George Steiner, fully Francis George Steiner

George
Steiner, fully Francis George Steiner
1929

European-born American Literary Critic, Essayist, Philosopher, Novelist and Translator

Author Quotes

It was a brilliant, mutinous period. Brecht gave back to German prose its Lutheran simplicity and Thomas Mann brought into his style the supple, luminous elegance of the classic and Mediterranean tradition. These years, 1920-33, were the anni mirabiles of the modern German spirit.

The critic lives at second hand. He writes about. The poem, the novel, or the play must be given to him; criticism exists by the grace of other men's genius.

Though acts of reception and of understanding are in some measure fictions of ordered intuition, myths of reason, this truth does not justify the denial of intentional conduct. It is as absurd to discard as mendacious, as anarchically opaque, the bearing of contextual probability and suggestion, as it is to invest in such probability any blind trust. The negations of post-structuralism and of certain varieties of deconstruction are precisely as dogmatic, as political as were the positivist equations of archival historicism. The "emptiness of meaning" postulate is no less a priori, no less a case of despotic reductionism than were, say, the axioms of economic and psycho-sociological causality in regard to the generation of meaning in literature and the arts in turn-of-the-century pragmatism and scientism.

Creation of absolutely the first rank — in philosophy, in music, in much of literature, in mathematics — continues to occur outside the American milieu. It is at once taken up and intelligently exploited, but the "motion of the spirit" has taken place elsewhere, amid the enervation of Europe, in the oppressive climate of Russia. There is, in a good deal of American intellectual, artistic production (recent paining may be a challenging exception) a characteristic near-greatness, a strength just below the best. Could it be that the United States is destined to be the "museum culture"?

Literary criticism has about it neither rigor nor proof. Where it is honest, it is passionate, private experience seeking to persuade.

The dramatic arises out of the margin of opaqueness between a writer and his personages, out of the potential for the unexpected. In the full dramatic character lurks the unforeseen possibility, the gift of disorder.

To a degree which is difficult to determine, the esoteric impulse in twentieth-century music, literature and the arts reflects calculation. It looks to the flattery of academic and hermeneutic notice. Reciprocally, the academy turns towards that which appears to require its exegetic, cryptographic skills.

A canon is a guarded catalogue of that speech, music and art which houses inside us, which is irrevocably familiar to our homecomings. And this will include, if honestly arrived at and declared (even if solely to oneself), all manner of ephemera, trivial, and possibly mendacious matter… No manor woman need justify his personal anthology, his canonic welcomes. Love does not argue its necessities.

A chess genius is a human being who focuses vast, little-understood mental gifts and labors on an ultimately trivial human enterprise.

There would be no history as we know it, no religion, no metaphysics or aesthetics as we have lived them, without an initial act of trust, of confiding, more fundamental, more axiomatic by far than any “social contract” or covenant with the postulate of the divine. This instauration of trust, this entrance of man into the city of man, is that between word and world.

There would be no history as we know it, no religion, no metaphysics or aesthetics as we have lived them, without an initial act of trust, of confiding, more fundamental, more axiomatic by far than any “social contract” or covenant with the postulate of the divine. This instauration of trust, this entrance of man into the city of man, is that between word and world

Books - the best antidote against the marsh-gas of boredom and vacuity.

The fantastically wasteful prodigality of human tongues, the Babel enigman, points to a vital multiplication of mortal liberties. Each language speaks the world in its own ways. Each edifies worlds and counter-worlds in its own mode. The polyglot is a freer man.

The inception of human consciousness, the genesis of awareness, must have entailed prolonged 'condensations' around intractable nodes of wonder and terror, at the discriminations to be made between the self and the other, between being and non-being (the discovery of the scandal of death).

There is something terribly wrong with a culture inebriated by noise and gregariousness.

The ordinary man casts a shadow in a way we do not quite understand. The man of genius casts light.

The age of the book is almost gone.

Men are accomplices to that which leaves them indifferent.

Language can only deal meaningfully with a special, restricted segment of reality. The rest, and it is presumably the much larger part, is silence.

Music has always had its own syntax, its own vocabulary and symbolic means. Indeed, it is with mathematics the principal language of the mind when the mind is in a condition of non-verbal feeling.

Author Picture
First Name
George
Last Name
Steiner, fully Francis George Steiner
Birth Date
1929
Bio

European-born American Literary Critic, Essayist, Philosopher, Novelist and Translator