Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

is Albert Guérard-Professor of Literature in the Departments of Comparative Literature, French and Italian, and (by courtesy) Spanish and Portuguese at Stanford University.


You OK?

A letter to Riga from the San Francisco Bay

For a European academic in California, the ubiquitous question “You ok?” typifies self-help culture in which everybody becomes a therapist in need of a patient. Activities that ought to be sheer pleasure, like wine drinking or sex, become opportunities for nursing, while an event such as the timely death of a relative becomes a tragedy. But is the critical spirit of the European tradition not the reverse side of the same desire to take care of other people’s lives, “The surgical mode of the nursing complex”, as the letter-writer puts it?

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