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

Harvey M. Teres, Author
Harvey M. Teres, Author Oxford University Press, USA $30 (336p) ISBN 978-0-19-507802-2
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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In breaking with their socialism of the 1930s and moving toward the political center, Partisan Review founding editors Philip Rahv and William Phillips critiqued the American left for its axiomatic thinking, mechanical materialism and authoritarian tendencies-precisely the problems that beset the left today, suggests Teres. His combative, absorbing, scholarly essays throw off sparks in many directions. One piece gauges the relevance of the cultural battles of the 1940s-clashes between ""high"" versus ""low"" culture, between modernism and realism-skirmishes involving Van Wyck Brooks, Clement Greenberg, Dwight Macdonald. In another essay, Teres, associate professor of English at Syracuse, gives low marks to Norman Podhoretz, Leslie Fiedler, Irving Howe and Lionel Trilling for their inadequate response to the beats, the '60s counterculture and postmodernism. He also blames New York intellectuals for failing to embrace the full range of African American writing. Teres praises four women-Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Hardwick, Susan Sontag, Tess Slesinger-whose fiction and criticism exposed the left as profoundly patriarchal. (Mar.)
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