Happy 109th Birthday to Lionel Trilling!

4 Jul


Lionel Mordecai Trilling was born in Queens on this day in 1905. At just sixteen years old, he entered Columbia University, where he would go on to become the Edward Woodberry Professor of Literature and Criticism and teach Columbia’s Colloquium on Important Books.

Among his students? Allen Ginsberg.

Trilling was part of the New York Intellectuals and wrote for the politically charged lit mag Partisan Review. He also tackled the controversial topic of Communism in his 1947 novel The Middle of the Journey.


7/7/14: This post has been corrected. I originally wrote that Jack Kerouac (in addition to Allen Ginsberg) was a student of Lionel Trilling’s, but as Joyce Johnson pointed out in the comments section that is not the case. Though they did know each other, Kerouac did not formally study under Trilling at Columbia University.


2 Responses to “Happy 109th Birthday to Lionel Trilling!”

  1. Joyce Johnson July 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Be sure to commemorate Norman Podhoretz’s birthday too (Jan. 16), since you now seem to be celebrating the enemies of the Beats. By the way, Trilling was Allen’s professor at Columbia, but not Jack’s.

    • Stephanie Nikolopoulos July 7, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Thank you for the correction. I have now updated the post accordingly.

      The Trillings’—not just Lionel’s but also his wife Diana’s—relationship to Ginsberg and the Beats in general is complex, but I think it’s also significant.

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