Richard Rorty (1931–) from “On The Inspirational Value of Great Works of Literature,” Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (1998)

  • Lee Morrissey


The self-protective project described in this familiar Horatian tag is exemplified by one strain of thought in Fredric Jameson’s influential Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. In one of the most depressing passages of that profoundly antiromantic book, Jameson says that “the end of the bourgeois ego, or monad, ... means ... the end ... of style, in the sense of the unique and the personal, the end of the distinctive individual brush stroke.”1 Later he says that

if the poststructuralist motif of the “death of the subject” means anything socially, it signals the end of the entrepreneurial and inner-directed individualism with its “charisma” and its accompanying categorial panoply of quaint romantic values such as that of the “genius” ... Our social order is richer in information and more literate ... This new order no longer needs prophets and seers of the high modernist and charismatic type, whether among its cultural products or its politicians. Such figures no longer hold any charm or magic for the subjects of a corporate, collectivized, postindividualistic age; in that case, goodbye to them without regret, as Brecht might have put it: woe to the country that needs geniuses, prophets, Great Writers, or demiurges!2


Great Work Philosophy Department Canonical Status Eternal Truth Cultural Logic 
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  1. 1.
    Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), p. 15.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Dorothy Allison, “Believing in Literature,” in Allison, Skin: Talking about Sex, Class, and Literature (Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1994), p. 181.Google Scholar

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© Lee Morrissey 2005

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  • Lee Morrissey

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