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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Sincerity and Authenticity by Lionel Trilling. Sincerity and Authenticity by Lionel Trilling. Instances range over the whole of Western literature and thought, from Shakespeare to Hegel to Sartre, from Robespierre to R.

Laing, suggesting the contradictions and ironies to which the ideals of sincerity and authenticity give rise, most especially in contemporary life. Lucid, and brilliantly framed, its view of cultural history will give Sincerity and Authenticity an important place among the works of this distinguished critic.

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Feb 25, Ian "Marvin" Graye rated it it was amazing Shelves: cul-poli-phil-art , lit-krit , trilling , reviewsstars , reviews , read , re-read. Partial Memories Few books have influenced my worldview as much as "Sincerity and Authenticity". Perhaps the pseud in me just pretends that I have read it. Perhaps I just liked the title and that was enough. I could guess the rest. I was determined that I keep my mind alive by continuing my readings in these areas of passion.

I started a lifelong obsession with writers and critics associated with the magazines "Partisan Review" and "Dissent". Many of them were Jews whose families had come to America from Russia or Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century.

They had a passion for literature and political science, to which I will add philosophy and psychoanalysis. Not many of them wrote fiction, at least not convincingly, but they nevertheless wrote with style and they appreciated the style of those about whom they wrote especially Freud and his ability to tell stories.

All these years later, I still derive enormous pleasure from their thinking and writing, and the fact that I think and write at all owes a lot to what I learned from them. While they both wrote extensively about literature, I would say that Howe was the more overtly philosophical and political. I am about to commence a personal reading project that involves a more philosophical slant Kant, Hegel, Marx and the Continental Philosophers up to Zizek. However, a few days ago, I thought I might indulge in a little preparatory distraction by re-reading Trilling, primarily so that I could enjoy his style and critical authority once more.

The title of the book is so precise and definitive that for me it almost marks this territory as that of Trilling, at least up until , when he presented the lectures upon which the essays were based at Harvard. If called upon, I could launch into a rant that defined how Sincerity and Authenticity related to my personal philosophy.

The subject matter of the book was that fresh in my mind. Imagine how surprised I was when I discovered how little I recalled of the book apart from what was implicit in the title and how much more it contained that is relevant to my current reading interests. Suffice it to say, I was exhilarated to read Trilling from a new perspective. A Moment of Sincerity The book purports to explore the origin and rise of sincerity and authenticity as subject matter of literature.

It quickly establishes that the process started years ago and that the two concepts rose in parallel in both culture and society. Brown and R. This is not just literary criticism, it is fully-fledged cultural criticism of the highest order. In order to properly engage with it as a discrete work, it helps if you have some comprehension of Hegel.

I hope you will pull me up, if I do. Begin the Beguine To tell the story of this book, I really ought to define some of the key terms. Late in the book, he says, with a hint of patrician bemusement: "Irony is one of those words, like love, which are best not talked about if they are to retain any force of meaning — other such words are sincerity and authenticity He tends to assume we know very well what he is talking about. The problem now is that both words have become a little old-fashioned or have been co-opted and stripped of meaning by advertising.

Here is the best I can do. Sincerity The closest Trilling comes to a definition of "sincerity" is "a congruence between avowal and actual feeling". If I tell you I feel well or happy or sad, then I actually, really am. What I say publicly about how I feel privately is true. There are two aspects of this equation: firstly, I am being honest with myself or my self ; and secondly, I am being honest with you. As Polonius counselled Laertes in "Hamlet": "This above all: to thine own self be true And it doth follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

The English ask of the sincere man that he communicate without deceiving or misleading. The French seem to be more concerned about the soul, whereas the English are concerned about the arena of action, enterprise or business. It is still permissible for a sincere man to have secrets. In both countries, the concept of sincerity became more important as society segmented into discrete public and private spheres, and within these spheres we each became an individual, not just a member of a family, village, crowd or society.

Literature was concerned with "dissimulation, feigning and pretence". Plain speaking was valued. Authenticity Trilling supplies less overt guidance with respect to the meaning of "authenticity". After citing Polonius "to thine own self be true" , he waxes lyrical: "What a concord is proposed — between me and my own self: were ever two beings better suited to each other?

Who would not wish to be true to his own self? True, which is to say loyal, never wavering in constancy. True, which is to say honest; there are to be no subterfuges in dealing with him.

True, which is to say, as carpenters and bricklayers use the word, precisely aligned with him. But it is not easy Whatever the answer, at this early stage, it is apparent that there are already two selves: the actual and the ideal.

We have been split in two. Is one authentic and the other not? Can both be authentic? It is implicit that authenticity requires one self and a degree of comfort with this self. The moment you have two or more selves, you have scope for conflict and confusion and inauthenticity. Trilling then focuses on the implications of multiple selves or inauthenticity. These "impersonations" are insincere and cause us to lose personal integrity and dignity. The second aspect is that Diderot suspends judgement on the morality of this loss of integrity.

It is not shown to be a negative. Hegel permits both selves to co-exist, and so posits the "self-estranged spirit" or the "self in self-estrangement". The one self is an honest soul or noble self, the other a base self. Together, they constitute a "disintegrated consciousness".

The self is "alienated" from itself. It becomes "inauthentic". It needs the base self in order to express a negative relation with the external power of society. The two selves, together, are both needed for the Spirit to move to the next stage of development. The two selves oppose an integrated selfhood in order to advance towards "a higher level of conscious life".


Sincerity and Authenticity

Brilliant critique of the ideas and concepts behind the words sincerity and authenticity, as they were and as they are. Excellent attack on the idea of authenticity. Not sure I'm excited about the kind of sincerity he's arguing for. Trilling has exerted a wide influence upon literature and criticism: as university professor at Columbia, where he taught English literature, and in his long association with Partisan Review, Kenyon Review, and the Kenyon School of English now the School of Letters, Indiana University. He considered himself a true "liberal"having a "vision of a general enlargement of [individual] freedom and rational direction in human life.


For more than 30 years, starting with a book on Matthew Arnold , and a brief work on E. Every person's freedom is affected by the habits and presuppositions of his time, which often sustain him unconsciously; and our culture could not exist for long without the antagonism of what Trilling calls, drawing among others self. Yet Trilling, of course, has no grand philosophy or overview of the conflict between the two powers he isolates: the self and culture. It is here as in morals generally: the good and The evil grow up together, inseparably. By defining Trilling as a moral critic one says the obvious, but it is not easy to describe further the at once subtle and strenuous nature of his enterprise.

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