Eratosthenian averages, by Aurel Wintner

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By Aurel Wintner

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They hesitate, confused and vacillating in their opinions, unfocused to discontinuous in their actions. . "15 Noted British anti-Freudian psychoanalyst R. D. Laing offered an even more radical view of social repression and societal transformation, one that was especially appealing to writers and social thinkers of the '60s and '70s. Influential in shaping the deep current of contemporary dissatisfaction with external authority, his works (The Politics of Experience [1967] and The Divided Self [1969]) proposed that the distinction between conformity and nonconformity, sanity and insanity, madness and insight, was not always very clear.

T. A. " 1 The contemporary American novelist, however, uses the familiar motif of madness in an unfamiliar way: not just to convey the result of an unnerving, disquieting, even infuriating reality, but also to comment on its hypocrisies. Symbolizing modern man's alienation from the goals of a mechanized society which deemphasizes humanisticand humanevalues, madness seems, especially in fiction, to be an effective method of challenging the social order. Out of step with the absurd world around them, "mad" protagonists typically withdraw from society as they struggle to internalize issues of family, culture, and history and ultimately return (though somewhat circuitously) to effect some kind of social amelioration,2 a process that is a variation of the monomythic pattern of departure-initiation-return described by Joseph Campbell.

4 The discovery of the concentration camps and the realization of the atrocities that had been committed there only added to a growing sense of disconnection. Beyond logic and imagination, the total dehumanization of individuals by the SS machine paralleled the inhumane technology that created the war and became itself a symbol of the plight of modern man overwhelmed by totalitarian forces. Not surprisingly, in fiction the Jewa modern victim compelled by history into existential self-definition, a definition that was not solely religious, political, or ethnicevolved into one of the types of the modern age.

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