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Sincerity

How a moral ideal born five hundred years ago inspired religious wars, modern art, hipster chic, and the curious notion that we all have something to say (no matter how dull)

R. Jay Magill, Jr. (Author)

 

A cultural and intellectual history of sincerity, from its emergence during the Protestant Reformation to its present incarnations and adversaries.

People have long been duped by “straight-talking” politicians, confessional talk-show hosts, and fake-earnest advertisers. As sincerity has become suspect, the upright and honest have taken refuge in irony. Yet our struggle for authenticity in back-to-the-woods movements, folksy songwriting, and a craving for plainspoken presidential candidates betrays our longing for the holy grail of sincerity.

Bringing deep historical perspective and a brilliant contemporary spin to Lionel Trilling’s 1972 Sincerity and Authenticity, R. Jay Magill Jr. argues that we can’t shake sincerity’s deep theological past, emotional resonance, and the sense of conscience it has carved in the Western soul. From Protestant theology to paintings by crazy people, from French satire to the anti-hipster movement, Magill navigates history, religion, art, and politics to create a portrait of an ideal that, despite its abuse, remains a strange magnetic north in our secular moral compass.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • July 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-393-08098-8
  • 5.9 × 8.6 in / 272 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverSincerity: How a moral ideal born five hundred years ago inspired religious wars, modern art, hipster chic, and the curious notion that we all have something to say (no matter how dull)

    Paperback

Endorsements & Reviews

Sincerity is a serious and engaging cultural history painted on an admirably large canvas, yet Magill is careful not to take himself too seriously, as evidenced in his snarky asides and chatty footnotes. He wraps up on an eminently reasonable note: society needs both sincerity and insincerity. You can’t go too far in either direction: neither the frothy superficiality of court society nor the deadly purposefulness of the French Revolution. Who can argue with that?” — Laura Kipnis, New York Times Book Review