Irving Howe


Irving Howe : biography

June 11, 1920 – May 5, 1993

Career as writer

Known for literary criticism as well social and political activism, Howe wrote critical biographies on Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, and Sherwood Anderson, a book-length examination of the relation of politics to fiction, and theoretical essays on Modernism, the nature of fiction, and Social Darwinism, Ha was also among the first to reexaminee the work of Edwin Arlington Robinson and lead the way to establishing Robinson’s reputation as one of the twentieth century’s great poets. Through his writing he was able to portray his dislike of capitalist America.

Irving Howe has written many influential books throughout his career. He wrote the Decline of the New, The World Of Our Fathers, Politics and the Novel and his autobiography A Margin of Hope. He also wrote a biography of Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary who was one of his childhood heroes.

Howe’s exhaustive, multi-disciplinary history of Eastern European Jews in America, World of Our Fathers, is considered a classic of social analysis and general scholarship. Howe explores the socialist Jewish New York in which he came from. He examines the dynamic of Eastern European Jews and the culture that they created in America World of Our Fathers won the 1977 National Book Award in History.. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-17. He also edited and translated many Yiddish stories, and commissioned the first English translation of Isaac Bashevis Singer for the Partisan Review. He also wrote Socialism and America. In 1987, Howe was a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

Death and legacy

He died on May 5, 1993 in New York. According to the Sinai Hospital, the cause of death was cardiovascular disease.

He is considered to be one of the greatest Jewish intellectuals of his time. He had strong political views that he would ferociously defend. Morris Dickstein, a professor at Queens College referred to Howe as a "counterpuncher who tended to dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy of the moment, whether left or right, though he himself was certainly a man of the left."

Leon Wieseltier who is the literary editor of The New Republic said of Howe "He lived in three worlds, literary, political and Jewish, and he watched all of them change almost beyond recognition,"

Howe had two children, Nina and the late Nicholas (1953-2006), with his second wife, Thalia Phillies, a classicist.

Early years

Howe was born as Irving Horenstein in The Bronx, New York. He was the son of Jewish immigrants from Bukovina, Nettie (née Goldman) and David Horenstein, who ran a small grocery store that went out of business during the Great Depression.Rodden, John and Goffman, Ethan (2010). "Chronology". . West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. ISBN 9781557535511. Pg. xv. His father became a peddler and eventually a presser in a dress factory. His mother was an operator in the dress trade.

Howe attended City College (CCNY) and graduated in 1940,Bernstein, Richard. "". New York Times. 06 May 1993. Accessed 27 January 2012. alongside Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol. While at school he was constantly debating socialism, Stalinism, fascism, and the meaning of Judaism. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Upon his return, he began writing literary and cultural criticism for the influential Partisan Review and became a frequent essayist for Commentary, Politics, The Nation, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books. In 1954, Howe helped found the intellectual quarterly Dissent, which he edited until his death in 1993. In the 1950s Howe taught English and Yiddish literature at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. He used the Howe and Greenberg Treasury of Yiddish Stories as the text for a course on the Yiddish story at a time when few were spreading knowledge or appreciation of these works in American colleges and universities.