Partisan Review Now Free Online: Read All 70 Years of the Preeminent Literary Journal (1934-2003)

partisan review

Founded by William Phillips and Philip Rahv in February of 1934, leftist arts and politics magazine Partisan Review came about initially as an alternative to the American Communist Party’s publication, New Masses. While Partisan Review (PR) published many a Marxist writer, its politics diverged sharply from communism with the rise of Stalin. Perhaps this turn ensured the magazine’s almost 70-year run from ’34 to 2003, while New Masses folded in 1948. Partisan Review nonetheless remained a venue for some very heated political conversations (see more on which below), yet it has equally, if not more so, been known as one of the foremost literary journals of the 20th century.

PR first published James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” in Summer 1957 and two of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets in 1940, for example, as well as Delmore Schwartz’s brilliant story “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” in a 1937 issue that also featured Wallace Stevens, Edmund Wilson, Pablo Picasso (writing on Franco), James Agee, and Mary McCarthy. “More a literary event,” writes Robin Hemley at The Believer, “than a literary magazine,” even issues sixty or more years old can still carry “the punch of revelation.”

Now you can assess the impact of that punch by accessing all 70-years’ worth of issues online at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. BU began hosting the magazine in 1978 after it moved from Rutgers, where founding editor William Phillips taught. Now the university has finished digitizing the entire collection, in handsome scans of vintage copies that readers can page through like an actual magazine. The collection is searchable, though this function is a little clunky (all links here direct you to the front cover of the issue. You’ll have to navigate to the actual pages yourself.)

In a post on the Gotlieb Center project, Hyperallergic points us toward a few more highlights:

In art, Partisan Review is perhaps best known as the publisher of Clement Greenberg, who contributed over 30 articles from 1939 to 1981, most notably his Summer 1939 essay entitled “Avant-Garde and Kitsch.” (Greenberg even made a posthumous appearance in the Spring 1999 issue.) Beyond Greenberg’s voluble legacy we encounter such landmark texts as Dwight Macdonald’s “Masscult and Midcult,” from the Spring 1960 issue, and Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp’” from Winter 1964, as well as the seminal popular-culture criticism of Robert Warshow (his essay on the Krazy Kat comic strip in the November-December 1946 issue is especially great) and the work of Hilton Kramer, the conservative iconoclast who went on to found The New Criterion.

Partisan Review also served as an outlet for George Orwell, who lambasted leftist pacifists—calling them, more or less, fascist sympathizers—in his series of articles between January 1941 and the summer of 1946, which he called “London Letters.” Orwell did not hesitate to name names; he also reported in 1945 of the “most enormous crimes and disasters” committed by the Soviets, including “purges, deportations, massacres, famines, imprisonment without trial, aggressive wars, broken treaties….” These things, Orwell remarked “not only fail to excite the big public, but can actually escape notice altogether.”

Partisan Review, however, was not aimed at “the big public.” Its “rarified principles,” writes Sam Tanenhaus of Slate—who calls PR “Trotskyist” for its interventionist boosterism—“attracted only 15,000 subscribers at its peak.”PR began in the age of the “little magazine,” a “term of honor” for the small journals that nurtured the high culture of their day, and which seem now so antiquated even as beleaguered publishers keep pushing them out to preciously small cliques of devoted readers. But charges of elitism can ring hollow, and given all we have to thank “little magazines” like Partisan Review for, it would probably behoove to pay attention to their successors. Enter the archive here.

h/t Hyperallergic

Image via Book/Shop

Related Content:

Extensive Archive of Avant-Garde & Modernist Magazines (1890-1939) Now Available Online

Listen to Audio Arts: The 1970s Tape Cassette Arts Magazine Featuring Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp & Many Others A New, Vast and Slightly Right-Wing Archive of Magazines, Books and TV Shows

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (10)
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  • Joanna Alpern says:


    I’m writing a dissertation on Jean Rhys and I would like to be able to read the following article from 1982:

    “Jean Rhys.” Partisan Review 49:1 (1982). Reprinted in Contemporary Literary Criticism 124. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2000.

    Please let me know if this would be possible.


    Joanna Alpern

  • Sandra Jenkins says:

    Seeking The Third World of Women by Susan Sontag, How to download?

  • Barry zuckerman says:

    I read j Antjany Lucus article Troubled Ground: Blacks and Jews inBoston years ago and would like to reread to incorporate it in history of Boston

  • Jennifer says:

    For reference requests for the collection which BU houses it is best to contact them:

  • Dr. Charles Varela says:

    I need the date of a PR article of a discussion among several intellectuals––topic: Psychoanalysis Today.

    It starts off with William Phillips.

  • Massimo Rostagno says:

    I’m writing an essay about Hannah Arendt. I need to read the article “The crisis in Education”, published by your rewiew in 1958. How can I reach it? It is possible to have a view of some numbers of your rewiew?
    I look forward to your answer.
    Thanks a lot

    Massimo Rostagno
    from Italy

  • Troels Svendsen says:

    I am looking for Susan Sontag: “Notes on Camp” published i Partisan Review in 1964. Can You help me?

  • Janos Gat says:

    Dear Sirs

    I am looking for a review by KAREN WILKIN
    subject: Exhibition of Istvan Farkas at the Janos Gat Gallery in 2000
    need exact info on apparition for the artist’s bibliography
    and, if possible, the text of the review
    Thank you
    Janos Gat

  • Livia Franchini says:

    I am writing a doctoral thesis on Lydia Davis and I am after a piece by Beverly Haviland, titled ‘Missed Connections’. It would be wonderful if I could have access to the text and bibliographical details!
    Many thanks!
    Livia Franchini

  • Susan Braudy says:

    I would like to read once again Philip Roth’s short story about the theatrical agent trying to find Albert Einstein in New Jersey to sign him up,
    Susan Braudy

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