Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

32
“The Arnoldian Function in American Criticism,” Scrutiny
June 1951

Norman Podhoretz

Norman Podhoretz (1930—), former editor-in-chief ofCommentary (1960— 95), is the author of Doings and Undoings: The Fifties and After in American Writing (1964) and the autobiographical volumes Making It (1967) and Breaking Ranks: A Political Memoir (1979), among other books. An undergraduate student of Trilling, Podhoretz earned his B.A. in 1950 from Columbia. The title of his essay collection, The Bloody Crossroads (1986), alludes to a widely quoted line from Trilling (“the dark and bloody crossroads where literature and politics meet,” which appeared in the context of a discussion of Theodore Dreiser and Henry James in “Reality in America” [1940], an essay collected in The Liberal Imagination).

Podhoretz has acknowledged Trilling as his “intellectual father,” and he has been both an admiring and a severely critical son. More polemical than Trilling—and more interested in current political questions and issues of national policy—Podhoretz moved rightward during the early 1970s and spearheaded the growth of the right-of-center intellectual movement known as “neoconservatism.” As a leading figure in this movement, Podhoretz has sometimes (in an obvious nod to Trilling) been called—both by opponents and supporters—the tribune of “the neoconservative imagination.”

The following review was written when Podhoretz, then a twenty-oneyear-old Columbia graduate and Kellett Fellow at Cambridge University, was admitted to F. R. Leavis’s weekly discussion circle and invited to contribute to Scrutiny. Podhoretz describes the circumstances of Leavis’s assignment to him to review The Liberal Imagination and Leavis’s response to the review in Making It.

Only one of the essays collected in The Liberal Imagination has appeared

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