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By Stefan Collini

A richly textured paintings of background and a strong contribution to modern cultural debate, Absent Minds presents the 1st full-length account of "he query of intellectuals" n twentieth-century Britain--have such figures ever existed, have they regularly been extra trendy or influential somewhere else, and are they on the brink of changing into extinct at the present time?

Recovering ignored or misunderstood traditions of mirrored image and debate from the overdue 19th century via to the current, Stefan Collini demanding situations the widely used cliché that there are not any "real" intellectuals in Britain. The publication bargains a persuasive research of the idea that of 'the highbrow' and an intensive comparative account of the way this query has been visible within the united states, France, and in different places in Europe. There are distinct discussions of influential or revealing figures resembling Julien Benda, T. S. Eliot, George Orwell, and Edward acknowledged, in addition to trenchant opinions of present assumptions concerning the impression of specialization and famous person. all through, awareness is paid to the a number of senses of the time period "intellectuals" and to the good variety of proper genres and media wherein they've got communicated their principles, from pamphlets and periodical essays to public lectures and radio talks.

Elegantly written and carefully argued, Absent Minds is an incredible, long-awaited paintings through a number one highbrow historian and cultural commentator, ranging around the traditional divides among educational disciplines and mixing insightful photos of people with sharp-edged cultural analysis.

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When, late in her life, Virginia Woolf was once again trying The History of a Word 35 to take the measure of her father and of her distance from him, she observed that ‘he was the very type, or mould, of so many Cambridge intellectuals’. She, of course, had reason to mark her own exclusion from this group, as she memorably recorded in A Room of One’s Own. ’⁶⁸ By the 1930s the label was used with particular frequency to denote any slightly suspect group, such as ‘Bloomsbury’, who were thought to be self-consciously rationalist, progressive, and emancipated.

The association with Socialism no doubt also encouraged that anyway powerful tendency in British attitudes which assumed 32 The Terms of the Question that ‘doctrinaire’ (again, the foreign word for the foreign thing) positions in politics were exclusively the property of the Left. ’⁵⁶ In domestic political debate, ‘Left-wing intellectuals’ had a familiar cadence to it, while ‘Right-wing intellectuals’ was only later to emerge from the ghetto of Marxist usage. But this is to anticipate. For, during the first couple of decades of the century, these various usages not only coexisted, but in each case they retained an air of experimenting with or alluding to a linguistic exotic.

This fact, a social fact of considerable interest in itself, by no means implies that the term now bears a single unambiguous sense: it remains true, as I have already insisted, that the layers of meaning and association deposited by the earlier evolution of the word are still available in certain contexts.

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