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Irving Howe Biography

(1920–93), Dissent, The UAW and Walter Reuther, Sherwood Anderson: A Critical Biography

American historian and literary critic, born in New York City, educated at the City College of New York. Howe enjoyed a distinguished career as a critic, historian, and anthologist as well as being one of the leading intellectual figures on the American left for much of the latter half of the twentieth century (he was for many years co-editor of the socialist quarterly Dissent). His first book was a work of American labour history. The UAW and Walter Reuther (1949), co-authored with B. J. Widick, but his second, Sherwood Anderson: A Critical Biography (1951), marked the beginning of a developing interest in modern American literature. His William Faulkner: A Critical Study (1952) remains one of the best studies of Faulkner's fiction. In a literary climate dominated by the New Criticism and its attempts to eschew what were considered ‘extraneous’ factors in the creation of a work of art, Howe's criticism was notable for its insistence, quasi-Marxist in character, on the historicity of literary texts and his synthesis of criticism and history. His particular preoccupation with the place of politics in literature led to his important work of literary criticism, Politics and the Novel (1957), notable for its treatment of the works of a number of nineteenth-century realists. Other notable works of literary criticism include Thomas Hardy (1967), Decline of the New (1971), Celebrations and Attacks: Thirty Years of Literary and Cultural Commentary (1979), and The American Newness: Culture and Thought in the Age of Emerson (1986). Among his other political writings are Steady Work: Essays in the Politics of Democratic Radicalism, 19531966 (1966), Trotsky (1978), and Socialism and America (1985). Howe's interest in the history of Jewish migration to the USA led to World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made (1976) for which he received the National Book Award for History. Selected Writings, 19501990 (1990) is an introduction to the range of his work while A Margin of Hope (1982) is a volume of autobiography. Howe taught at several American universities, including Brandeis and Stanford, and was a Professor of English at Hunter College in New York City (196386).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Honest Ulsterman to Douglas Hyde Biography