Hawthorne, Simmel, and Skepticism

“A large number of passengers were already at the station-house awaiting the departure of the cars. By the aspect and demeanor of these persons it was easy to judge that the feelings of the community had undergone a very favorable change in reference to the celestial pilgrimage. It would have done Bunyan’s heart good to see it.”

Hedda Gabler and the specialist

The only way to manage the explosion of knowledge in 18th-19th centuries was through specialization. In premodern Europe, the amateur or “gentleman scholar” could be respected. A person of wide learning who studies for the pleasure it, not as a profession, would be much sought after in upper class society, which is the world Hedda Gabbler is accustomed to and wants to return to. When she can’t find it–and other characters’ desires start closing in on her–she shoots herself.

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