much worth reading, and provides significant insight into the work of one of the most overlooked American writers of the 20th century.

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