Open University of the Left presents:
"Democracy" and Its Discontents: A Look at Henry Adams' Political
Writer/critic Hugh Iglarsh leads a session on Henry Adams' 1879
novel, "DEMOCRACY," an examination of the inner workings of the
political process in Gilded Age America. After a century and a
quarter, this tragicomic novel of ideas retains its bite. The
heroine, the young widow Mrs. Madeleine Lee, is the alter ego of
Henry Adams himself a detached and intelligent aristocrat bent
on understanding the forces shaping the modern age, yet fearful of
becoming entangled in the corruption and materialism just under the
surface of elite Washington society. Mrs. Lee is courted by the
powerful Senator Silas Ratcliffe, a kingmaker and likely future
president. Ratcliffe is one of the memorable characters in American
fiction, a shrewd, egotistic, yet compelling amoralist who embodies
the age of Grant and Jay Gould.
Witty, penetrating and profound, "DEMOCRACY" is a great read and a
valuable reminder that electoral shenanigans and corporate payola
have deep roots in American soil. In Adams' view, political
corruption is not an aberration; it is the fist within the glove of
our democratic institutions. Then as now, politicos and public
intellectuals need and use each other. "DEMOCRACY" is about the
seductions of power within a system that has lost its sense of shame
and confuses personal ambition with public good.
FROM THE NOVEL:
"With a sigh of despair Madeleine went on: `Who, then, is right?
How can we all be right? Half of our wise men declare that the world
is going straight to perdition; the other half that it is fast
becoming perfect. Both cannot be right. There is only one thing in
life,' she went on, laughing, `that I must and will have before I
die. I must know whether America is right or wrong. Just now this
question is a very practical one, for I really want to know whether
to believe in Mr. Ratcliffe. If I throw him overboard, everything
must go, for he is only a specimen.'"
WHEN & WHERE:
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 7:00 PM at ACME ART WORKS, 1741 N. WESTERN AVE.
(at St. Paul Street), Chicago, two blocks south of the Western stop
on the CTA Blue Line.
HUGH IGLARSH has led previous OUL sessions on Melville, Conrad and
the U.S. Constitution. He politely suggests that event attendees make
an effort to read the novel, which is short, painless and available
at libraries and used bookstores. If this is impossible, please come
anyway and enjoy the discussion.
$5 donation if you have it; no one turned away.
FOR MORE INFO:
or call 773-384-5797 if you have a
question or would like to lead an OUL session.
ABOUT THE OUL:
The Open University of the Left (OUL) is an independent forum founded
in 1987 to organize presentations and discussion groups about
politics, literature, philosophy, history and social theory. Events
are open to all regardless of political orientation.