The rise, decline, and fall of probably the most influentual literary journal ever published in America. In its heyday, the...

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THE KENYON REVIEW, 1939-1970: A Critical History

The rise, decline, and fall of probably the most influentual literary journal ever published in America. In its heyday, the 1940's and 50's, the Kenyon Review, with a circulation of less than 2,500, was, according to Janssen, ""virtually required reading for everyone concerned with contemporary literature."" Janssen, American studies coordinator at Catholic University in the Netherlands, first explores the pre-Kenyon American literary situation, where a new and serious approach to literature was badly needed. Within a decade of the magazine's birth, the great originality of its critical articles, its emphasis on such new poets as Robert Lowell, Wallace Stevens, and Delmore Schwartz, had made it a byword among intellectuals. But it was the journal's invention of the New Criticism, with its stress upon the text instead of biography and history, that made the Review, and its indispensable editor, John Crowe Ransom, world-famous. Janssen shrewdly evaluates many of these articles by such critics as Lionel Trilling, R.P. Blackmur, and Richard Ellmann. She lays to rest the myth that the guiding philosophy of the journal was agrarian, showing how deeply rooted was the influence of the New York intellectuals. Finally, she discusses the precarious finances and tug-of-war policies with a barely tolerant university administration. What finally destroyed the journal, she says, was the sad fact that it had simply been too successful, and by 1970 had outlived its time. An important and judicious study, yet one that is also sympathetically aware of the high cost of human effort that went into creating the proud issues of the Kenyon Review.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 1989

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1989