From the Publisher
"Renewing the Left is an astonishing achievement. Teres is adept at writing literary criticism, telling the stories of literary history, negotiating the thickets of literary theory, andmost rarekeeping in mind the actual lives of working men and women. This is one of the few books that everyone who cares about the fate of American culture should read."James Longenbach, Joseph H. Gilmore Professor of English, University of Rochester
"Renewing the Left tells an important part of a mostly unfamiliar story: the rise of modernist criticism in America. Teres writes of his heroesTrotsky, Stevens, Trilling, and otherswith a disciplined irony, but he has a genuine power of admiration. This is a clarifying work of intellectual history that will command broad interest from students of aesthetics and politics."David Bromwich, Yale University
"This is a tough-minded, wide-ranging, finely nuanced book, grounded in personal experience, that explodes many received ideas about the New York intellectuals. Where others see them as ex-radicals in transit to neoconservatism, Teres painstakingly explores their neglected legacy to the American left and their surprising relevance to the concerns of contemporary criticism, including issues of power, ideology, race, gender, individual agency, and aesthetic autonomy."Morris Dickstein, author of Double Agent: The Critic and Society and Gates of Eden
"Written with compelling lucidity, and replete with incisive analysis, Harvey Teres' Renewing the Left admirably elevates the ongoing debate about the legacy of the New York Intellectuals to new heights. Teres deftly rethinks complex moments in sixty years of the radical literary life by reconsidering the legacy of the New York Intellectuals in relation to current concerns such as gender, race, modernism, mass culture and contemporary literary criticism. The result is a powerfully refreshing study of the theory and practice of a haunting and beguiling tradition in culture and politics, a tradition still painfully crucial to the unresolved problem of the 'committed' intellectual in the United States."Alan Wald, author of The New York Intellectuals, Professor of English and American Culture, The University of Michigan
An illuminating study of New York radical culture from the 1930s to the 1960s.
The enduring accomplishment of that culture's leading organ, the Partisan Review, was to have reestablished "a productive relationship between politics and intellectual life," or as Lionel Trilling put it, "a new union between our political ideas and our imagination." So argues literary historian Teres (English/Syracuse Univ.), who goes on to examine some of those ideas and their development. One, heretical among radicals of the day, was that literature and criticism could be both catholic and autonomous, rather than serve the propagandistic aims of the workers' revolution; another was that the literary "sensibility" that conservative critic T.S. Eliot was then canonizing could have a place in progressive letters; still another was that modernist literature could renew the culture and politics of the American left, even though some of its exponents were rightists like Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis. While Partisan Review was never wholly successful in accomplishing these lofty goals, Teres notes, its contributors were able to formulate a powerful critique of the "marginalization of mind that the materialism of American capitalism had produced." One of the writers he studies is the poet Wallace Stevens, who here receives his due as a subtly subversive foe of the 1930s status quo. Although some of the Partisan Review's founders would drift rightward during the Cold War, Teres notes that the New York intellectuals were prescient in realizing that it was possible to criticize Marxism without betraying the working class or the leftist tradition of dissent, a point often lost on both the right and doctrinaire Marxists.
For Teres, a 1970s radical who embraced doctrinaire Marxism in all its "dismal failure," the New York intellectuals represent something of a golden age. His enthusiasm for their work is evident everywhere throughout this lively book.