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What William McFee calls the "Cheerleader in literature" can be heard far and wide. From the tradition encumbered New England littorals comes his rather subdued cry. A voice, more vociferous perhaps, but bearing the same message issues from the rude expanses of the West. In an article in the current issue of Harpers Mr. McFee decries this tendency to proclaim the supreme excellence of the new and sing only the praises of contemporary literature. This group turns with disdain from all outside the present decade and eulogizes the merits of strictly coeval writers, particularly those on the extreme left. They adhere solely to those authors who embrace all of the current fads and employ an abstruse symbolism to achieve reality. The chief virtue which literature may possess is newness. The new may be old tomorrow, but it is at least new today.
Then there is another, no less evident class who vouchsafe not a look to the present. For them there is no literature but that which has been written. The whole past is a golden age never to return. An author is regarded askance if he wrote with anything more modern than a goose-quill pen; literary modernity is literary heresy.
Universities incline toward the latter point of view. They are conservative in literature as in all things. But it is precisely this which, in acquiring a true literary taste, is the student's salvation. Coming into contact perforce with the more radical tendencies outside he receives a wholesome restraint in the classroom. He is there taught principally of the past and thus attains a balance. Two forces, external and academic, guide between the two extremes. The result is a sane, tolerant literary appreciation, loving the past but not eschewing the present.
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