Lionel Trilling

Lionel Trilling

Lionel Trilling (born Lionel Mordechai [cite book
last = Wald
first = Alan M.
title = The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s
publisher = University of North Carolina Press
date = 1987
pages = p 33
id = ISBN 0807841692
id= ISBN 9780807841693
] 4 July 1905 – 5 November 1975) was an American literary critic, author, and teacher. Trilling was a member of the group known as 'The New York Intellectuals' and was a frequent contributor to the "Partisan Review". Although he never established a new school of literary criticism, he is viewed as one of the great literary critics of the twentieth century for his ability to trace the cultural, social, and political implications of the literature of his time.

Academic Life

Trilling was born in the New York City borough of Queens to a Jewish family. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1921 and entered Columbia University at the age of sixteen, beginning an association with the university that lasted for the rest of his life. He graduated in 1925 and received his M.A. in 1926. After teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at Hunter College, Trilling returned to Columbia to teach literature in 1932. He received his Ph.D. in 1938 with a dissertation on Matthew Arnold, which he later published. In 1939 he received a promotion to assistant professor, the first Jewish professor to receive tenure in the Department of English. In 1948, he became a full professor. In 1965, he became the George Edward Woodberry Professor of Literature and Criticism. He was a popular professor, and for 30 years he taught Columbia’s Colloquium on Important Books with Jacques Barzun, a well-regarded course on the relationship between literature and cultural history. Early students included Norman Podhoretz, Jack Keroac, Allen Ginsberg, and John Hollander. Later students included Louis Menand.

'The New York Intellectuals' and the "Partisan Review"

In 1937, Trilling joined the staff of the recently revived "Partisan Review", a Marxist but anti-Stalinist journal founded in 1934 by William Philips and Philip Rahv. [Longstaff, S. A. “New York Intellectuals”, "Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism".] The magazine was closely associated with a group known as the New York Intellectuals, which included Trilling and his wife, Diana Trilling, as well as Alfred Kazin, Delmore Schwartz, William Phillips, Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy, F. W. Dupee, Paul Goodman, Lionel Abel. The group was later joined by Irving Howe, Saul Bellow, Leslie Fiedler, Elizabeth Hardwick, Richard Chase, William Barrett, Daniel Bell, Hannah Arendt, Isaac Rosenfeld, Susan Sontag, Stephen Marcus, Norman Podhoretz, and Hilton Kramer. Emphasizing the historical and cultural influence on authors and literature, they distanced themselves from the New Critics and focused on the social and political ramifications of the literature they discussed. They were also concerned with the future of New York’s intellectual middle class. In his "Preface" to his 1965 collection of essays "Beyond Culture", Trilling defends the group, saying, “As a group it is busy and vivacious about ideas and, even more, about attitudes. Its assiduity constitutes an authority. The structure of our society is such that a class of this kind is bound by organic filaments to groups less culturally fluent which are susceptible to its influence.”

Critical and Literary Works

Although Trilling wrote one well-received novel, "The Middle of the Journey" (1947), about an affluent Communist couple's encounter with a Communist defector (whom Trilling acknowledged was inspired by his Columbia classmate Whittaker Chambers), and short stories including “The Other Margaret”, he devoted himself to essays and reviews in which he reflected on literature’s ability to challenge the morality and conventions of the culture. Critic David Daiches said of Trilling, “Mr. Trilling likes to move out and consider the implications, the relevance for culture, for civilization, for the thinking man today, of each particular literary phenomenon which he contemplates, and this expansion of the context gives him both his moments of his greatest perceptions, and his moments of disconcerting generalization.”

Trilling published two complex studies of authors Matthew Arnold (1939) and E. M. Forster (1943), both written in response to a concern with “the tradition of humanistic thought and the intellectual middle class which believes it continues this tradition.” [Trilling, Lionel, et al., "The Situation in American Writing: A Symposium Partisan Review", Volume 6 5 (1939).] His first collection of essays, "The Liberal Imagination", was published in 1950, followed by the collections "The Opposing Self" (1955), focusing on the conflict between self-definition and the influence of culture , "Freud and the Crisis of Our Culture" (1955), "A Gathering of Fugitives" (1956), and "Beyond Culture" (1965), a collection of essays concerning modern literary and cultural attitudes toward selfhood. In "Sincerity and Authenticity" (1972), he explores the ideas of the moral self in post-Enlightenment Western civilization. He wrote the introduction to "The Selected Letters of John Keats" (1951), in which he defended Keats’s notion of Negative Capability, as well as the introduction, “George Orwell and the Politics of Truth”, to the 1952 reissue of George Orwell’s book, "Homage to Catalonia".

In 2008, Columbia University Press published an unfinished novel that Trilling abandoned in the late 1940s. Scholar Geraldine Murphy discovered the half-finished novel among Trilling's papers archived at Columbia University. [ "Synopses & Reviews": "The Journey Abandoned"] [ Powell's Books] , 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-27.] Trilling's novel, titled "", is set in the 1930s and involves a young protagonist, Vincent Hammell, who seeks to write a biography of an elder, towering figure poet - Jorris Buxton. Buxton's character is loosely based on the nineteenth century, romantic poet Walter Savage Landor. Writer and critic, Cynthia Ozick praised the novel's skillful narrative and complex characters, writing that "The Journey Abandoned" is "a crowded gallery of carefully delineated portraits, whose innerness is divulged partly through dialogue but far more extensively in passages of cannily analyzed insight." [ Ozick, Cynthia [ "Novel or Nothing", review of "The Journey Abandoned: The Unfinished Novel"] [ The New Republic] , 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2008-05-27.]

Works by Trilling

*"The Middle of the Journey" (1947)
*"Of This Time, of That Place and Other Stories" (1979)
*"" (2008) (published posthumously, edited by Geraldine Murphy)

Books and Collections of Essays
*"Matthew Arnold" (1939)
*"" (1943)
*"" (1950)
*"" (1955)
*"Freud and the Crisis of Our Culture" (1955)
*"A Gathering of Fugitives" (1956)
*"" (1965)
*"The Unpossessed", by Tess Slesinger (1965 reprint of 1934 novel) - afterword by Trilling
*"Sincerity and Authenticity" (1972), a collection of the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures given at Harvard in 1969
*"" (1973)
*Preface to" The Experience of Literature" (1979)
* Preface to Isaac Babel's "Collected Stories" (Penguin ) edition
*"" (1979)
*"Speaking of Literature and Society" (1980)


*Bloom, Alexander. "Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals & Their World", Oxford University Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-19-505177-3
*Chace, William M. “Lionel Trilling”, "Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism".
*Krupnick, Mark. "Lionel Trilling and the Fate of Cultural Criticism." Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1986. ISBN 978-0-81-010712-0
*Lask, Thomas. “Lionel Trilling, 70, Critic, Teacher and Writer, Dies”, "The New York Times", July 5, 1975
*Leitch, Thomas M. "Lionel Trilling: An Annotated Bibliography".
*Lionel Trilling, et al., "The Situation in American Writing: A Symposium Partisan Review", Volume 6 5 (1939)
*Longstaff, S. A. “New York Intellectuals”, "Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism".
*Trilling, Diana. "The Beginning of the Journey".
*Trilling, Lionel. "Beyond Culture: Essays on Literature and Learning".
*Wald, Alan M. "The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s" (University of North Carolina Press 1987). ISBN 0807841692, 9780807841693


External links

* [ Johns Hopkins Guide to Criticism]
* [ Quotations by Lionel Trilling]
* [ Columbia University] - Profile of Trilling
* [ Columbia University] - Lionel Trilling Papers (1899-1987)
* [ The Trilling Imagination] by Gertrude Himmelfarb
* [ Article on "The Middle of the Journey"]

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  • Lionel Trilling — (* 4. Juli 1905 in New York, (NY); † 5. November 1975) war ein amerikanischer Literaturkritiker, Schriftsteller und Lehrer. Er gehörte zur Gruppe der New York Intellectuals und schrieb regelmäßig für die Partisan Review. Er gilt als einer der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lionel Trilling — (Nueva York, 4 de julio de 1905 – 5 de noviembre de 1975) fue un crítico literario, autor y profesor estadounidense. Trayectoria Hijo de una familia judía neoyorkina, Lionel Trilling se educó en la Universidad de Columbia, donde fue contemporáneo …   Wikipedia Español

  • Lionel Trilling — noun United States literary critic (1905 1975) • Syn: ↑Trilling • Instance Hypernyms: ↑literary critic …   Useful english dictionary

  • TRILLING, LIONEL — (1905–1975), U.S. author, critic, and public intellectual. Born in New York City, Trilling attended Columbia University and then began teaching there. He eventually was appointed as the first Jewish assistant professor of English at Columbia… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • TRILLING, DIANA — (1905–1996), U.S. literary critic. Born in New York to Polish immigrants, Diana Rubin graduated from Radcliffe College. In 1927 she met lionel trilling , a graduate student in literature at Columbia who was to become one of the foremost literary… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Trilling — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Anton Trilling, Problemtheoretiker Ilia Trilling (auch Ilya Trilling; 1895–1947), deutsch jüdischer Theaterproduzent sowie Komponist jüdischer Theatermusik Lionel Trilling (1905–1975), US amerikanischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lionel — ist ein männlicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Varianten 3 Bekannte Namensträger 3.1 Lionel …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Trilling — is the surname of: * Ilia Trilling (1895 1947), Yiddish song composer * Lawrence Trilling * Lionel Trilling (1905 1975), US literary criticee also* Drilling …   Wikipedia

  • Trilling, Diana Rubin — ▪ 1997       U.S. writer (b. July 21, 1905, New York, N.Y. d. Oct. 23, 1996, New York), was one of the last members of the circle of writers and critics in the 1930s through the 50s that was known as the New York intellectuals. Her social and… …   Universalium

  • Lionel — /luy euh nl/, n. a male given name, form of Leon. * * * (as used in expressions) Hampton Lionel Ismay of Wormington Hastings Lionel Ismay Baron James Cyril Lionel Robert Jospin Lionel Trilling Lionel * * * …   Universalium

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