Spirals and Circles reexamines classicism and realism from a thematic perspective and offers a new view of two significant literary periods. It considers literary affinities and cross-cultural currents in a context that extends beyond the traditional definition of periods. By tracing primary themes related to human individuation, the study establishes that the representation of human relations and personal conduct displayed in attitudes toward the other, the stance toward the physical world and society, and perceptions of history are linked to configurations of approach and withdrawal, proximity and distance. The primary themes show recurring spatial alignments in the conception of social interaction that give rise to two distinct structures: the centrifugal pattern of classicism and the centripetal pattern of realism.
Spirals and Circles indicates a persistent dialectic between the two basic dispositions toward life. Classical thought postulates the freedom of the will and the possibility of individual perfectibility. The realistic view transfers the principle of mechanical causation governing phenomena in the physical world to the realm of human endeavor and social interaction. These thought structures persist in the Western cultural tradition as a dialogue that contributes to a process of clarification of thematic patterns.