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Robert Warshow (1917 - 1955)
Related: Partisan Review - New York intellectuals - popular culture - USA
Robert Warshow was the popular culture man in the milieu of the postwar New York intellectuals. Robert Warshow has put forth the hypothesis that the Communist Party became central to American intellectual life during the 1930s. [Jul 2006]
Robert Warshow (1917-1955) was an American author and critic who wrote about popular culture in Commentary and The Partisan Review in the mid-20th century. He was born and resided in New York City and attended the University of Michigan.
Among the articles published in Warshow's short lifetime were analyses of the western and gangster film genres from a cultural standpoint. He also penned essays praising playwright Clifford Odets as well as George Herriman's newspaper comic strip Krazy Kat. Warshow was also perhaps the first serious critic to write about Mad Magazine, one of his son Paul's favorites, which he admitted to having read "with a kind of irritated pleasure," though he also said that he didn't like it very much.
Warshow died of a heart attack at the age of 37. Most of his published work was collected in the book The Immediate Experience in 1962. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Warshow [Mar 2006]
Nobody seriously questions the principle that it is the FUNction of mass culture to maintain public morale, and certainly nobody in the mass audience objects to having his morale maintained. -- Robert Warshow, The Immediate Experience [Amazon.com]
On the Communist party in the USA
In the United States, Robert Warshow has put forth the hypothesis that the Communist Party became central to American intellectual life during the 1930s:For most American intellectuals, the Communist movement of the 1930s was a crucial experience. In Europe, where the movement was at once more serious and more popular, it was still only one current in intellectual life; the Communists could never completely set the tone of thinking. . . . But in this country there was a time when virtually all intellectual vitality was derived in one way or another from the Communist party. If you were not somewhere within the party’s wide orbit, then you were likely to be in the opposition, which meant that much of your thought and energy had to be devoted to maintaining yourself in opposition.--via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism [Oct 2005]
The popular culture man in the milieu of the postwar New York intellectuals
Warshow (1917-1955) was the popular culture man in the milieu of the postwar New York intellectuals, and this book, now augmented with eight previously uncollected essays and worshipful new commentaries from film critic David Denby and cultural theorist Stanley Cavell, is a legendary manifesto. Today it's also dull. Famous-by-reputation pieces such as the 1948 "The Gangster as Tragic Hero," which at seven pages smacks of get-it-over-with, may have had its influence on Pauline Kael's 1955 "The Glamour of Delinquency," but only the latter still has any blood running through it. Much is made of Warshow's "immediate experience" credo -- "A man watches a movie, and the critic must acknowledge that he is that man" -- but there is no man in the seat in these pages. Warshow pointedly rejects irony as a mode of both experience and criticism, but it is all too telling that his writing is littered with scare quotes -- with countless crudely ironic references to the likes of "'typical' American experience," "the operation of 'simple' and 'American' virtues," "a 'typical' American town" where "all 'real' Americans live." I am not fooled, this man says, and critics have to be willing to be fooled. That is what being "that man" is all about. --http://archive.salon.com/ent/col/marc/2002/03/25/65/index1.html [Oct 2005]
The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre, and Other Aspects of Popular Culture (1962) - Robert Warshow
The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre, and Other Aspects of Popular Culture (1962) - Robert Warshow [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
This collection of essays, which originally appeared as a book in 1962, is virtually the complete works of an editor of Commentary magazine who died, at age 37, in 1955. Long before the rise of Cultural Studies as an academic pursuit, in the pages of the best literary magazines of the day, Robert Warshow wrote analyses of the folklore of modern life that were as sensitive and penetrating as the writings of James Agee, George Orwell, and Walter Benjamin. Some of these essays--notably "The Westerner," "The Gangster as Tragic Hero," and the pieces on the New Yorker, Mad Magazine, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and the Rosenberg letters--are classics, once frequently anthologized but now hard to find. Along with a new preface by Stanley Cavell, The Immediate Experience includes several essays not previously published in the book--on Kafka and Hemingway--as well as Warshow's side of an exchange with Irving Howe. "A legendary little book, partly because its author died at the age of 37, but mostly because it stands as a virtually unique representative from its period of a consistently open-minded, moral, aesthetic, and political engagement with commercial culture." --Louis Menand
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