Complete Essays, 1939-1956, Volume 5 by Aldous Huxley, edited by Robert S. Baker commentary by James Sexton (Ivan R. Dee) Over his lifetime from 1894 to 1963, Aldous Huxley earned a reputation as one of the giants of modern English prose and of social commentary in our time. Best known for his novels, including Brave New World and Point Counter Point, Huxley was nonetheless very much at home in the essay form. Ranging from journalism to critical reviews to literary, political, cultural, and philosophical reflections, these essays stand among the finest examples of the genre in modern literature. They also provide absorbing commentary on contemporary currents and events.
In this fifth of six volumes, Huxley continues to explore the role of science and technology in modern culture, and seeks a final level of foundational truth that might provide the basis for his growing interest in religious mysticism. The essays of 1939 to 1956 also reflect the wide range of Huxley's interests in social institutions and practices throughout the war years and the immediate postwar period.
Huxley believed there was no real and enduring resolution of social conflict; but if there was to be an endpoint to secular history, he regarded his dystopian novel Brave New World as a closer approximation to the grim modalities of modern progress than Orwell's Nineteen Eighty‑four. He felt a growing, almost culpably exaggerated aversion for contemporary events. More than that, he followed Toynbee in his belief that history "is a matter of very long durations and large numbers"‑and as a consequence he had come to believe only in the local and particular, where "every individual simply finds himself where in fact he is‑here, not there; now, not then."
Despite these reservations, Huxley was eager to speculate about the nature and scale of modernity Increasingly he emphasized individual physiology and psychology in a way that fostered a view of public life and what he called "the circumambient culture" as inherently monstrous. His essays are crosshatched with the contending impulses of political criticism and a mystical religious philosophy founded on the complete abandonment of history and the personal ego.The vintage Huxley still reasserts himself in essays like "Faith, Taste, and History" or "Gesualdo." Witty, wide‑ranging, and informed, they testify to the survival of the 1920s intellectual and social satirist. But Huxley's interests have changed: art no longer enlarges the stock of available reality, the mind is not significantly creative. The watchword now is "alert passivity" and an openness to the "boundlessness and emptiness" of the Vedantist's notion of the Godhead.
Complete Essays, Volume 2 by Aldous Huxley, edited by Robert S. Baker and James Sexton (Ivan R. Dee) Over his lifetime from 1894 to 1963, Aldous Huxley earned a reputation as one of the giants of modern English prose and of social commentary in our time. Best known for his novels, including Brave New World and Point Counter Point, Huxley was nonetheless very much at home in the essay form. Ranging from journalism to critical reviews to literary, political, cultural, and philosophical reflections, these essays stand among the finest examples of the genre in modern literature. They also provide absorbing commentary on contemporary currents and events.
This second volume of a projected six of Aldous Huxley's Complete Essays spans the later years of the most productive period of Huxley's career. Continuing through the 1920s, it includes his controversial essays on India and the empire in Jesting Pilate. Compelled to what he called his "strenuous journalistic career" in order to support himself and his family, Huxley was nonetheless moved to engage his contemporaries in a critical dialogue, both intellectually wide ranging and politically candid. And the concepts, ideas, and values of his periodical publication spilled over into the topicality and discursive energy of his "novels of social history," such as Antic Hay and Point Counter Point.
Throughout, the essays in Volume II present nuanced assessments of art and architecture as well as political analyses, history, science, religion, and art. Casting a wide net, they are allusive, witty, and informed by the probing skepticism of a highly educated and ironically incisive member of the English upper middle class.
Huxley was conscious of an atmosphere of high modernism and of the generational conflict that colored the aftermath of the Great War, and he recognized that the world had changed in some profound and disturbing way His fascination with the codes and conventions of European culture, his growing apprehensions about the menacing collapse of the European political order, and his awareness of the impact of science and technology on the post‑Versailles world of England, France, Germany, and the United States form the basis for his critical sense.
As Robert S. Baker notes in his Introduction to this volume, "His engagement with science was as much the result of personal interest as it was a recognition of science's role in modern society. Inseparable from imperialism, from the war of 1914‑1918, from epistemology, even from the psychology he evolved in the essays and novels of the 1920s, it permeated his thinking on almost every subject In the essays of the 1930s his assessment of science and modernity would mature and, in the process, reveal a more complexly rendered vision of politics and social issues, just as what he called `our modern anarchy' would move in the direction of fascism and the greatest war of the twentieth century."
ROBERT S. BAKER is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of Brave New World: History, Science and Dystopia and The Dark Historic Page: Social Satire and Historicism in the Novels of Aldous Huxley.JAMES SEXTON teaches English at Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia, and has edited a collection of Huxley's Hearst essays.
Complete Essays: Volume III, 1930-1935 by Aldous Huxley, edited by Robert S. Baker, James Sexton (Ivan R. Dee) Huxley is a barometer of his times. “The scientific specialist uses words artificially fabricated from Greek roots.... The sailor's technical terms have grown up with the language and seem to palpitate with its strong and ancient life," writes Aldous Huxley in "Words, Words, Words," a brief essay on linguistic pleasures. His prodigious output ranges so far that he appears to touch on most significant topics in the Depression era that this Complete Essays: Volume III (of six planned volumes) is sure to gratify and infuriate readers in turns. The editors maintain a light touch, keeping their notes to a now and again memoriam. Huxley’s writings on the arts now seem relevant or quaint they still appeal. While some of his sociopolitical commentary will shock students today, e.g., "Miscegenation should be prevented, because there is evidence to show cross-breeding between individuals of widely different race is biologically unsound." Such thoughts, if tolerated, can open one to explorations of pre- WWII public attitudes.
Complete Essays: Volume IV, 1936-1938 by Aldous Huxley, edited by Robert S. Baker, James Sexton (Ivan R. Dee) Over his lifetime from 1894 to 1963, Aldous Huxley earned a reputation as one of the giants of modern English prose and of social commentary in our time. Best known for his novels, including Brave New World and Point Counter Point, Huxley was nonetheless very much at home in the essay form. Ranging from journalism to critical reviews to literary, political, cultural, and philosophical reflections, these essays stand among the finest examples of the genre in modern literature. They also provide absorbing commentary on contemporary currents and events.
In this fourth of six volumes, Huxley registers his deep misgivings about the course of history in the late 1930s as the world moved toward a second global war. Many of his essays reflect his continuing interest in the conventions of popular culture as well as the philosophy of science and history, particularly as they inform developments in art and politics. But his larger concerns oscillate between empirical science and the particulars of social history, on the one hand, and his need for a grounding of absolute truth that would transcend both. Disdaining theories of history that claimed to locate its meaning in some overarching design or pattern, he dismissed them as narrative fictions. History, he argued, was an undulating movement of contingencies; there existed no teleological goal or immanent meaning beyond the mysterious and shifting motivations of individual human beings.Huxley's critique of politics and the prevailing ideologies of fascism and capitalism overlaps with his attempt to locate a foundational truth in a world of change and diversity He embraced a form of political pacifism that intersected with an increasing attraction to religious quietism and mysticism. And he made a sustained effort to reconcile mystical experience with contemporary theories of physics and the philosophy of science. "Scientific investigation," he wrote, "has shown that the world is a diversity underlain by an identity of physical substance; the mystical experience testifies to the existence of a spiritual unity underlying the diversity of separate consciousnesses." Even where science was concerned, contemporary physics had revealed a world so strange, unpredictable, and irrational that it left room for violations of causality, for indeterminacy, contingency, and relativity--there were no axioms.
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