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Lionel Trilling (1905 – 1975)


American literary critic, author and educator.
Lionel Trilling
After all, no one is ever taken in by the happy ending, but we are often divinely fuddled by the tragic curtain.
Trilling quotes
Somewhere in the child, somewhere in the adult, there is a hard, irreducible, stubborn core of biological urgency, and biological necessity, and biological reason that culture cannot reach and that reserves the right, which sooner or later it will exercise, to judge the culture and resist and revise it.
Trilling
There is no connection between the political ideas of our educated class and the deep places of the imagination.




Trilling Lionel quotes
It is one thing, then, to say, "The Bible contains the religion revealed by God," and quite another to say, "Whatever is contained in the Bible is religion, and was revealed by God." If the latter be accepted, metaphor and allegory become literal statements and the errors and absurdities of bibliolatry follow.
Trilling Lionel
Economic man and the Calvinist Christian sing to each other like voices in a fugue. The Calvinist stands alone before an almost merciless God; no human agency can help him; his church is a means to political and social organization rather than a bridge to deity, for no priest can have greater knowledge of the divine way than he himself; no friend can console him in fact, he should distrust all men; in the same fashion, Economic Man faces a merciless world alone and unaided, his hand against every other's.
Lionel Trilling quotes
We are at heart so profoundly anarchistic that the only form of state we can imagine living in is Utopian; and so cynical that the only Utopia we can believe in is authoritarian.
Lionel Trilling
Our culture peculiarly honors the act of blaming, which it takes as the sign of virtue and intellect.
Trilling Lionel quotes
Even the nonreligious may exercise aesthetic judgment in matters of religion, and indeed our age has given the unbelieving a sophisticated taste in religious literature.
Trilling
Arnold must have for us the something of the character of what we nowadays have taken to calling a "culture hero": that is, a man who gives himself in full submission and sacrifice to his historical moment in order to comprehend and control the elements which that moment brings.
Trilling Lionel
At the bottom of at least popular Marxism there has always been a kind of disgust with humanity as it is and a perfect faith in humanity as it is to be.
Lionel Trilling
The poet is in command of his fantasy, while it is exactly the mark of the neurotic that he is possessed by his fantasy.




Lionel Trilling quotes
The aspects of society that humanism most exalts are justice and continuity. That is why humanism is always being presented with a contradiction. For when it speaks of justice it holds that the human condition is absolute; yet when it speaks of continuity it implies that society is not absolute but pragmatic and even anomalous. Its intelligence dictates the removal of all that is anomalous; yet its ideal of social continuity is validated by by its perception that the effort to destroy anomaly out of hand will probably bring new and even worse anomalies, the nature of man being what it is. "Let justice be done though the heavens fall" is balanced by awareness that after the heavens fall justice will not ever be done again.
Lionel Trilling
If one defends the bourgeois, philistine virtues, one does not defend them merely from the demonism or bohemianism of the artist but from the present bourgeoisie itself.
Trilling quotes
We have all in some degree become anarchistic.
Trilling Lionel
Freud ... showed us that poetry is indigenous to the very constitution of the mind; he saw the mind as being, in the greater part of its tendency, exactly a poetry-making faculty.
Trilling Lionel quotes
The definitions of humanism are many, but let us here take it to be the attitude of those men who think it an advantage to live in society, and, at that, in a complex and highly developed society, and who believe that man fulfills his nature and reaches his proper stature in this circumstance. The personal virtues which humanism cherishes are intelligence, amenity, and tolerance; the particular courage it asks for is that which is exercised in the support of these virtues. The qualities of intelligence which it chiefly prizes are modulation and flexibility.
Lionel Trilling
The doctrines of Calvinism involved a reversal of values with which Arnold became increasingly concerned. Work had always been a curse and a means, but it had now turned into a blessing and an end. The production of goods had become an end in itself and the consumption of goods only the means to further production. The factory was not made for man but man for the factory.
Lionel Trilling quotes
Disgust is expressed by violence, and it is to be noted of our intellectual temper that violence is a quality which is felt to have a peculiarly intellectual sanction. Our preference, even as articulated by those who are most mild in their persons, is increasingly for the absolute and extreme, of which we feel violence to be the true sign. The gentlest of us will know that the tigers of wrath are to be preferred to the horses of instruction and will consider it intellectual cowardice to take into account what happens to those who ride tigers.
Lionel Trilling
It is now life and not art that requires the willing suspension of disbelief.
Trilling Lionel
Everything which the economist takes from you in the way of life and humanity, he restores to you in the form of money and wealth.


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