The Trillings

– Sidney Hook, "The Trillings," October 1, 2015.
Excerpt: I first met Lionel Trilling at the artists’ colony at Yaddo, in Saratoga Springs, in the summer of 1931 (or maybe 1932; I was at Yaddo for two or three years). I was impressed by a certain gentleness of outlook. He had just come to terms with the… More

Beyond Liberalism

– Williams, Raymond. "Beyond Liberalism." The Manchester Guardian," April 1966. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves. 
Excerpt: I had been puzzled for many years to know the source of a particular North Atlantic definition and structure of “the modern.” I had met it repeatedly, at my end of the large-scale commuter traffic of literary academics. Just who, I… More

Liberalism, History, and Mr. Trilling

– Howe, Irving. "Liberalism, History, and Mr. Trilling." The Nation. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves. 
Excerpt: Lionel Trilling’s new book of essays, “The Liberal Imagination,” (Viking, $3.50), has as its central purpose a criticism of the liberal mind “as it drifts toward a denial of the emotions and the imagination.”… More

Beyond Liberalism

– Spender, Stephen. "Beyond Liberalism." Commentary, August 1950. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves. 
Excerpt: Mr. Trilling thinks the liberal imagination defective, and it is scarcely too much to say that his book might well be entitled “The Liberal Lack of Imagination.” What it amounts to is that liberals are inclined to—or do—live within a… More

Trilling’s Matthew Arnold

– Barzun, Jacques. "Trilling's Matthew Arnold." Review of Matthew Arnold, by Lionel TrillingColumbia University Quarterly, March 1939. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves. 
Excerpt: “The Critic’s business is to carp; the scholar’s business is to bore.” No one, of course, has the courage to honor those maxims in words, but many of us show by our actions that our feelings approve them. We read the… More

Uncle Matthew

– Wilson, Edmund. "Uncle Matthew." Review of Matthew Arnold, by Lionel Trilling. The New Republic, March 1939. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves. 
Excerpt: But if Mr. Trilling has followed this fashion it is evidently not due to lack of competence. His observations on Arnold’s style are admirably phrased as well as just: “The Victorians, with Keats and Tennyson in mind, like to watch for the soft… More

Does Lionel Trilling Matter?

– Massie, Allan. “Does Lionel Trilling Matter?” Review of Why Trilling Matters, by Adam Kirsch (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). Times Literary Supplement, February 1, 2012.
Excerpt: In setting out to demonstrate that Trilling still matters, Kirsch is asserting the value of literature and a literary culture. If Trilling thought and wrote, frequently, about the relation of literature to society, it was because, like Matthew Arnold… More

Lionel Trilling and the Social Imagination

– Beran, Michael Knox. “Lionel Trilling and the Social Imagination.” City Journal, Winter 2011.
Excerpt: Trilling’s hostility to the social imagination is nowhere more evident than in the fourth essay in The Liberal Imagination, a meditation on Henry James’s 1886 novel The Princess Casamassima in which Trilling fingers a line of nineteenth-century… More

Lionel Trilling’s Life of the Mind

– Kimmage, Michael. “Lionel Trilling’s Life of the Mind.” New York Times, November 3, 2011.
Excerpt: As Kirsch writes, paraphrasing Trilling’s perspective, “Art is the form in which the writer, and through him the reader, can face down the intolerable contradictions of history.” The Russian short-story writer Isaac Babel was a case in point.… More

Why Trilling Matters

– Kirsch, Adam. Why Trilling Matters. New Haven : Yale University Press, 2011.

Underrated: Lionel Trilling

– Himmelfarb, Gertrude. “Underrated: Lionel Trilling.” Standpoint, April 2009.
Excerpt: When Lionel Trilling died in 1975, he was not only the most eminent literary critic in America, but also, some would argue, the most eminent intellectual figure. Three years before his death, he received the first of the Thomas Jefferson Awards, the… More

Regrets Only: Lionel Trilling and His Discontents

– Menand, Louis. "Regrets Only: Lionel Trilling and his discontents." New Yorker, September 29, 2008.
Excerpt: Most people who picked up the book in 1950 would have understood it as an attack on the dogmatism and philistinism of the fellow-travelling left, but the term “liberal” is never defined in “The Liberal Imagination.” And there are, as a matter… More

Introduction to The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays

– Wieseltier, Leon. Introduction to The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays, ix-xvi. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2008.
Excerpt: Trilling emphatically believed that “the problems of Life” must indeed be brought before the mind, thought not for the purpose of eliciting anything so simple and so heartening as “answers.” The elements of Erskine’s… More

Introduction to The Middle of the Journey

– Engel, Monroe. Introduction to The Middle of the Journey, by Lionel Trilling, v-xi. New York: New York Review of Books, 2002.
Excerpt: In its own forceful way, very unlike either Faulkner or Hemingway, The Middle of the Journey too is “at work upon the recalcitrant stuff of life.” This is discomfortingly evident in the ways in which the novel portrays the significant… More

Night Vision

– Delbanco, Andrew. “Night Vision.” Review of The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent: Selected Essays, by Lionel Trilling, edited with an introduction by Leon Wieseltier (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000). New York Review of Books, January 11, 2001.
Excerpt: Trilling’s real distinctiveness, I think, is that he was at heart a teacher. He carried into his writing the classroom principle that stating any proposition without at least a hint of doubt about its validity is a form of bullying. His only dogma… More

The Last Great Critic

– Glick, Nathan. “The Last Great Critic.” The Atlantic, July 2000.
Excerpt: I CANNOT close this review without noting two contributions by the editor. John Rodden’s introductory survey of the contents of this collection is richly but casually informative; it is also lively, witty, opinionated, and fair-minded. His… More

Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

– Rodden, John, ed. Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
Collection of essays by prominent critics on Trilling’s career; includes many of the most important essays on Trilling’s work published during his lifetime.

Lionel Trilling

– Tanner, Stephen L. Lionel Trilling. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.

Art, Politics, and Will: Essays in Honor of Lionel Trilling

– Anderson, Quentin, Stephen Donadio, and Steven Marcus, eds. Art, Politics, and Will: Essays in Honor of Lionel Trilling. New York: Basic Books, 1977.
Art, Politics, and Will was originally conceived as a Festschrift for Trilling. However, he passed away before the book could be published, and it was converted into a memorial volume. The book contains relatively little criticism that engages directly with… More

Lionel Trilling and the Conservative Imagination

– Frank, Joseph. "Lionel Trilling and the Conservative Imagination." Sewanee Review, Spring 1956. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves, edited by John Rodden (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999).
Excerpts: The career and reputation of Lionel Trilling as a literary critic pose something of an anomaly. Not, we should hasten to add, that Mr. Trilling does not deserve all the encomiums that have been lavished on him or the considerable influence he enjoys… More

The Moral Critic

– Kristol, Irving. "The Moral Critic." Review of E.M. Forster, by Lionel Trilling. Enquiry, April 1944. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves, edited by John Rodden (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999).
Excerpts: [I]n that very same article Mr. Trilling incorporated two distinct chidings. He was angry with the Left for having surrendered its traditional moral vision, and at the same time accused it of allowing this vision to blind it to the true principles… More