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Life Arts    H4'ed 4/21/21

Louis Menand on Cold War Culture and Politics (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) April 21, 2021: Harvard's fashionable scholar Louis Menand IV (born in 1952) studies the American intellectual and artistic elite during the Cold War in his new 850-page 2021 book The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Menand's book is an accessible tour de force that is over-flowing with colorful biographical portraits of persons from the twentieth century.

For a variety of reasons, I am interested in the prestige culture in American culture during the Cold War, which is why I am interested in Menand's new book. Up to, say, about 1960, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts was elected president of the United States, the prestige culture in American culture was dominated by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and former Protestants, as Robert C. Christopher discusses in his 1989 book Crashing the Gates: The De-WASPing of America's Power Elite (New York and London: Simon and Schuster).

For further discussion of the 1960s and early 1970s, see my recent OEN article "Certain Values of Activists in the 1960s Went Mainstream in the Early 1970s" (dated April 15, 2021):

Click Here

However, for further background reading about the earlier period of the twentieth century before the Cold War, see my recent OEN article "How Radical Will Biden and Yellen Be?" (dated April 11, 2021):

Click Here

Now, my favorite scholar is the unfortunately unfashionable American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J. Ong (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University, 1955) in English at Saint Louis University (SLU), the Jesuit University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Over the years, I took five courses from Ong at SLU. Years later, I published my introductory book Walter Ong's Contributions to Cultural Studies: The Phenomenology of the Word and I-Thou Communication, revised edition (New York: Hampton Press, 2015; orig. ed., 2000).

In any event, during my undergraduate years at SLU (class of '66), I heard the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) speak on the SLU campus on October 12, 1964, and then again in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 25, 1965. In addition, I also heard Erich Fromm (1900-1980) speak on the SLU campus on April 25, 1965.

By happy coincidence, on page 601 of Menand's new book, he includes a photograph of "James Baldwin on the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his 'How Long? Not Long!' speech, March 25, 1965, the conclusion of the march for voting rights that started in Selma."

See Menand's helpful "Index" (pages 817-857) for other specific page references to King (page 837) and Fromm (page 830). (Because Menand often turns the names of organizations or groups into acronyms after he first mentions them, I should point out here that the acronyms are helpfully listed in the "Index" with references to the full name.)

Now, while my own father (1916-2007) was fighting courageously in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, for which he was decorated, I, as a newborn (in 1944), and my mother were awaiting his return in his hometown in the State of New York -- as young Walter Ong was exempt from the draft and was completing his lengthy Jesuit training. Then after he had completed his Jesuit training, and had three graduate degrees under his belt, Ong proceeded to his doctoral studies in English at Harvard University.

After my father returned from the war, we continued to live in his hometown for about four years, where one of my sisters was born in the late 1940s. Then our small family of four moved to my mother's hometown, where my other sister was born in the early 1950s.

Now, in the early 1950s, Father Ong was living abroad and researching his massively researched doctoral dissertation about the French Protestant Renaissance logician and educational reformer and Protestant martyr Peter Ramus (1515-1572). For three full years (November 17, 1950, to November 16, 1953), Ong was based in a Jesuit residence in Paris -- not far from where Ramus' residential college at the University of Paris had been located. In the late 1950s, Ong published his first four books:

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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