The Situation of the American Intellectual at the Present Time

Originally published as Trilling's contribution to "Our Country and Our Culture: A Symposium." Partisan Review 19, no. 3 (May 1952): 318-26.

Excerpt (from the essay as published in The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent):

The editors of Partisan Review have long been thought to give a rather special credence and sympathy to the idea of “alienation,” particularly to the alienation of the modern artists, most of all to the alienation of the American artist. When, therefore, they instituted a symposium on the attitude of American intellectuals toward America at the present time, it was inevitable that a certain significance should be thought to attach to their having proposed the subject at this point in history. To some it seemed to suggest that the editors perceived—and perhaps condoned and even welcomed—a lessening of the degree of alienation which they had observed, and which they had both deplored and cherished. The symposium was called “Our Country and Our Culture,” and one of the twenty-four participants found in the use of the possessive pronoun the clear evidence of the end of the fighting spirit in Partisan Review and in the whole of the intellectual class—our country? our culture?—and this attitude was shared in greater or less degree by two other contributors. But the other twenty-one, among whom were the editors themselves, treated the subject on its merits, and most of them were willing to say or imply that they could indeed discover in themselves a diminution of the sense of alienation which at some earlier time they would have taken for granted.

Google Books - essay in The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent
Boston University - Partisan Review archive - first published version