Thursday, October 18, 2007

"From Romantic Fallacy to Holocaustic Imagination"

As the ARCHNblog's "Atlas Shrugged" 50th Anniversary critique-athon continues, we link to a perceptive essay by Thomas F. Bertonneau*, "Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged: From Romantic Fallacy to Holocaustic Imagination."

Bertonneau contends that Rand constitutes "both an early symptom of, and a major influence on," the universal vulgarization of 21st century culture. He also describes the book as "morally incoherent", but not in the way we have usually come to expect. He writes that "in her divulgence of the “altruist” mentality, Rand seems to me accurately to have gleaned much about late-twentieth century left-liberal piety, not least its addiction to righteous display. But, to use one of her own favorite terms, her narrative builds on a borrowed premise." Bertonneau argues that the hidden "borrowed premise" behind "Atlas Shrugged" is sacrifice. Here he is on what he calls Rand's cataclysme a clef; the Winston Tunnel scene:
"In earlier instances we have observed how Rand’s sacrificial imagination can betray itself by a stylistic discrepancy. So it is again with the Tunnel incident... (Rand writes):“It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet were not guilty or responsible for the thing that happened to them.”...Who are the unnamed “those” in Rand’s sentence who “would have said,” absent a hearing by the rules, that, no legitimate sentence could in the moment attach to the fated ones? We can name them as any readers who at this point in the narrative might feel uneasy about what Rand proposes momentarily to execute in her role as author, she who makes things happen. Note how the passive inflection, “happened,” in the sentence, as though the event could boast of no agent, dissimulates a great deal: primarily it would dissimulate the author herself, were she not,in the writing of the utterance, betraying her manipulative and determining presence. The luckless ones must be made out as guilty. Rand must demonstrate that the random passengers have sinned sufficiently to substitute for the known “looters...”

*We note that contrary to Randian cliche, Bertonneau is a member of The Center for Literate Values, which upholds the Western literary tradition, and his "Declining Standards at Michigan Public Institutions" apparently 'stirred the rancor of teacher's unions for daring to objectify our culture's progressive ignorance."

No comments: