Monday, September 12, 2011

Malcolm Cowley

Malcolm Cowley

was born on August 28, 1898 in Belasco, Pennsylvania and died on March 27, 1989. Cowley was a left-wing American journalist who wrote novels, poetry, and literary criticisms (1)

Cowley grew up in Pittsburgh. At 17 he left for Boston to attend Harvard University, but later dropped of school and moved to Paris in 1917 to serve in the American Field Service. Two years later he came back to finish his degree at Harvard, and after graduation went back to live in Pairs with his wife of the time Peggy Baird (5). Cowley returned to the US in 1923 to live in Greenwich Village, New York. Cowley divorced Baird in 1931 and lived with Hart Crane in Mexico for a stint. Crane committed suicide, and two months later Cowley was remarried to Muriel Maurer (7). Cowley and Maurer eventually settled down in Sherman, Connecticut (5). 


What’s this person best known for?
Chronicler of the "Lost Generation" of post-World War I writers (2) and his involvement in radical politics (7).

Race/Ethnicity/Religion (if important):
White, American

*Left-wing (5)
*driven toward "Marxian criticism" (8)
*embraced radical politics (5)

Beliefs about relation between art and politics (if applicable):
While living in Pairs after returning from WW l, Cowley was introduced to revolutionary art movements like Surrealism and Dadaism (2). 

In ch 16 (Rebels, Artists, and Scoundrels") of his book And I Worked at the Writer's Trade (9) Cowley says this: "Artists who succeed are strong characters, which is something different from saying they are saintly. Some of them--most of them?--do scandalous and even scoundrelly things." 

Faulkner comments on this statement saying, "They hold to a sensibility that is at once full of self-centeredness and self-abnegation. Their interest is not necessarily in art-for-its-own-sake (Cowley calls Hemingway, Frost, and Proust to mind), but in both masking and presenting a life involved with the making of art." (3) 

"But I feel that, whatever reservations there are to be made about the whole alliance between art and politics, one should make these at a time, and in a spirit, when they can be made for purposes of enlightenment, and not when the writing os such stuff is just one last final bit of the same sort of tactics, angling for position, etc." - Malcolm Cowley (8). 

Major Activities in the 1930s:
His correspondence letters between him and other writers during the 1930's established "him as the spider in an extensive web of literary, political, and intellectual relations." (5)

Literary editor of The New Republic 

In 1939, he was awarded the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize for verse printed in Poetry. (6)

1932 removed from Kentucky by the government when he and 12 other writers had gone to distribute food to the needy miners on strike. (13)

Wrote Exile's Return and Blue Juniata

1934 arrested for picketing for a strike of Macaulay Book Company (11)

1935 went to prison after being removed from Ward Liner Oriente with other members of the League of American Writers (12)

1932 signed statement to peacefully assemble and petition Congress (10)

Major Works (include dates and place of publication where applicable):
 Blue Juniata (1929) early book of poetry

Exile's Return (1934) autobiography

The Dream of Golden Mountains (1934)

Places where figure’s work often appears (magazines, radio, nightclubs, galleries):
The Pittsburgh Gazette (while he was on the Western Front reporting on the war)

Assistant Editor of The New Republic  (1929)

Wrote several novels 

Letters of correspondence between him and other noteworthy writers of the time

Organizations & causes:
America's "Lost Generation"

The New Republic 

League of American Writers established in 1935 (VP but resigned in 1940)

Best sound bites by or about this figure, including source (if this person is a writer, you must include a quote by him or her):
American literary historian Van Wyck Brooks described Exile's Return as "an irreplaceable literary record of the most dramatic period in American literary history." (5)

LLoyd Morris wrote about Exile's Return, ''an intimate, realistic portrait of the era that produced a renaissance in American fiction and poetry.''(2)
"A generation is no more a matter of dates than it is one of ideology,'' Cowley wrote in 1973. ''A new generation does not appear every 30 years.'' (2)

''The literary business was booming like General Motors. In this distinguished vaudeville there wasn't much place for angry young men without parlor tricks who talked seriously about the problems of their craft.''-- Crowley said on the Algonquin Roundtable (2)

"The real capital of an author," Cowley once noted, is his or her ability to state "when I say something I mean it. I don't want you to accept what I say, but I want you to understand it and give me credit for being honest about it." (3)

For Cowley the deep reason that these writers, and writers such as Whitman, Crane, Dos Passos, Hemingway, and Cheever, are valuable to us today is because they, as Cowley said, "make it possible for us to believe in ourselves as characters in the drama of American history."(3)

Was this person a popular or critical success?

Titles of the 1-3 “texts” (writing, photos, songs, etc.) by this person you’ll discuss in your paper (include date and place of publication, if applicable):

1. Blue Juniata published by J. Cape & H. Smith in New York in 1929.

2. The Dream of the Golden Mountains published by Viking Press in New York in 1980.

3. Letters of Correspondence between Cowley & Burke published by Viking in New York in 1988

What primary research have you done?
*Letters of correspondence 
*Newspaper clips

Major influences on this person’s work (what’s on the bookshelf):

"Lost Generation: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein
Edited the work of:  Faulkner, Hawthorne, Witman
Observed Kentucky minors with: Mary Heaton Vorse, Edmund Wilson and Waldo Frank
While in France became friendly with: Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound.
Lived with & was influenced by: Hart Crane
Theodore Dreiser caused him to become involved in "radical politics"

Connections with other parlor figures:

League of American Writers: Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, John Dos Passos,  
Childhood friend and life pen pal Kenneth Burke 
Cowley was editor of The New Republic, which John Dos Passos and Lewis Mumford contributed to

3. Malcolm Cowley and American writing. By: Faulkner, D.W., Sewanee Review, 00373052, Spring90, Vol. 98, Issue 2
5. Malcolm Cowley Papers, The Newberry Library, Chicago.
8. The Selected Correspondence of Kenneth Burke and Malcolm Cowley, 1915-1981 By Kenneth Burke, Malcolm Cowley 
9. And I Work the Writer's Trade by Malcolm Cowley
10. The Daily Messenger CANANDAIGUA, N. Y.,
11. Syracuse Herald Syracuse, NY
12. The Sandusky Register Sandusky, Ohio
13. The Daily Independent MURPHYSBORO, ILLINOIS

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