Cover image for Infinite desire : a guide to modern guilt
Infinite desire : a guide to modern guilt
Oppenheimer, Paul, 1939-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Intelligent person's guide to modern guilt
First Madison Books edition.
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Madison Books, 2001.

Physical Description:
127 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: An intelligent person's guide to modern guilt. London : Duckworth, 1997.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BJ1471.5 .O66 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This unorthodox look at the modern obsession with guilt is the first to offer a variety of literary, philosophical, and psychological perspectives on contemporary guilt from such sources as Kafka, Dostoyevski, Maupassant, Shakespeare, Newton, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Byron, and Shelly.

Author Notes

Paul Oppenheimer, a widely published poet, short-story writer, journalist, and novelist, is professor of comparative medieval literature and English at the City College of the City University of New York and visiting professor of German at University College, London.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a rather pedestrian manner, poet and novelist Oppenheimer (who also teaches medieval literature and English at CCNY) examines the prevalence of guilt in a society that is largely irreligious. Once upon a time, he argues, Western culture, founded largely on the myths of original sin and the Fall, conveniently described guilt as the result of sinning against God. Such a view of guilt entered history through AugustineÄwho repressed his own lustful childhood in his Confessions with idealized versions of sin and salvationÄand held sway in the West until the 19th century. By that century's end, Nietzsche had condemned the Christian religion for enslaving its followers through a doctrine of guilt that weakened them and robbed them of their will to power. In addition, Hegel and Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, while Feuerbach, Marx and Freud declared that God was simply a projection of humankind. The 20th century opens, according to Oppenheimer, on a moral wasteland bereft of GodÄand yet, he notes, the guilt remains. Writers as diverse as Kafka, Dostoyevski, T.S. Eliot and Maupassant, he says, express lucidly the anguish and despair of the modern conscience when it lacks the contours and context to define its inchoate guilt. As the 21st century unfolds, guilt lingers on and begins to take a new shape. Oppenheimer contends that our unending material desire provides the foundation for our current guilt. Oppenheimer's slim study purports to show the superficial and shallow character of contemporary moral consciousness, but his thesis about material desire differs little from Augustine's notion that concupiscence, or sexual desire, is the root of all guilt. This complex subject requires a more extensive examination than the lightweight treatment Oppenheimer gives it. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 7
I. What is Modern Guilt?p. 9
1. The Secular Outlawp. 9
2. The Religious Terroristp. 23
3. Modern Laws and the Love of Guiltp. 36
II. The History of Guiltp. 47
1. Guilt as a Divine Giftp. 47
2. Judeo-Christian Divergencesp. 56
3. Psychology and Guiltp. 64
III. The Rebellions against Guiltp. 71
1. Guilt as Oppressionp. 71
2. Hamlet and the New Injusticep. 80
IV. The Source of Modern Guiltp. 89
1. Desire, Infinity and Guiltp. 89
2. The Unappeasable Godp. 108
Select Bibliographyp. 121
Indexp. 123