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Philip Rahv Biography

(1908–73), Partisan Review, Discovery of Europe: The Story of American Experience in the Old World

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American literary critic and editor, born in Kupin, Ukraine, educated at Brown University. He migrated to the USA in 1922 and within little more than a decade had made an important contribution to American culture: his founding, with William Phillips, in 1934 of the Partisan Review, the most distinguished journal of radical thought in contemporary American letters. When he resigned from the journal in 1969 a chapter in the history of the American left effectively came to an end. Rahv was strongly influenced by many of the key figures of European modernism, notably T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and D. H. Lawrence, and his literary criticism reflects his heterogeneous intellectual alliance of the Old World with the New, particularly in his edition Discovery of Europe: The Story of American Experience in the Old World (1947), and in The Myth of the Powerhouse (1965), a collection of essays on European and American writers. His collection of essays Image and Idea (1949) includes ‘Paleface and Redskin’, an influential article in which he argues that American literature is characterized by a competition between Western ‘redskin’ writers—for example, Mark Twain—and Eastern ‘palefaces’, amongst whom he would number Henry James, whose American critical reputation he had helped establish with his edition of The Great Short Novels of Henry James (1944). His other important works include Literature in America (1957) and Literature and the Sixth Sense (1969), a volume of collected essays. Rahv was for much of his adult life a Professor of English at Brandeis University. His formative role in the development of the intellectual left in the USA is assessed in James B. Gilbert, Writers and Partisans: A History of Literary Radicalism in America (1968).

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