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

by Teres, Harvey M.

  • ISBN: 9780195078022
  • ISBN10: 0195078020

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

by Teres, Harvey M.

  • List Price: $30.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publish date: 01/01/2008
  • ISBN: 9780195078022
  • ISBN10: 0195078020
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Description: Both a work of rigorous scholarship and a passionate challenge to today's left, Renewing the Left lucidly argues for a reassessment of the legacy of the New York intellectuals as a basis for transforming both the academy and American politics in general. Teres brings fresh thought to such crucial matters as race relations, Jews and blacks, gender troubles on the left, political correctness, values, literary quality, and politics as a means to fulfill personal, spiritual, and ethical needs. Teres deals with all of these matters as he illuminates the legacy of New York's leading intellectuals, beginning with the founding of the influential Partisan Review during the 1930s. He looks first at William Phillips and Philip Rahv, the chief editors of Partisan Review, and shows how they laid the groundwork for a revitalized Marxist criticism - one that rejected dogmatism and narrow materialism, and stressed instead the importance of literary criticism itself and the freedom of the intellectual. Teres carries the discussion into the 1940s, when such critics as Rahv, Lionel Trilling, and F. W. Dupee absorbed modernism and elements of Trotsky's analysis of capitalism and culture in order to renew progressive culture and politics. He examines the contributions of such figures as Wallace Stevens (who published a number of important poems in Partisan Review), Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy, Tess Slesinger, Elizabeth Hardwick, Susan Sontag, and James Baldwin. He shows how they mounted a prescient critique of doctrinaire Marxism, with its illiberal habits of the mind, and stressed the essential role of independent and imaginative forms of discourse. But Renewing the Left is no paean to radicalchampions of the past. Teres explores the inability of the New Yorkers to maintain connections to the everyday lives of ordinary people, to keep up with changes in popular culture, to critique American imperialism, to develop balanced assessments of the Beats and the New Left, and to recognize the complexity of African-American culture and experience. Nevertheless, he argues, the New York intellectuals did challenge the left to overcome many of its perennial problems, and this aspect of their project remains immensely valuable for leftist renewal today.
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