Liberalism, History, and Mr. Trilling

Howe, Irving. "Liberalism, History, and Mr. Trilling." The Nation. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves. 


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.” Trilling’s indictment charges this mind with an emotional shallowness that often reduces life to a problem in ameliorative legislation, a drab rationalism indifferent to the possible varieties of experience, an unevaluative obsession with measurements and “quantification” that passes as science, a feeling that poetry, while possibly laudable, is ultimately frivolous and that such writers as Dreiser apprehend a basic “reality” that is unavailable to, say, Henry James.