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The Scarlet Professor: Newton Arvin a Literary Life Shattered by Scandal

by Werth, Barry

  • ISBN: 9780385494687
  • ISBN10: 0385494688

The Scarlet Professor: Newton Arvin a Literary Life Shattered by Scandal

by Werth, Barry

  • List Price: $26.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese
  • Publish date: 01/01/2000
  • ISBN: 9780385494687
  • ISBN10: 0385494688
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Description: Newton Arvin (1900-1963) was one of America's most esteemed literary critics, admired by Edmund Wilson and Lillian Hellman, and mentor to Truman Capote. As a scholar and writer, Arvin focused on the secret, psychological drives of such American masters as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville and identified the witch-hunt mentality that lies deep in the American psyche. Arvin, a Communist and closet homosexual, experienced the national obsession firsthand when his leftist leanings drew accusations and threats from anti-Communist crusaders during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Although he came through the Red Scare relatively unscathed, the Pink Scare and nationalist antismut campaign that followed ruined him. Arrested for possession of pornography and forced to choose between friendship and survival, Arvin named several men. Despairing in his own guilt and confusion, Arvin banished himself to the state mental institution perched above the Smith College campus, where he had taught for many years.

In "The Scarlet Professor", Barry Werth probes into the virulence with which even the most marginal "sins" are pursued in the fever of America's recurring puritanical crusades. Evoking the links between the invasion of privacy Arvin suffered and recent events, including the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Werth exposes the dangers of a society where the possibility of a "private life" no longer exists. His insights into the tangle of political and moralistic fanaticism underlying America's social landscape provide a forthright and compelling perspective on some of today's most pressing controversies.

But "The Scarlet Professor" is also a story of redemption. Shortly before his death, Arvinmanaged to come to peace with himself and publish his brilliant biography of Longfellow.

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