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Aericans--and particularly New Englanders.--have lived under an ethical framework which is much too big for them, Thornton Wilder said last night before an overflow crowd in the New Lecture Hall. His talk entitled. "Thoreau or the Bean-Row in the Wilderness," was the second in this year's Charles Eliot Norton lectures.
Using Thoreau as a reallocation of the American spirit rather than as a literary personality, Wilder discussed the price that an artist and a people have to pay for idealism. Just as insecurity is the price of liberty so despair, Wilder said, is the price of idealism.
Wilder contended that Americans were on the point of conquering their "cultural wilderness" in the middle of the 19th century, a reconciliation of metaphysics with reality. This reconciliation never came about because of the upsurge of the Industrial Revolution.
"You and I," said Wilder, "have since then been living ad hoe, improvising as we go."
The lack of a codification of ideals and reality has lent an air of abstraction to the American way of life, Wilder stated. Home is no more than a state of mind to the average American, who is always on the move. "Very un-European," he commented.
Wilder's next lecture in the series will be entitled: "Emily Dickinson or the Anticipate Inarticulate." The final talk, to be given on December 6, will be on "Walt Whitman and the American Loneliness."
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