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Critics like Andrew Potter have suggested that the trajectory of postwar American culture has thus been marked by a profound spiritual crisis, a frantic quest to replace the moral values of God and country with some other locus of absolute truth.

(from “Act Naturally: Pretentiousness, Coolness, and Culture” by Barrett Swanson in the August 15, 2016 issue of the Los Angeles Review of Books)

When I first read this I thought it was a run-on sentence. Since this sentence is from the LARB, however, I'm going to assume this is valid.

If I understand it right the stuff after the comma is related to spiritual crisis. If that is the case, shouldn't it be replaced by a semicolon to avoid a run on sentence?

If this is not a run on sentence, is there a name for this kind of sentence formation?

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    Your title is a run-on sentence. The LARB quote is not. A run on sentence has two independent clauses unlinked by conjunction or semicolon. Such clauses must have their own subjects and finite predicates. What's the subject and predicate of the "stuff" after the comma? Hint: frantic quest is an appositive for spiritual crisis. – deadrat Aug 23 '16 at 4:36
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    I agree with deadrat. In your example, the whole of the expression beginning "a frantic quest ..." is not an independent clause, but simply a noun phrase, an appositive modifier of the previous noun phrase ("a profound spiritual crisis"). So no run-on here. – BillJ Aug 23 '16 at 6:48
  • If you replace the comma with a semicolon, the second phrase would need to be a complete clause, with its own subject and predicate. It's just a noun phrase, with no predicate. – Barmar Aug 24 '16 at 21:43
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Critics like Andrew Potter have suggested that the trajectory of postwar American culture has thus been marked by a profound spiritual crisis, a frantic quest to replace the moral values of God and country with some other locus of absolute truth.

This is not a run-on sentence.

This is a Simple Sentence with a plural subject "Critics" and verb phrase "have suggested" and a direct object in the form of a noun clause followed by an appositive phrase.

This is the noun clause: that the trajectory of postwar American culture has thus been marked by a profound spiritual crisis.

The appositive phrase "a frantic quest to replace the moral values of God and country with some other locus of absolute truth" acts as a noun in identifying or describing the noun object in the prepositional phrase before it "crisis." The appositive is quest with all its complements and modifiers. Simply put, quest is identifying or describing crisis.

Fully diagrammed:

Critics / like Andrew Potter / have suggested / that / the trajectory / of postwar American culture / has been marked / thus / by a profound spiritual crisis / a frantic quest / to replace the moral values / of God and country / with some other locus / of absolute truth

Diagrammed partially with the subject in italic and verb in bold followed by the italicized noun clause followed by the bold appositive phrase:

Critics like Andrew Potter have suggested that the trajectory of postwar American culture has been marked thus by a profound spiritual crisis a frantic quest to replace the moral values of God and country with some other locus of absolute truth

Simple Sentence defined:

4g. Classified according to structure, there are four kinds of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

(1) A simple-sentence has one independent clause and no subordinate clauses. It has only one subject and one verb, although both may be compound.

John E. Warriner. Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition. Third Course. Liberty Edition. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich. 1986. 138.

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