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A Political Companion to Saul Bellow

edited by Gloria L. Cronin and Lee Trepanier

Publication Year: 2013

Saul Bellow is one of the twentieth century's most influential, respected, and honored writers. His novels The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler's Planet won the National Book Award, and Humboldt's Gift was awarded the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In addition, his plays garnered popular and critical acclaim, and some were produced on Broadway. Known for his insights into life in a post-Holocaust world, Bellow's explorations of modernity, Jewish identity, and the relationship between art and society have resonated with his readers, but because his writing is not overtly political, his politics have largely been ignored.

A Political Companion to Saul Bellow examines the author's novels, essays, short stories, and letters in order to illuminate his evolution from liberal to neoconservative. It investigates Bellow's exploration of the United States as a democratic system, the religious and ideological influences on his work, and his views on race relations, religious identity, and multiculturalism in the academy. Featuring a fascinating conclusion that draws from interviews with Bellow's sons, this accessible companion is an excellent resource for understanding the political thought of one of America's most acclaimed writers.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Political Companions to Great American Authors

Front cover

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pp. 1-4


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p. 5-5


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pp. v-vi

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Series Foreword

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pp. vii-viii

Those who undertake a study of American political thought must attend to the great theorists, philosophers, and essayists. Such a study is incomplete, however, if it neglects American literature, one of the greatest repositories of the nation’s political thought and teachings. ...

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pp. 1-8

This volume looks at the political thought and milieu of one of the great American writers—perhaps the greatest—of the second half of the twentieth century: Saul Bellow. Not only does Bellow confront some of the major political themes of his and our time—religious identity, race relations, and multiculturalism ...

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1. Trotskyism in the Early Work of Saul Bellow

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pp. 9-28

Bellow’s enthusiasm for Trotskyism tends to be summarily dismissed as a youthful peccadillo, or as just one among many of the weltering ideas which populate his fiction. As Edward Shils commented, “If there’s a bad idea out there—Trotskyism, Reichism, Steinerism—leave it to our friend Saul to swallow it.”1 ...

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2. Bellow as Jew and Jewish Writer

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pp. 29-56

In the years following the publication of Herzog, with the 1960s drawing to a close, Saul Bellow could well take stock of his new position as a major American literary figure. When launching his writing career, Solomon Bellow had become Saul Bellow. Now, a quarter century after publishing his first stories and novels, he could lay claim to being an international man of letters. ...

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3. Saul Bellow and the Absent Woman Syndrome: Traces of India in “Leaving the Yellow House

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pp. 57-66

With increasing frequency, scholars are approaching Saul Bellow’s texts with an eye on his female protagonists. While the vast majority of these critics focus on the inadequacy of Bellow’s portrayal of women and the out-and-out misogyny evidenced in his male-female relationships, ...

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4. The Politics of Art: The Colonial Library Meets the Carnivalesque in Henderson the Rain King

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pp. 67-100

Saul Bellow is the author of more than a dozen novellas and novels. He has been awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature and is generally considered one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Bellow’s work also reflects the aesthetics and ideology and politics of his era, ...

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5. The Jewish Atlantic—The Deployment of Blackness in Saul Bellow

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pp. 101-128

When Charles Citrine, the central protagonist and narrator of Bellow’s 1975 novel Humboldt’s Gift, makes plans to visit Europe, his brother Julius asks him to bring back to America a painting of the sea. As is apparent from the description quoted above, the image desired by Julius is remarkable for, in Morrison’s phrase, its “significant and under-scored omissions.” ...

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6. "Washed Up on the Shores of Truth": Saul Bellow’s Post-Holocaust America

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pp. 129-152

In a 1987 letter to the American Jewish writer Cynthia Ozick, Saul Bellow, Nobel laureate and novelist of vast intellectual depth and complexity, acknowledged what for him was a failure of reckoning. The overwhelming event of the Holocaust, in Bellow’s words, “a crime so vast that it brings all Being into Judgment,” ...

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7. Mr. Sammler's Planet: Saul Bellow’s 1968 Speech at San Francisco State University

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pp. 153-166

Saul Bellow was never a systematic political thinker. An autodidact, stubborn and independent, never much of a joiner, like Augie in his novel The Adventures of Augie March, he preferred to “go at things as I have taught myself, freestyle.”1 As James Atlas writes, “always he resisted the party line.”2 ...

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8. Biography, Elegy, and the Politics of Modernity in Saul Bellow's Ravelstein

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pp. 167-184

Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein is a biographical roman à clef, an undisguised fictive account of the life and death of Bellow’s friend Allan Bloom. At the time of his death in 1992 from complications related to HIV/AIDS, Bloom was an infamous University of Chicago political philosopher, classicist, student of Leo Strauss, ...

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9. Our Father's Politics: Gregory, Adam, and Daniel Bellow

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pp. 185-222

What follows here are three invaluable anecdotal accounts on Saul Bellow’s evolving cultural and political ideology as witnessed by his three sons, especially valuable because only inadequate biographical publications on Bellow exist. Given the gaps in age between the three brothers, Greg (b. 1944), Adam (b. 1957), and Daniel (b. 1964), ...

Saul Bellow's Politics: A Selected Annotated Bibliography, 1947-Present

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pp. 223-276

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pp. 277-278

Victoria Aarons is the O. R. & Eva Mitchell Distinguished Professor of Literature and Department Chair at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of A Measure of Memory: Storytelling and Identity in American Jewish Fiction and What Happened to Abraham? Reinventing the Covenant in American Jewish Fiction. ...


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pp. 279-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780813141879
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813141855

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Political Companions to Great American Authors

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Bellow, Saul -- Political and social views.
  • Politics and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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