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Lionel Trilling Quotes

Being a Jew is like walking in the wind or swimming: you are touched at all points and conscious everywhere.

Every neurosis is a primitive form of legal proceeding in which the accused carries on the prosecution, imposes judgment and executes the sentence: all to the end that someone else should not perform the same process.

Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.

It is now life and not art that requires the willing suspension of disbelief.

It is possible that the contemplation of cruelty will not make us humane but cruel; that the reiteration of the badness of our spiritual condition will make us consent to it.

Our culture peculiarly honors the act of blaming, which it takes as the sign of virtue and intellect.

Probably it is impossible for humor to be ever a revolutionary weapon. Candide can do little more than generate irony.

The function of literature, through all its mutations, has been to make us aware of the particularity of selves, and the high authority of the self in its quarrel with its society and its culture. Literature is in that sense subversive.

The immature artist imitates. Mature artists steal.

The poet is in command of his fantasy, while it is exactly the mark of the neurotic that he is possessed by his fantasy.

The poet may be used as a barometer, but let us not forget that he is also part of the weather.

There is no connection between the political ideas of our educated class and the deep places of the imagination.

This is the great vice of academicism, that it is concerned with ideas rather than with thinking.

We are all ill: but even a universal sickness implies an idea of health.

We are at heart so profoundly anarchistic that the only form of state we can imagine living in is Utopian; and so cynical that the only Utopia we can believe in is authoritarian.

We who are liberal and progressive know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us.

What marks the artist is his power to shape the material of pain we all have.

Where misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood.

Youth is a time when we find the books we give up but do not get over.