The End of Solitude - The Chronicle Review
What does the contemporary self want? The camera has created a culture of celebrity; the computer is creating a culture of connectivity. As the two technologies converge — broadband tipping the Web from text to image, social-networking sites spreading the mesh of interconnection ever wider — the two cultures betray a common impulse. So we live exclusively in relation to others, and what disappears from our lives is solitude. I once asked my students about the place that solitude has in their lives. To that remarkable question, history offers a number of answers. Like other religious values, solitude was democratized by the Reformation and secularized by Romanticism. But it is with Romanticism that solitude achieved its greatest cultural salience, becoming both literal and literary. Modernism decoupled this dialectic. The Romantic ideal of solitude developed in part as a reaction to the emergence of the modern city. As a result, we are losing both sides of the Romantic dialectic.
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