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Renewing the Left: Politics, Imagination, and the New York Intellectuals

Teres, Harvey M.

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ISBN 10: 0195078020 / ISBN 13: 9780195078022
Published by Oxford University Press
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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0195078020 Oxford Univ Press hardcover w/dust jacket, 1996, 1st edition, clean/tight, No marks/tears or defects.Fine/Fine (like new).New mylar cover, bubble-wrapped and mailed in a Box w/delivery confirmation. Bookseller Inventory # 55809T

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Title: Renewing the Left: Politics, Imagination, ...

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

About this title


Never have the New York intellectuals received a full-scale, critical history. Now Harvey M. Teres brings to life this vibrant world from the 1930s to the present, drawing pointed lessons for progressive politics today. From Morris Dickstein to Norman Podhoretz, from Irving Howe to Jack Kerouac (whose protagonist in On the Road, Sal Paradise, flees "the tedious intellectualness" of the city), writers of all varieties have blossomed under or strained against New York's left-wing intellectual culture. Teres is the first to bring scrutiny to this hothouse of intellectual controversy.
In Renewing the Left, Teres illuminates the work and legacy of New York's leading intellectuals, beginning with the founding of the influential Partisan Review before World War II. He first looks at William Phillips and Philip Rahv, the founders and chief editors of the Review, and shows how they laid the groundwork for a revitalized Marxist criticism, one that rejected the dogmatism of the Communist Party, stressing instead the freedom of the intellectual and the importance of literary criticism. In so doing, they transformed radical left-wing criticism into a new approach to literary texts and culture, appropriating much of the early criticism of T.S. Eliot. Teres carries the discussion from the late 1930s through the 1940s, as such critics as Rahv, Lionel Trilling, and F.W. Dupee absorbed modernism to renew the American left on both cultural and political fronts. From poet Wallace Stevens to critic Dwight Macdonald, New York intellectuals led an almost prescient critique of doctrinaire Marxism, stressing the essential role of the imagination. But Renewing the Left is no paean to radical champions of the past: Teres explores the inability of these critics to keep up with changes in popular culture. New York radical circles, moreover, failed to recognize postwar writing by women and African Americans, and they launched defensive attacks on the Beats and the counterculture of the 1960s. The author also offers a revealing look at the strengths and weaknesses of New Yorkers' hostile reception of postmodernism--a term they themselves invented. He winds up with a challenging new assessment of Lionel Trilling, often considered a conservative critic, who strove nonetheless to humanize radical politics.
New York intellectuals have transformed progressive politics and American culture in general--though they have often been depoliticized by their conservative admirers. In this seminal work, Teres returns these writers and critics to their radical context, drawing lessons on the role intellectuals can play in renewing the leftist movement. Renewing the Left is both a scholar's scrutiny of history and a radical's call to action.


In this lively look at New York's radical culture from the 1930s to the 1960s, literary historian Teres hauls up the sort of arcana of which Woody Allen dialogs are made: in-jokes about Lionel Trilling and Norman Podhoretz, learned asides on Ezra Pound and Dwight MacDonald. Teres focuses on the founding of Partisan Review, a journal that, said editor Trilling, would forge "a new union between our political ideas and our imagination." Some of its leading exponents would drift rightward in politics during the Cold War, but Teres notes that the New York intellectuals were ahead of their time in realizing that it was possible to criticize Marxism without betraying the workers of the world.

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