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The Liberal Imagination (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – September 23, 2008
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“Trilling’s best and most influential collection of essays shows how criticism, written with grace, style, and a self-questioning cast of mind, can itself become a form of literature, as well as a valuable contribution to how we think about society.” –Morris Dickstein
“A literary critic of major stature.” –The Times (London)
“The essays in [The Liberal Imagination] are remarkable for persuasiveness with which they draw attention to the importance for much, if not all great literature, of the tragic, the ironic, and the basically unjust elements in life.” –The Times (London)
"The Liberal Imagination, [is] a book that sold more than seventy thousand copies in hardcover and more than a hundred thousand in paperback, and that made Trilling a figure, a model of the intellectual in Cold War America... The argument of The Liberal Imagination is that literature teaches that life is not so simple for unfairness, snobbery, resentment, prejudice, neurosis, and tragedy happen to be literature's particular subject matter." --Lewis Menand, The New Yorker
“Lionel Trilling...is undergoing a slow but effective resurgence...everything suggest that both his persona and oeuvre are attracting a young generation of scholars eager to understand his echoes, present and future.” –Forward
“One felt that the essays of The Liberal Imagination were helping to generate a new kind of discourse; in them the traditional disparities between English and American ways of discussing both literature and society were being transcended. The specific means of this transcendence had largely to do with the intensity and luminosity of Trilling’s mind...” –The New York Times Book Review
The author "shows that literature is relevant to politics not because it affirms any political doctrine but because it provides a corrective to any political ideology whatsoever." –Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI)
“Lionel Trilling was so compelling that he mesmerized many of his Columbia students for life, away from what he regarded as the illusions about progress fostered by the liberal imagination.” –Los Angeles Times
“One of the most important literary critics of mid-20th century America.” –The Wall Street Journal
“This liberal critic of liberalism was revered for his reasonableness, the elegance of his dialectical style, the refinement of his ideas.” –The New York Times
“After his death, Lionel Trilling still exerts great influence on the landscape of American culture.” –The New York Times
“‘The Function of the Little Magazine’ is as enchanting as when it first appeared in 1946 and remains a superior lesson on the juxtaposition of the highbrow intellectual elite and a democratic mass audience.” –Foreword
“The dialectical method at its peak, honed to revelatory art.” –Sam Tanenhaus
About the Author
Louis Menand is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English at Harvard University, and a staff writer at The New Yorker. He is the author of Discovering Modernism, The Metaphysical Club and American Studies.
Top Customer Reviews
Lionel Trilling was a professor at Columbia, and the familiarity with the "Great Books" engendered by teaching the Common Core is evident on nearly every page. Thus he invokes Stendhal in an essay on Sherwood Anderson, and, in an essay on Huckleberry Finn, he brings up Moliere:
"... In form and style Huckleberry Finn is an almost perfect work. Only one mistake has ever been charged against it, that it concludes with Tom Sawyer’s elaborate, too elaborate, game of Jim’s escape. Certainly this episode is too long—in the original draft it was much longer—and certainly it is a falling off, as almost anything would have to be, from the incidents of the river. Yet it has a certain formal aptness— like, say, that of the Turkish initiation which brings Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme to its close."
... which has always struck me as somewhat far-fetched, although it has stuck in my mind for more than twenty years.
The essay on The Kinsey Report, which certainly contributed to the surprise best-sellerdom of this uncompromisingly highbrow book, has some of Trilling's funniest remarks, and shows that with a little common sense, an intelligent layman can prick holes in the methodology of 'social science,' and that literary criticism need not feel subservient to anyone in a lab coat.
Here is the opening of the magnificent "Tacitus Now":
The histories of Tacitus have been put to strange uses. The princelings of Renaissance Italy consulted the Annals on how to behave with the duplicity of Tiberius.Read more ›
Any argument made that demeans the study of literature? Trilling beats them senseless in this volume.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was looking for this book and the rest is not nobody's business understand their boring, boring, boring too! OK?Published on January 14, 2014 by Carlos Eduardo Carvalho R Machado
There probably is no more important book of criticism than this one as it shows the power of imagination in Western democracy and literature -- but also its limitations. Read morePublished on June 8, 2011 by J. Smallridge
According to this edition's excellent introduction by Louis Menand (The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America), 'The Liberal Imagination' sold 170,000 copies in hardback... Read morePublished on September 1, 2010 by Bryan Byrd