Existential America (7): Highway 61 revisited

When I first read George Cotkin’s Existential America several years ago, I came across this review:

T. H. Adamowski, “Out on Highway 61: Existentialism in America,” University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 74, Number 4, Fall 2005, pp. 913-933.

From this link you can download a PDF of the full text.

The reviewer is obviously highly informed about literature. His political, philosophical, and even literary judgments fail to impress me more often than not, but one can learn a lot about Cotkin’s book and much else from this review. There is a superficial glitz to Adamowski’s analysis that smacks of English Department Syndrome. For example, he doesn’t have a clue when it comes to engaging Cotkin’s take on Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and blues existentialism. There is no real understanding of the reactionary nature of Kierkegaard’s philosophy and its influence, or for that matter, of Heidegger’s. Teasing apart the conceptual structures of the various existentialisms and their relationships to various authors’ agendas is not the reviewer’s forté.