Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

56
Excerpt from “Lionel Trilling, 1905–75,” in Art, Politics, and
Will {originally published in The New York Times}
1976 {November 1975}

Steven Marcus

Steven Marcus (1928—), professor of English at Columbia University, is the author of Dickens from Pickwick to Dombey (1965), The Other Victorians (1966), Engels, Manchester, and the Working Class (1974), and Freud and the Culture of Psychoanalysis (1984), among other books.

Both an undergraduate and graduate student of Trilling, Marcus earned his B.A. in 1948 and his Ph.D. in 1961 from Columbia. He co-edited with Trilling an abridged one-volume edition of Ernest Jones’s authorized biography, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1961), and also co-edited (with Columbia colleagues) the Trilling memorial volume Art, Politics, and Will: Essays in Honor of Lionel Trilling (1977). In addition, Marcus has served on the Partisan Review editorial board since 1960.

In the memoir below, which originally appeared on the front page of the New York Times, Marcus memorializes Trilling as “our historian of the moral life of modernity, our philosopher of culture,” and “our teacher.”

… To my mind Trilling’s spiritual heroism was in large part bound up with his exigency and his minimalism—his ability to affirm, without illusion, qualities and virtues that his own group, his own culture, his own audience had largely given up on as being at once excessive in their demands upon us and insufficient in the gratifications they return.

During the political and cultural storms of the sixties Trilling continued to sustain himself in these attitudes. As he considered some of the more bizarre lunacies of the New Left or wilder manifestations of the counterculture, he thought he saw in these rapidly fluctuating formations genuine

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