Howe, Irving

▪ 1994

      U.S. literary and social critic (b. June 11, 1920, New York, N.Y.—d. May 5, 1993, New York), as a founder (1953) and editor of Dissent, an influential left-wing journal, advocated democratic socialism but deplored the authoritarian proclivity of the American New Left, leftist totalitarianism, and the abuses of capitalism. He was best remembered for his literary criticism, notably in works on Sherwood Anderson (1951), William Faulkner (1952), and Thomas Hardy (1967). Howe spent 10 years preparing World of Our Fathers (1976), a probing narrative history of Eastern European Jewish immigration to the U.S., which won the National Book Award. Howe, who was raised in the Jewish tenements of New York City, graduated (1940) from City College of New York. He served four years in the army and taught at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass. (1953-61), and Stanford University (1961-63), before returning to New York City to teach English at Hunter College of the City University of New York as professor (1963-70) and distinguished professor (1970-86). Some of his other important writings include Politics and the Novel (1957), Decline of the New (1970), the biography Leon Trotsky (1978), Celebrations and Attacks: Thirty Years of Literary and Cultural Commentary (1979), and A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (1982). Though he retired from teaching in 1986, he continued to give speeches and to write essays for Dissent.

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▪ American literary critic
born June 11, 1920, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died May 5, 1993, New York City

      American literary and social critic and educator noted for his probing into the social and political viewpoint in literary criticism.

      Howe was educated at the City College of New York and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He taught at Brandeis and Stanford universities from 1953 until 1963, when he became a professor of English at the City University of New York at Hunter College. He wrote critical works on Sherwood Anderson (1951), William Faulkner (1952), and Thomas Hardy (1967), and he synthesized his political and literary interests in Politics and the Novel (1957) and A World More Attractive: A View of Modern Literature and Politics (1963). He edited the works of George Gissing, Edith Wharton, Leon Trotsky, and George Orwell and from 1953 was editor of the periodical Dissent, which he cofounded. He also edited Favorite Yiddish Stories (1974; with Eliezer Greenberg), The Best of Shalom Aleichem (1979; with Ruth R. Wisse), and The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse (1987; with Khone Shmeruk and Wisse). Howe's outlook was influenced by a Jewish background and a lifelong adherence to democratic socialism. His World of Our Fathers (1976) is a sociocultural study of eastern European Jews who emigrated to the United States between 1880 and 1924. Celebrations and Attacks (1979) is a collection of his critical articles, and A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (1982) deals with his involvement with culture and politics.

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Universalium. 2010.

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