Tag: Irving Howe

On the New York Intellectuals

I first read Irving Howe in college, in Andrew Ross’ seminar on intellectuals. We read Howe’s “The New York Intellectuals.” I don’t remember what I thought of it; what I remember is that I admired Howe as the epitome of the independent political intellectual. At some point in graduate school, I grew less enamored of the New York Intellectuals as a whole (in part because of their compromises or collaboration with McCarthyism, in part because the ideal of the independent intellectual loosened its hold over me), and Howe fell in my esteem as a result. Which is ironic because Howe was one of the few anti-Stalinist intellectuals who kept his bearings during the McCarthy years. This past year, I’ve been re-reading Howe. His literary criticism […]

The Touchy Irving Howe

Last night, I was trying to find a comment I had remembered Irving Howe making about Hannah Arendt, and I found myself holed up, late into the night, with a volume of his criticism. I run into these sorts of detours a lot. I set out for a destination, and before you know it, it’s 2 am, and I’m miles away from where I need to be. I’ve read Howe’s criticism many times before, but I never noticed just how touchy he is about what he perceives to be the haughtiness of authors and critics. Howe is sensitive, perhaps too sensitive, to the power dynamics of fiction and criticism: how writers look down on the people they’re writing about or the readers they’re writing for, how they […]