A Political Companion to Saul Bellow

A Political Companion to Saul Bellow

A Political Companion to Saul Bellow

A Political Companion to Saul Bellow

Synopsis

Saul Bellow is one of the twentieth century's most influential, respected, and honored writers. His novels The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler's Planet won the National Book Award, and Humboldt's Gift was awarded the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In addition, his plays garnered popular and critical acclaim, and some were produced on Broadway. Known for his insights into life in a post-Holocaust world, Bellow's explorations of modernity, Jewish identity, and the relationship between art and society have resonated with his readers, but because his writing is not overtly political, his politics have largely been ignored.

A Political Companion to Saul Bellow examines the author's novels, essays, short stories, and letters in order to illuminate his evolution from liberal to neoconservative. It investigates Bellow's exploration of the United States as a democratic system, the religious and ideological influences on his work, and his views on race relations, religious identity, and multiculturalism in the academy. Featuring a fascinating conclusion that draws from interviews with Bellow's sons, this accessible companion is an excellent resource for understanding the political thought of one of America's most acclaimed writers.

Excerpt

Those who undertake a study of American political thought must attend to the great theorists, philosophers, and essayists. Such a study is incomplete, however, if it neglects American literature, one of the greatest repositories of the nation’s political thought and teachings.

America’s literature is distinctive because it is, above all, intended for a democratic citizenry. In contrast to eras when an author would aim to inform or influence a select aristocratic audience, in democratic times, public influence and education must resonate with a more expansive, less leisured, and diverse audience to be effective. The great works of America’s literary tradition are the natural locus of democratic political teaching. Invoking the interest and attention of citizens through the pleasures afforded by the literary form, many of America’s great thinkers sought to forge a democratic public philosophy with subtle and often challenging teachings that unfolded in narrative, plot, and character development. Perhaps more than any other nation’s literary tradition, American literature is ineluctably political— shaped by democracy as much as it has in turn shaped democracy.

The Political Companions to Great American Authors series highlights the teachings of the great authors in America’s literary and belletristic tradition. An astute political interpretation of America’s literary tradition requires careful, patient, and attentive readers who approach the text with a view to understanding its underlying messages about citizenship and democracy. Essayists in this series approach the classic texts not with a “hermeneutics of suspicion” but with the curiosity of fellow citizens who believe that the great authors have something of value to teach their readers. The series . . .

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