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AN INTERVIEW WITH STANLEY KAUFFMANN STANLEY KAUFFMANN Stanley Kauffmann is the author of seven novels, published in the U.S. and abroad, and a former editor in the book publishing industry. In 1958 he began his career in criticism as the film critic with The New Republic, where he has served almost continuously since that time as both a film and a theater critic. He has contributed reviews and articles to many otherjournals and has received numerous awards and fellowships, among them the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism (1974), two Ford Foundation feUowships and an EmmyAward for his TV series about film that aired from 1963 to 1967. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife of many years, Laura. This interview was conducted in July 2001 in New York. Bert Cardullo teaches dramatic literature and criticism at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is the regular film critic for The Hudson Review and the coeditor of the forthcoming Norton Anthology ofDrama. An Interview with Stanley Kauffmann/Bert Cardullo Interviewer: Could we begin by discussing your tenure as theater critic of The New York Times, from January 1, 1966, to August 31 of the same year? Kauffmann: I had not sought the post; I had been invited by Times executives to meet with them. They said they were considering major changes in their Culture Department and wanted "to pick my brains." This wasjust a gentleman's agreement to avoid any feeling ofjob interview . I was even asked to suggest candidates for the drama job—and recommended two men. In the course of several conversations with various executives, I was asked my opinion of Times criticism in general . I replied that it seemed to me a "cultural dump." I vigorously excepted Ada Louise Huxtable, their critic of architecture, and Clive Barnes, who had just joined them as dance critic, and later, when Hilton Kramer became one of their art critics, I most certainly excepted him. Otherwise I assured them that I and, in my experience, the intellectual community held most Times criticism in very low esteem. They then engaged me. My employment was part of the paper's response to the cultural shifts in American life. Quite objectively, I think it can be seen as a frontier operation: an attempt, because of the social pressure of the cultural explosion, to give power to serious theater criticism. The move was based on an assumption that the theater audience was now ready to have plays judged by standards cognate to those in dance and art criticism. This was and stiU is true, that there is a large audience being neglected and alienated both by Broadway and by the kind of reviewing that Broadway likes. But the ratio of that audience to the total audience is not yet large enough. Interviewer: Was there any public reaction to your being appointed the Times drama critic? The Missouri Review · 101 Kauffmann: When my appointment was announced, a week or so before I started, uproar broke out. I had been the film critic for The New Republic and the theater critic for the PBS television station in New York, and moving to the Times, I meant simply to continue in critical practice what I had been able to do in those places. I had no image of setting forth bravely to take lofty critical principles into the vulgar newspaper world. Yet this was the assumption. People telephoned to interview me and asked me to comment on my reputation as being anti-Broadway Some, a few, put me in shining armor before I wrote a line for the Times. This, meant as a compliment, made me feel awkward. Interviewer: Why did you take the post at the Times? Your preceding eight years at The New Republic had been almost unqualifiedly pleasurable , had they not? Kauffmann: I knew that I was making a trade: a trade that in no way involved my critical standards but that was a barter of my stylistic range and subtlety, which had free play in The New Republic, in return for the sheer power of a huge newspaper. I wanted that power—much less for self-aggrandizement (although I am no...


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