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PREFACE to MAN & HIS MEASURE

A Thematic Anthology edited by Francis Connolly                                                                     

THE AIM of this book is to offer some representative writings that, taken individually, will provide genuine enjoyment and, taken together, will direct the reader's attention to the perennial questions: What is man?  What is his measure?  This aim presupposes that literary achievement consists in good part of an imaginative realization of what these questions imply.  It presupposes, too, that the surest way to excite interest in literary technique and scholarship is to exhibit the permanent concern of literature for man's permanent questions.

The design of this anthology is thematic.  The theme is "man and his measure." Part One, 'What Is Man?" shows how literature, in various forms (drama, essay, short story, and poem) and in its full range from the classical period to the present, explores the question: What does it mean to be a man?  The selections in "The Beginning of Awareness," demonstrate that man is intellectually aware; he sees, feels, thinks, and responds to his experiences.  The selections in "The Heroic Image," show how this awareness gives rise to aspiration: man hopes to achieve his full human destiny, and thus he models himself according to various heroic, or anti-heroic, patterns.  Some inevitable consequences of his aspirations are defeat, fear, and suffering.  The tragic experiences from which he may derive a purer sense of his selfhood and of his common humanity are described in the selections in "The Tragic Experience."

In Part One, then, the reader may trace man's development as it is reflected in and through literature from an initial awareness of experience and language to an awareness of his own awareness--that is, to a fuller consciousness of his many powers of sensation, feeling, thought, and expression.  Man is aware, man hopes and aspires.  Man weeps, he laughs, he reflects upon, and words his experiences.  But this paradigm hardly exhausts the mystery of man.  Nor does it supply the measure according to which we may estimate the value of his experiences.

In Part Two, "What Is Man's Measure?" focuses on literature that embodies a "morality of aspiration," that searches for measures of intellectual excellence, moral integrity, and happiness.  'The Measure of Justice," records man's struggle to be just in his relations with society, with the state, with governments, with his fellow man, and, above all, with his own conscience. 

Some who use this book will want to stress the relevance of literature to human needs; still others the importance of understanding that literature as a whole is a continuous dialogue between past and present.

   A central purpose of Man and His Measure is to challenge the student to think in a personal way about the most important problems of human existence, to provide a context within which be can develop his thoughts, and, above all, to encourage him to write, and thus to enter, however modestly, into that continuous civilized conversation we call humane literature. The key word here is search.  Search implies that we approach literature with questions like Who am I?  Who ought I to become?  What do I know?  What ought I to know?  It may be that many readers will find some of the answers they seek.  It is certain, however, that all readers will discover that seeking is finding, especially when their seeking advances in depth and perspective.  To ask questions is to foreshadow answers.  For we cannot seek, we cannot question without first possessing, however obscurely, some intuition into the meanings that are both the incentives and the goals of our study.

                                                                                                                  FRANCIS CONNOLLY

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