When it was published in 1968, a year noted for historic student protests on campuses across the country, The American University spoke in Jacques Barzun's characteristically wise and lucid voice about what colleges and universities were really meant to do—and how they actually worked. Drawing on a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishment as a teacher, administrator, and scholar, Barzun here describes the immense demands placed on the university by its competing constituencies—students, faculty, administrators, alumni, trustees, and the political world around it all.
"American higher education is fortunate to have had a scholar and intellectual of Jacques Barzun's stature give so many years of service to the daily bread-and-butter details of running a great university and then share his reflections with us in a literate, humane, and engaging book."—Charles Donovan, America
In this powerful, eloquent, and timely book, Jacques Barzun offers guidance for resolving the crisis in America's schools and colleges. Drawing on a lifetime of distinguished teaching, he issues a clear call to action for improving what goes on in America's classrooms. The result is an extraordinarily fresh, sensible, and practical program for better schools.
"It is difficult to imagine a more pungent, perceptive or eloquent commentary on contemporary American education than this collection of 15 pieces by Jacques Barzun."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World
"Mr. Barzun's style is elegant, distinctive, philosophically consistent and much better-humored than that of many contemporary invective-hurlers."—David Alexander, New York Times Book Review
In this abridgment of his monumental study, Berlioz and the Romantic Century, Jacques Barzun recounts the events and extraordinary achievements of the great composer's life against the background of the romantic era. As the author eloquently demonstrates, Berloiz was an archetype whose destiny was the story of an age, the incarnation of an artistic style and a historical spirit. "In order to understand the nineteenth century, it is essential to understand Berlioz," notes W. H. Auden, "and in order to understand Berlioz, it is essential to read Professor Barzun."
This collection of writings allows the reader a rare opportunity to see Barzun's lively, engaging, rich, and original mind at work on several strategic areas of cultural inquiry: music and the musical life, esthetics, biography, criticism, and social commentary. Barzun makes use of a variety of contexts as a forum for evidence and opinion, including essays, program notes, letters, and reviews. And he approaches a wide variety of particular and general questions. What is it like to sit in on a recording session with a great orchestra? What is the role of the piano in Western culture? What is art in relation to objective reality and to the perceiving mind? Can one translate music into words? What is cultural history?
For anyone unfamiliar with Barzun's work, Critical Questions will serve as a valuable introduction to one of the most important cultural historians of our time. Others will be glad to have these pieces—most of them no longer easily available—brought together in a single volume. Uniformly insightful, provocative, and a pleasure to read, they show the consistency of Barzun's thought even as they exhibit diversity.
Evenings with the Orchestra
Hector Berlioz University of Chicago Press, 1999 Library of Congress ML410.B5A533 1999 | Dewey Decimal 780.94436109034
During the performances of fashionable operas in an unidentified but "civilized" town in northern Europe, the musicians (with the exception of the conscientious bass drummer) tell tales, read stories, and exchange gossip to relieve the tedium of the bad music they are paid to perform. In this delightful and now classic narrative written by the brilliant composer and critic Hector Berlioz, we are privy to twenty-five highly entertaining evenings with a fascinating group of distracted performers. As we near the two-hundredth anniversary of Berlioz's birth, Jacques Barzun's pitch-perfect translation of Evenings with the Orchestra —with a new foreword by Berlioz scholar Peter Bloom—testifies to the enduring pleasure found in this most witty and amusing book.
"[F]ull of knowledge, penetration, good sense, individual wit, stock humor, justifiable exasperation, understanding exaggeration, emotion and rhetoric of every kind."—Randall Jarrell, New York Times Book Review
"To succeed in [writing these tales], as Berlioz most brilliantly does, requires a combination of qualities which is very rare, the many-faceted curiosity of the dramatist with the aggressively personal vision of the lyric poet."—W. H. Auden, The Griffin
In Simple & Direct, Jacques Barzun, celebrated author and educator, distills from a lifetime of writing and teaching his thoughts about the craft of writing. In chapters on diction, syntax, tone, meaning, composition, and revision, Barzun describes and prescribes the techniques to correct even the most ponderous style. Exercises, model passages — both literary and unorthodox — and hundreds of often amusing examples of usage gone wrong demonstrate the process of making intelligent choices and guide us toward developing strong and distinctive prose.
With this book, Jacques Barzun pays what he describes as an "intellectual debt" to William James—psychologist, philosopher, and, for Barzun, guide and mentor. Commenting on James's life, thought, and legacy, Barzun leaves us with a wise and civilized distillation of the great thinker's work.