A Review of Catharine Savage Brosman, Southwestern Women Writers and the Vision of Goodness, McFarland Press, 2016.
The term “man of letters” has fallen largely into desuetude over the last few decades, and for good reason. Very few such entities exist nowadays on the literary landscape either in this country or elsewhere. One is more apt to come across a spotted owl or a selfless politician than he is a genuine man of letters. When the term is applied, it is misused to mean merely someone who writes novels or poems or plays or perhaps creative non-fiction or criticism. A man of letters, however, holds a greater responsibility than just that to his own literary vocation. Part of his “job,” so to speak, is to uphold certain standards not only of literary production but of civilization in general – its manners, customs, and morals. He is entrusted with certain ideals of thought and behavior that might otherwise be lost if not preserved in his fiction or verse.
Thus his scarcity.
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